787: The Orange

787: The Orange

787: The Orange


I’m Ada Limón and this is The Slowdown.

Recently, I was in Buenos Aires teaching for the low residency MFA program I work with in Latin America. One of the highlights of these trips is getting to work and travel with dear friends, the other writers and faculty that attend the program. My husband came with me and each day was full of laughing—almost uncontrollably—with some of the smartest people I know.

During our breaks from seminars and student tutorials, we wandered the streets of Palermo in search of a late lunch or a coffee and empanada. We’d find some cafe with seating that sprawled out into the brick walkways under the ombu trees or the palo borrachos. It was winter in South America but the weather was mild while we were there and you could still sit outside as long as you were dressed appropriately and preferably found a warm spot in the afternoon sun.

One restaurant we returned to again and again was called Las Cabras, a casual parilla with red tables that served grilled meats and vegetables and more classic porteño fare. We’d order “un gran bife las cabras” which is a perfectly grilled cut of famed Argentinian steak with grilled vegetables, freshly pureed pumpkin, a slab of grilled provoleta cheese, and a fried egg all served on a giant cutting board made for sharing (If you ask me, pumpkin is highly underutilized in the United States, it’s not just for autumn lattes, it’s for pairing with all sorts of savory foods).

We’d split our enormous cutting board of provisions and share a bottle of malbec (Alma Negra) or un pingüino (which is a white ceramic pitcher shaped like the penguins found in Patagonia that’s used for serving a liter of table wine). And then, we would do what we do best, we’d take our time. We’d linger. We’d find some ease. You never rush a meal in Buenos Aires. The server won’t nudge you out, they’ll just let you be, and we’d relish this lazy supping under the dappled light of trees. Most of all, we’d find ourselves laughing.

All of us were writers, so we made nerdy jokes about the Ionesco play “The Chairs” every time a furniture truck went by painted all over with chairs. “Encore!” I’d say when the truck rounded the same corner again. Someone made a joke about how the crosswalks in Buenos Aires seemed mainly made for decoration, how fat and healthy the pigeons were, how all of this felt like a dream, being here together laughing in the faint light of an Argentinian winter.

Today’s poem is a celebration of friendship and even more than that, a celebration of a moment of ease, a moment that allows you to remember that life sometimes demands savoring.

The Orange
by Wendy Cope

At lunchtime I bought a huge orange—
The size of it made us all laugh.
I peeled it and shared it with Robert and Dave—
They got quarters and I had a half.

And that orange, it made me so happy, 
As ordinary things often do
Just lately. The shopping. A walk in the park.
This is peace and contentment. It’s new.

The rest of the day was quite easy.
I did all the jobs on my list
And enjoyed them and had some time over.
I love you. I’m glad I exist.

“The Orange” by Wendy Cope (© Wendy Cope, 1992) is printed by permission of United Agents (www.unitedagents.co.uk) on behalf of Wendy Cope.