Oranges Summary

In the first lines of "Oranges," the speaker reminisces about his childhood, specifically the first time he ever went on a walk with a girl. In this memory, the speaker is twelve. He is cold—the poem is set in December, when there is ice on the ground and you can see your breath—and he has two oranges in his jacket pockets.

The speaker walks towards the girl's house, noting that her house's yellow porch light is always on, 24/7. As the speaker approaches, a dog barks at him, and the girl leaves her house to join him on the sidewalk. When she joins him, the speaker notices that she has put makeup on her cheeks and is in the process of putting gloves on her hands.

The speaker touches the girl's shoulder and leads her down the street towards a drugstore. When they enter the store, a saleslady appears, and the boy tells the girl to pick out whatever she wants. The little girl smiles and picks out a chocolate that costs a dime, not knowing that the little boy only has a nickel in his pocket.

When they reach the counter to pay for the chocolate, the speaker places his nickel alongside one of the oranges from his pocket. The saleslady looks at him and doesn't say a word. The speaker and the lady share a moment of eye contact, and understanding passes between them.

The boy and the girl leave the drugstore, where the fog is heavy and the traffic is light. They walk hand-in-hand for two blocks. He releases her hand so she can unwrap her chocolate and he can peel his orange. He notices that the brilliant color of the fruit contrasts so sharply against the oppressive winter grayness that it appears as if he is holding a fire in his hands.