Exponential Decay

By Maggie Kennedy

An orange in front of a white background

“The orange tastes like a refrigerator,” my son says,
spitting out his bite and pretending to gag,
and though I have never tasted a refrigerator
I know what he means.

The orange tastes like the plastic it was wrapped in.
And though I have never eaten plastic,
the conjured smell fills my nostrils, dripping down
my throat, a flavor like storage chilled and forgotten,

seasoned with the sweat of this week’s leftovers,
the lamentations of the pepper rotting in the
vegetable bin, unsealed hopes of Tupperware that
all can be contained and preserved.

My overstuffed brain churning with caffeine links to
an image of Miss Havisham’s petrified wedding cake.
The jilted bride from Dickens stopping the clocks at twenty
to nine. What she might have done with polypropylene.

“I can’t eat it,” my son says. “I will never eat another
orange ever, ever,” the past enclosing him at age five.
I pull out one of my mother’s scrapped sayings:
“Stop the drama.”

I can’t give in, or he could lose out: the delight of
oranges, a life spent without the sweet juice dripping
between his fingers, the squirt of citrus in the dead
of winter, the taste like a comeback.

He pushes the slices to the edge of his plate,
a synthetic sheen settling on us. This could go on forever,
molded in polymer, a mother and son encased with their
own microbes for untold half lives.

Category: Featured, Poetry