Still Life of Another’s Fruit

– Poem by Todd Portnowitz, “Flower of Eden” by Maxwell McLean –


A roommate’s bowl of oranges is a provocation.
Gazing at the globes in the grocery, I think
I’m a person who buys fruit, too!,
I shove the shopper nearest me and I say, 
“Hey, I’m a person who buys fruit, too!”

It must be some vegetable pride, dating back 
to a time I’d like to get back to, 
when an apple was sin and rosemary 
the dew of the sea. To pluck a plum 
with the hand of a caveman and beat my chest!

The discovery. The peeling back of skin and then 
the flesh. That’s where the provocation starts, 
at the skin; a roommate’s bowl of fruit 
is a bowl of gifts, of little packages 
she gets to unwrap and I don’t get to. 

Unless I just take one. She isn’t home now. 
She’s hardly ever home, with work and all. 
With the commute. An orange on the go 
is never a good idea, you end up with skins 
in the cup holder and a sticky steering wheel. 

Better off with a banana. Monkeys, I learned, 
peel their bananas from the end without the stem, 
which makes me either dumber or more evolved 
or both—a doctor of the eternal,
a cretin in all things perishable.



Todd Portnowitz is the translator of The Greatest Invention, Long Live Latin, and In Search of Amrit Kaur, forthcoming from Farrar, Straus and Giroux in March 2023. His poetry translations include Midnight in Spoleto by Paolo Valesio and Go Tell It To the Emperor: The Selected Poems of Pierluigi Cappello, which was awarded a Raiziss/de Palchi Fellowship from the Academy of American Poets. He is a co-founder of the Us&Them reading series for writer-translators and of the Italian poetry blog Formavera. Photo by Michael Lionstar.


Maxwell McLean’s Artist Statement: “My artwork ‘Flower of Eden’ was created using watercolor, ink, and charcoal on paper. I see the flower as a symbol of both beauty and sin because with such beauty comes such persuasion. I get my inspiration for creating art from simply living on earth. Seeing what our world has to offer is more than enough inspiration: the pure intricacies that fabricate the beauty of culture, the utter beguiling attention to detail in the finest of neoclassical architecture, the ranging and flowing ideas from country to country that give humanity the culture, the architecture, the words, and the religion that we can use and develop into our own.” Maxwell McLean was born August 25th, 2005 and raised in Denver, Colorado. He is currently in his junior year attending Denver South HighSchool, and takes an extracurricular in AP studio art. His hopes for the future are to graduate high-school and attend university to further expand my knowledge in architecture and interior design. He hopes to attend university at The Savannah College of Art and Design for a major in architecture or Fashion Institute of Technology for interior design. Follow Maxwell on Instagram @maxwell_mclean25.