The Man Who X-Rayed An Orange
Poem By Fleur Adcock
Viewed from the top, he said, it was like a wheel,
the paper-thin spokes raying out from the hub
to the half-transparent circumference of rind,
with small dark ellipses suspended between.
He could see the wood of the table-top through it.
Then he knelt, and with his eye at orange-level
saw it as the globe, its pithy core
upright from pole to flattened pole. Next,
its levitation: sustained (or so he told us)
by a week's diet of nothing but rice-water
he had developed powers, drawing upon which
he raised it to a height of about two feet
above the table, with never a finger near it.
That was all. It descended, gradually opaque,
to rest; while he sat giddy and shivering.
(He shivered telling it.) But surely, we asked,
(and still none of us mentioned self-hypnosis
or hallucinations caused by lack of food) ,
surely triumphant too? Not quite, he said,
with his little crooked smile. It was not enough:
he should have been able to summon up,
created out of what he had newly learnt,
a perfectly imaginary orange, complete
in every detail; whereupon the real orange
would have vanished. Then came explanations
and his talk of mysticism, occult physics,
alchemy, the Qabalah - all his hobby-horses.
If there was failure, it was only here
in the talking. For surely he had lacked nothing,
neither power nor insight nor imagination,
when he knelt alone in his room, seeing before him
suspended in the air that golden globe,
visible and transparent, light-filled:
his only fruit from the Tree of Life.