By IDA CERNE
The only thing left of my first love,
besides the shadow of a miscarriage,
is the way he taught me to squeeze rose hips
together like toothpaste, gently between the thumbs
till the orange essence oozes out of its envelope, its raincoat,
its protective skin.
He told me it was full of vitamin C.
Full of zest.
I was full of lust for him then
and squeezed rose hips of their life
till my tongue tingled
till my fingers pasty and sticky with goop
froze in the late autumn.
Then I forgot rose hips even existed,
I was too busy with another man,
raising two girls,
keeping them from hurting themselves
on the thorns when we picked wild roses.
Until one day, my oldest held a ripe rose hip,
a small oval reminder,
in her little hand and
almost by instinct
I showed her how to squeeze it.
She squirmed at the worm of paste that shot out.
She cringed when she licked the sour substance.
And I laughed and held her close.
It took time for my daughters to spot bare rose bushes
and pick the ripest rose hips
and press them without squishing them.
Squeeze only to the point before the bitter seeds stared to leak out.
But on our walks, they stopped, by a force of my past, unconscious to them
and picked these berries with zest,
and learned to separate the fruit from the skin,
The sour essence from the bitterness.
Born in Belgrade, Yugoslavia, in 1963, Ida Cerne immigrated to the United States as a child and returned to Europe as an adult. Cerne has been living in Vienna, Austria, for 20 years, has a degree in cultural anthropology and works as a freelance writer, tour guide, teacher, ghost writer, poet, chauffeur and translator.