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Karen Mandell

The Lemon Tree in the Living Room

The heavy-duty plastic crackled

as I shifted my weight on the couch.

Straight ahead, in front of the window,

a fake lemon tree pretended to need the sun.

A soon to be ex-boyfriend snickered

when he saw it. I agreed with him

but hated his condescension. I wasn't up

for analysis but loved the living room for reading.

No one else went in there.

My book, my legs stretched out,

three tangerines, my pit filled napkin

crumpled on the glass cocktail table

peopled with china milkmaids and adoring

suitors playing the lute. My lap of luxury.

Rose didn't mind as long as I cleaned up.

I broke only one maiden.

Early on I stumbled through

Sense and Sensibility, never

understanding the title or the prose.

It didn't matter. I left my own milieu

of squabbles and boyfriend troubles

misunderstandings and misery--

many of my own making--

for a world of gentle men and women ardent feelings

dotty aunts silly sisters the rare rapscallion

garden landscapes monkey tree

country rambles brambles and not so gentle

persuasion. Sometimes I ate dried figs and walnuts

especially when I read The (assigned tenth grade) Odyssey.

Hard candy root beer barrels soft peppermint drops

jelly filled pastels Rose kept in a green glass dish.

All the mothers did. Recently I filled a vintage teacup

with wrapped candies. My grown son asked what for

and I told him I'm trying to recreate the past.

Okay, he said, just don't touch my room.


Karen Mandell has lived in the Northeast for many years, but she's a Midwest native at heart. She's written Clicking, interconnected short stories, and Tumbling Down, a novel. Her poetry and short stories have appeared in various literary magazines.


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