Winter Lemons

Lemons in their second season, cold,
Yellow against the brisk night, bright,

Cold only fixing the color, crisping it,
Lemons in their gaudy, adolescent mustard

Lit in the heights of a late December morning,
Having climbed into the trees for sport,

Liking the dare: What did they used to be — mice?
Bigger. Rats, some of them, running up the trunks,

The branches — these are the bravest, the misbehaving
Boys, these lemons the rats nobody took home or let in.

The yellow of summer is not the yellow of winter.
The colors are the same but their stories tell two lives.

Alberto Ríos’s latest book is The Dangerous Shirt, a collection of poems. A recent finalist for the National Book Award, Ríos has taught at Arizona State University for over twenty-seven years.