The War in Iraq is Over and I’m Thinking of Oranges


by Stephen Mills

stacked one on top of the other in the bed
of the truck that is barreling down the highway
beside me. It’s a mountain of little round
balls that radiate in the December sun
on this Florida morning. Christmas a week away.
I’m a nervous driver and this truck of fruit
makes me think of death and disaster
like the opening scene of a Final Destination movie.
The back latch falling open. Thousands of oranges
tumbling onto the roadway. Cars going everywhere.
Crashing. Splattering. Combusting. A river
of orange juice and blood flowing into the adjacent
streets. But it would be so beautiful: the sight
of all of those oranges rolling down each other
and out into the open space: free. At least free
until they come in contact with a tire. Mashing them
to pulp and skin. Flat. No longer radiant.
The radio says all troops will be home in a few days
after nine long years. How many oranges
have I eaten in nine years? Probably not as many
as I should have. Definitely not as many as now
lines the bed of this truck. When I Google “Iraq
+ oranges,” I find a series of articles using
the clichéd phrase “apples to oranges.” Most of these
are articles claiming the Iraq War was nothing
like the Vietnam War. It’s like comparing apples to oranges.
Which really aren’t that different. Both are fruits.
Both grow on trees. Both are the most popular
juices drank in America (I actually don’t know
if that’s true, but I’m guessing). Maybe that is the point.
Close, but not quite. Down the search page,
I find a graph documenting the yield of oranges
produced in Iraq between 1961 and 2009. No oranges
were grown until 1985. The biggest yield was in 2001.
The smallest in ‘09. I guess, things are getting worse
if you’re an orange grower in Iraq. Orange is a funny
word. Frank O’Hara wrote a poem about oranges
and sardines. Now there’s a pair. Quite different.
And Jeanette Winterson wrote a whole novel called
Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit, which is a rather obvious
statement from a very smart lady. A search
on Amazon produces a list of books with “orange”
in the title. Not too many notable ones
and only one on Iraq. A memoir with “orange trees”
in the title. Florida is famous for oranges,
which is why seeing a truck full of them
is really not that odd, but seeing them fall,
rolling in the streets like little decapitated heads,
now that would be something special.

About the Author:


Stephen S. Mills holds an MFA from Florida State University. His poems have appeared in The Gay and Lesbian Review Worldwide, PANK Literary Magazine, The New York Quarterly, The Antioch Review, The Los Angeles Review, Knockout, Ganymede, Poetic Voices Without Borders 2, Assaracus, New Mexico Poetry Review, Mary, and others. He is also the winner of the 2008 Gival Press Oscar Wilde Poetry Award. His first book, He Do the Gay Man in Different Voices, is available from Sibling Rivalry Press. Stephen’s website is here.


Philippe Gauthier: Orange Fruits Under Blue Sky During Daytime, 2020 (Unsplash)