Is there anything I shouldn’t say?
Just don’t tell her
you’re a lapsed Catholic, you reply
but when your mother asks
I can’t bring myself to lie.
I offer to help in the kitchen.
Later, on the train you decline
a segment of my orange.
When I can’t see a bin
for the nest of peel on my lap
you place it
in your coat pocket.
On the platform
I walk lighter
knowing you offered
to carry my discarded rind.
About this poem
This poem was included in Best Scottish Poems 2006. Best Scottish Poems is an online publication, consisting of 20 poems chosen by a different editor each year, with comments by the editor and poets. It provides a personal overview of a year of Scottish poetry. The editor in 2006 was Janice Galloway.
A very clean and very open poem, thoroughly accessible despite its pith.
In writing this poem, I took two separate autobiographical events and used one as a metaphor for the other. Shortly after meeting my partner, I was eating an orange and looking for a bin for the peel. He took the peel and put it in his pocket until we found a bin. It was a small gesture, yet it carried a resonance of caring that would be echoed in many other moments of support. I used the title 'Peeled' to suggest the inevitable risks of revealing oneself to another, especially in the early days of a relationship.
I used to be part of a poetry discussion group and I remember someone in the group asking if the orange in the poem was symbolic of sectarianism, but that was taking it too far!