Peeling a Tangerine
by Jim Thielman
Fourth Grade, lunchtime, and we were all focused
on our peanut butter and jelly sandwiches,
when Larry, who sat in the desk in front of me
turned around and showed me his masterpiece.
“Look, I peeled it in one piece!” The long peel
could have been the Mona Lisa, he was so proud,
and any sign of mastery was worth a nod of approval.
To peel an orange and not end up with chunks of peel?
I had never done it, never even thought of it,
but the trick works for navel, mandarin, and clementine.
Start a bit below the top and let your fingernails
lift the skin, then work around and around
to the bottom that comes off as a circle.
When you hold up your work of art
it looks like an S or maybe like the notation for
the treble clef in music. The mystery of it
is how the peeled cover of a sphere can be
laid out flat as paper, as if flat and round were
the same thing. Could a tailor dress a round belly
using this trick? Could some monstrous creature peel
our planet and lay it out like a road to Mars?
Meanwhile, succulent segments of an orange beckon,
and in a few moments, they are out of sight.
But the oddly wonderous peel sticks around,
proud of itself for surprising us with its beauty.