A Scent of the Past

How did it escape the fire?

Three corners are square the fourth torn and limp, unable to contain the scene within. I was searching for a childhood house but found the car – there under the trees – bright still, while all around is faded. “How did it escape the fire?”

The citrus coloured Citroen transports me back 30 years, and some  

It was our get-about 

He drove up in his fondly nicknamed ‘Bag of Oranges’

and I leaped into the sack with him

To a foreigner with no roots

He provided an orchard – his family borne of South African soil

For those years life was sunshiny sweet …

… until it wasn’t.


There was no bitterness. The ‘tang’ just left the tangelo. But for some time I danced around the ‘what ifs?’

On the eve of my engagement to another 

I tossed a match at the pile of  snapshots and mementos

Words disintegrated until the only letters left spelt ‘ash’

Edges of photographs curled and crumbled

faces were charcoaled into anonymity

I jilted the embers for a new life in East Asia where oranges are a symbol of prosperity


It was Dad who took this photo in my hands

So it was never mine to burn

To him it’s of the house – the vehicles parked beside are of no relevance

But to me: house and that car are inseparable

In researching family homes, I was caught off guard by the scent of citrus

I used to eat oranges thus: meticulously scalp the pith off each segment to separate each from the whole. Now I plunge fingers into the flesh, pull pieces off randomly and enjoy the messy 

A squirt always stings my eye …

… the juice running tacitly down my cheek

a thumb retrieves

a tongue receives

Of what does it taste?

Reproach, regret but mostly revelation

I want the other photos back

the ones where I’m being squeezed in a first love embrace

the ones of me with sunshine smiles

the ones with old school friends

I want to look into my eyes and say:

“You didn’t have to seperate out and throw parts of yourself away. It’s possible to move on but preserve peel, pith, pulp and the pips in the finest marmalade.”

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