Blood Oranges


At 4:00 AM.

in a Warsaw hotel room I ate an orange

in bed, thinking it wasn’t long ago

that there were no fresh fruits here

to speak of, just the occasional jealous

citrus off a boat from Havana, rationed

with goodwill from Prague to Hanoi.

At 8:45 a.m.

a young Polish professional bound

into the meeting room, suit impeccable

and mouth full of chocolate,

telling me it wasn’t long ago

that he had to drive to the German border

just to get a Mars bar. So now he eats one

(sometimes two) for breakfast every morning.

At 4:00 p.m.

I arrived at the airport in time to witness

the pre-flight ritual of vodka with beer chasers

in the LOT lounge, wondering how long ago it was

that my family fled this city, those not

stacked like orange crates into cargo cars

and taken to the German border.

Some minutes before

we touched down on a runway west,

before stowing our tray tables into

an upright position, it occurred to me

I had no one left to ask.

Written by Hollis Kurman

Hollis Kurman is a contributing editor on the Board of Barrow Street Books and is a member of SCBWI. Hollis studied poetry writing at Penn with Daniel Hoffman, former Poet Laureate Consultant to the Library of Congress. Her poems have been published in Barrow Street, Rattle, Phoebe, the Ocean State Review, VIA (Voices in Italian Americana), and the anthology “The Path Not Taken,” where it won The Editor’s Choice Award. Her poem “The Farm” was nominated for a Pushcart Prize. She also now writes poems and stories for children, including new picture book project “Welcome! A Counting Book of Kindnesses” (tracing the refugee child’s journey through the lens of help offered along the way—currently in development with Amnesty International Books).    

In addition to her writing, she moderates literary events and is Chairperson of the Ivy Circle Netherlands, member of the Fulbright Board NL, Founder of the Human Rights Watch NL Committee, and member of HRW Women’s Rights Advisory Council. She lives in Amsterdam and, occasionally, New York.