Reed Venrick

Reed Venrick

Reed Venrick lives on his orange grove farm in Central Florida; formerly studied at the University for Foreigners in Perugia, Italy.

Botticelli’s Oranges

In an Italian port village near where
the boy called “Allessandro” grew up, some
thought his circles drawn must be made
with a mechanical compass, so round,

so fine, there in the Mediterranean sand,
where Botticelli grew into youth, wandering
through the orange and lemon groves
of the Italian littoral; even then sketching

lines of muscular trunks and extending
arms branching into fingers of leaves, mixing
into colors of rinds of reds and yellows. But
when youthful fingers grew long enough to put

a brush to canvas, he tinted the precious fruit
In “Madonna with Child and Angels,” where
she sat under blooming orange trees in spring,
for the artist used orange trees to symbolize

the virgin, because as he said: among fruits,
only oranges are evergreen, “if one sees my meaning.”
So on a Medici commission, Botticelli painted
the ethereal “La Primavera,” there, the god

Mercury stood in a grove of oranges, though
some thought it looked like Lorenzo Medici ‘s
lustful hand reaching up to pick the ripe fruit.
Then, came the historical day when the golden-haired

Simonetta was ushered into Botticelli’s studio by
Lorenzo’s sweaty hands, and Botticelli asked: Is
she a reincarnated goddess from the Adriatic Sea?
Soon, on Botticelli’s easel, the canvas revealed

the ravishing Simonetta turned into Venus herself,
standing on a giant clam shell, surfing into
the sun-swept coast of Italy, bringing to the world
of mythology, those precious winter oranges to peel.

Today, in the sea-side village of Porto Venere,
the local men gather mornings under the evergreen
shade of orange-tree cafes, where citrus rind
is mixed into the black coffee, and while the old

men lament the lost wonder of their spent youth,
sometimes foreign visitors overhear them to say:
“Even in the arms of Venus, whom everyone
knows brought the first citrus from China

to Italy, oranges were never so well drawn and
designed as in the hands of the great Botticelli!”

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Poetry in this post: © Reed Venrick
Published with the permission of Reed Venrick