At the Fruit Section

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Joao
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At the Fruit Section

Post by Joao » Thu Nov 30, 2017 9:02 pm

To get to her, we had to cross
that smelly maze of cumin, rotting
fish and roasting corn, of bin juice
sticking to our feet, mixed
in coriander:

The mango lady, knelt on her mat,
surrounded by her swollen fruit;
the sap runny, still, on the warm skin.
She always took her time, admiring our talk,
then reached for the bundle set aside
for us, wrapped in newspaper,
which we opened at home as if to enter
a secret garden.

She found out where we lived and started
paying us sunny little visits,
then large unwanted favours,
and her mangos had blotches now.
But we learned to eat around them
and drench our mouths in sweet and tender juice.

‘Waitrose believes that eating well
should be enjoyable’. These mangoes
are from The Gambia. I sniff through their plastic
wrapping under the white light
of the fruit section: it smells of nowhere.

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Luce
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Re: At the Fruit Section

Post by Luce » Fri Dec 01, 2017 5:52 am

I generally liked the depiction of the open air "foreign" market. You used the modern/indoor/home country market as a comparison and as a closing for the poem which is great. However, I wish the senses of smell, touch and sight were more in play, especially in the beginning. It is, above all, a very sensuous type poem.

Luce


Joao wrote:To get to her, we had to cross
that smelly maze of cumin, rotting
fish and roasting corn, of bin juice
sticking to our feet, mixed
in coriander:

I think you're telling us how everything smells rather than showing us (smelly cumin, rotting fish, roasting corn). I know that describing taste is hard but maybe showing us how they look could compensate a bit here.

Right now, from the "smell of it" the N is experiencing a mixture of pleasant/unpleasant smells. It's all very personal though. I personally like the smell of cumin. Just saying "roasting corn" doesn't tell me if the N finds the smell pleasant or not.


The mango lady, knelt on her mat,
surrounded by her swollen fruit;
the sap runny, still, on the warm skin.

Are you using the mango as a metaphor to describe the "mango lady"? If not intended, you may want to change this then. If intended, imagery is a bit unpleasant to picture but so be it. However, you do go on to show that the N loved the taste of the mangoes which may add an unintentional or intentional sexual aspect to this if the mangoe represents the "mango lady".

She always took her time, admiring our talk,
then reached for the bundle set aside
for us, wrapped in newspaper,
which we opened at home as if to enter
a secret garden.

"Admiring"? Really? How does an admiring glance look like? Do like the "secret garden imagery".

She found out where we lived and started
paying us sunny little visits,
then large unwanted favours,
and her mangos had blotches now.
But we learned to eat around them
and drench our mouths in sweet and tender juice.

I'd just concentrate on eating the fruit. It will set up your closing lines better. Suggestion:

"The mangos had blotches which we learned to eat
around, our mouths drenched in the sweet
and tender juice."


‘Waitrose believes that eating well
should be enjoyable’. These mangoes
are from The Gambia. I sniff through their plastic
wrapping under the white light
of the fruit section: it smells of nowhere.

I think you need clearer transitional language to let the reader know that the N is not in the open air market anymore but in a modern supermarket where the fruit is wrapped in plastic. Suggestion:

When we came home, we went to our market
to buy food. "These mangoes are from The Gambia",
the manager said. I sniffed them through their plastic
wrappings, under sterile white lights. It smelled of nowhere.

Luce
Last edited by Luce on Fri Dec 01, 2017 2:57 pm, edited 2 times in total.
"She acts like summer, walks like rain." - Train

David Smedley
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Re: At the Fruit Section

Post by David Smedley » Fri Dec 01, 2017 11:45 am

To get to her, we had to cross
that smelly maze of cumin, rotting
fish and roasting corn, of bin juice
sticking to our feet, mixed
in coriander:

The mango lady, knelt on her mat,
surrounded by her swollen fruit;
the sap runny, still, on the warm skin.
She always took her time, admiring our talk,
then reached for the bundle set aside
for us, wrapped in newspaper,
which we opened at home as if to enter
a secret garden.

She found out where we lived and started
paying us sunny little visits,
then large unwanted favours,
and her mangos had blotches now.
But we learned to eat around them
and drench our mouths in sweet and tender juice.

‘Waitrose believes that eating well
should be enjoyable’. These mangoes
are from The Gambia. I sniff through their plastic
wrapping under the white light
of the fruit section: it smells of nowhere.


If I apply this to the theme of migrancy it works, is that the theme? I especially like the first two verses if that is the theme, they remind me of "seeking out" other cultures, rather than having them "thrust upon you" so to speak.

The only word I would think about changing would be "admiring" V2, "relishing" worked better for me.

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Re: At the Fruit Section

Post by Macavity » Fri Dec 01, 2017 5:54 pm

Hi Joao,
The opening/closing contrasts worked well. The weight of content is in the detail of the 'real' as opposed to the sterile experience. Life wrapped in the scents, the imperfections, the tactile.

enjoyed

mac

Joao
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Re: At the Fruit Section

Post by Joao » Tue Dec 05, 2017 7:24 pm

Thanks for the close reading, Luce, I really appreciate it. I didn't mean the smells in S1 to be unambiguously pleasant or otherwise, but a pungent mixture of both, in keeping with B's wider experience and in contrast with the insipid end. In S2, the mangoes are not meant as a metaphor, though I see how it could have an erotic undertone (curious about what in that scene strikes you as unpleasant…). In S3, the blotched mangoes are meant as a metaphor :) (the imperfect but still sweet and tender fruit that the lady herself is). I tried bringing taste in, in addition to smell, but found the result weaker – thought better to leave it to the reader’s imagination. Finally, I think the transitional language would be a bit heavy-handed. Thanks again!

Thanks, David. I suppose it is about migration in the general sense that N once lived in a foreign country and, as you put it, sought that culture out.

Thanks, Mac. Very glad it made it across: that’s exactly what I was trying to convey.

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Re: At the Fruit Section

Post by NotQuiteSure » Tue Dec 05, 2017 8:21 pm

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Hi Joao
Enjoyed this, particularly S3, the 'unwanted favours' is a nice observation.
For me the title is a bit weak, sort of makes sense at the end, but does nothing until then.

To get to her, we had to cross
that smelly maze of cumin, rotting

'cross that smelly maze' is a bit clunky.
Does one cross a maze?
Just a suggestion;
To get to her we had to navigate
the clouds of cumin and roasting corn,
the rivers of the rotting fish,
the bin juice that stuck to our feet,
all mixed with coriander.

fish and roasting corn, of bin juice
sticking to our feet, mixed
in coriander:

The mango lady, knelt on her mat,
A bit more of a physical description
would be nice (clothes etc,.)
I'd suggest putting this in the present tense.
surrounded by her swollen fruit;
not too sure about 'swollen'
the sap runny, still, on the warm skin.
no comma after 'still'.
If you've got 'skin' why not have the sap 'sweat'?
She always took her time, admiring our talk,
what about the 'talk' is she admiring?
Manners, courtesy, diction?
then reached for the bundle set aside
for us, wrapped in newspaper,

I'd be tempted to modify 'newspaper' with yesterday's
or local
which we opened at home as if to enter
a secret garden.

the secret garden doesn't flow naturally out of the 'newspaper'.

She found out where we lived and started
paying us sunny little visits,
then large unwanted favours,
and her mangos had blotches now.

You might add something to describe the 'blotches';
black and ominous?
But we learned to eat around them
and drench our mouths in sweet and tender juice.

I think I understand what image you're going for here, but drench doesn't work.

‘Waitrose believes that eating well
should be enjoyable. These mangoes
are from The Gambia. '
I sniff through their plastic wrapping
'sniff' is a little timid.
under the white light of the fruit section:
it smells of nowhere.

I really like the ending, but I find the leap from S3 to S4 a little too big.
Would you consider splitting S4 and using the two parts to bracket the whole piece?
As in
‘Waitrose believes that eating well
should be enjoyable. These mangoes
are from The Gambia. '
I sniff through their plastic wrapping

....S1-S3

I sniff through their plastic wrapping
under the white light of the fruit section:
it smells of nowhere.

Regards, Not.

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JJWilliamson
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Re: At the Fruit Section

Post by JJWilliamson » Wed Dec 06, 2017 11:59 am

Very enjoyable read, Joao
Joao wrote:To get to her, we had to cross
that smelly maze of cumin, rotting ...'smelly' does sound unpleasant in this context. You said "pungent" in one of your replies. Much better IMHO, especially where cumin is concerned. That's a heady mix of smells.
fish and roasting corn, of bin juice
sticking to our feet, mixed
in coriander:

The mango lady, knelt on her mat, ...Do you need the comma after 'lady'?
surrounded by her swollen fruit; ...Not sure 'swollen' is doing much. They sound luscious to me.
the sap runny, still, on the warm skin. ...Is the sap still runny or is it on the warm skin? Maybe both. "the sap still runny on the warm skin".
She always took her time, admiring our talk,
then reached for the bundle set aside
for us, wrapped in newspaper,
which we opened at home as if to enter
a secret garden.

She found out where we lived and started
paying us sunny little visits,
then large unwanted favours,
and her mangos had blotches now.
But we learned to eat around them
and drench our mouths in sweet and tender juice. ...You don't need 'and tender'. Can juice be tender?

‘Waitrose believes that eating well ...I think the switch is very sharp, a little too sharp, perhaps. Stay at the market or with the mango lady and remember Waitrose. I do like the turn, though. The juxtaposition of the natural crop with sterile supermarket spec's makes for good reading.
should be enjoyable’. These mangoes
are from The Gambia. I sniff through their plastic
wrapping under the white light
of the fruit section: it smells of nowhere. ...Poignant close.
Best

JJ
Long time a child and still a child

Walton
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Re: At the Fruit Section

Post by Walton » Wed Dec 13, 2017 12:50 am

Really enjoyed this Joao!
Agree with Mac on the contrast, I like the plastic under white lights.

I’m not the best at explaining feedback so I hope you won’t mind my penny’s worth coming in edit form, just mho

To get to her ‘cross
smelly maze of cumin, rotting
fish, burnt corn, bin juice
sticking to our feet, mixed
in coriander:

The mango lady, knelt on her mat,
one among her swollen fruit;
the sap runny, still, on the warm skin.
She always took her time, admiring our talk,
then reached for the bundle set aside
for us, wrapped in newspaper,
opened at home as if to
a secret garden.

She found out where we lived and started
paying us sunny little visits,
then large unwanted favours,
and her mangos had blotches now.
But we learned to eat around them
and drench our mouths in sweet and tender juice.

I get a bit lost in s3.

‘Waitrose believes that eating well
should be enjoyable’. These mangoes
are from The Gambia. I sniff through their plastic
wrapping under the white light
of the fruit section: it smells of nowhere.

White light and nowhere is great - picturing nothing often is white rather than black isn’t it.

Best,

Walton
sorry - sometimes - these eyes, leave me

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Jackie
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Re: At the Fruit Section

Post by Jackie » Fri Dec 29, 2017 11:07 am

Hi Joao,

S1 Great stanza. The rhythm of “of bin juice
sticking to our feet” comes just when it’s needed, but I think it should be preceded by a semicolon.
S2 In line 6, “knelt” should not be preceded by a comma. Is “took her time” necessary? It seems to explain, instead of letting us see the scene instead. The sentiment in “admiring our talk” is important but feels awkward. In line 12 I expected “entering”, but “to enter” pushes the act into the future, which works. You might want to use “kept for home” rather than “opened at home” to emphasize the tense and the suspense.
S3 This stanza doesn’t feel as tightly written as the rest of the poem, although the sexual insinuations are delightful. I’m not sure how juice can be tender, though, or how you “pay” unwanted favours.
S4 It’s hard moving between two cultures in a poem, so I appreciate the strategies here. Can you build the scene a bit more? Moving from “these mangoes” to “it” is awkward.

I’m writing this from the tropics, looking forward to mango season, so this is very real to me. Makes me wonder if I haven’t yet experienced all its delights!

Jackie

Joao
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Re: At the Fruit Section

Post by Joao » Fri Jan 05, 2018 7:37 pm

Thanks everyone for the helpful comments. Lots to think about. I probably need to revise this one.

Not, you're probably right about the title. It doesn't do much at the moment. I'll think about it. You and others were put off by the abruptness of the key change at the end, so I probably need to revise it as well: thanks for your suggestion. You're definitely right about 'sniff' being too timid - I need something stronger there.

Thanks, JJ. You're right: 'smelly' isn't neutral, but 'pungent' sounds a bit too bookish for the conversational tone I have in mind for N. Your 'heady' could be a better choice, I think. It's very possible I'm getting my grammar wrong, but 'still' is meant to refer to 'runny' (as in: 'the sap still runny...'): I prefer the rhythm and ambiguity of the inverted order. With 'tender', I was hoping to bring in the mango's flesh, but maybe I'm stretching metonymy a bit too much. Very helpful comments, thank you!

Thanks, fortytwo, very glad you enjoyed it!

Thanks for your suggestions, Walton! I'll think about them.

Thanks, Jackie, great suggestions! I think I agree with all your points. I need to think about a couple of them a bit more. Which part of the tropics are you in?

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Jackie
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Re: At the Fruit Section

Post by Jackie » Sat Jan 06, 2018 1:15 pm

Which part of the tropics are you in?
West Africa, in Sierra Leone. What about you?

Jackie

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Re: At the Fruit Section

Post by Joao » Fri Jan 12, 2018 4:16 pm

Very nice. I have a friend who worked in Freetown as a nurse for a while - heard good things. I'm from Brazil, originally.

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Re: At the Fruit Section

Post by Jackie » Sun Jan 14, 2018 2:49 pm

heard good things
:D

Jackie

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