An Array of Possibilities

A Brief History of Fruit by Kimberly Quiogue Andrews

University of Akron Press, 2020 


A Brief History of Fruit


My copy of Kimberly Quiogue Andrews’ A Brief History of Fruit soon ran out of page corners to dog-ear. After reading each poem, I had to read it again; I didn’t want to misread any lines or miss any new words. And when I finished this collection, I returned to all the words I had circled, delighted not only by the poems in what has become one of my favorite collections of the year, but by how much they had taught me. A small sampling of the words this collection added to my vocabulary:










As I searched for my circled words, I found myself rereading each poem, and then the entire collection, in its entirety. It is a collection that rewards re-reading. Andrews signals her attention to the meanings of words—and asks for readers’ attention to the same—in poems such as “n: Shield, or Shell Covering”:


Swaddling provides a newborn with a sense of the womb’s safety.

I fold countries around myself, false familiarity, some serene carapace.


That “carapace” is the noun from the poem’s title: an object with a protective function, a kind of casing. But Andrews finds the tension between a swaddled baby and a suffocated self in a suffocating country in a way that feels both heartbreaking and necessary. The poem renders this tension using a series of long couplets drawn across the page, with the second line of each couplet pairing carapace with a rhyming, rhythmic, hypnotic sequence of modifiers: crystalline, serene, unseen.


In “The Collapse,” Andrews combines her playfulness about the meanings of words—“Ravine (n): a place where it is difficult to build condominiums”—with a formal inventiveness that uses the page as a way to think critically about what white space means in the poem and in the world. Through these formal choices, Andrews makes the connections between whiteness, capitalism, and ecological disaster both evident and non-negotiable. The poem opens with an epigraph about Manila’s infamous mountain of garbage, the collapse of which killed hundreds, maybe thousands of people in the summer of 2000. Andrews, though—whose mother was born in the Philippines—follows the epigraph with a passage that suggests an impatience with the need for storytelling as a rhetorical device:


Is it alright if I just go ahead and say

that the moral of this story

will have something to do with the scourge of capitalism? Will you keep reading?


This poem is frenetic and challenging, cataloging Manila’s financial growth and environmental ruin with an anger that at times transforms into reverence: “all hail the need for condominiums / all hail Manila’s 10,000 tonnes per day.” These images, stacked one on top of another, threaten their own form of collapse, mirroring the compounding pressures of capital and climate change.


If there is a feeling of helplessness that comes from the magnitude of the current disaster facing us, what Andrews does so well across the collection is face these impossible catastrophes. She arrives to the page with new ways to communicate loss, absence, and grief. The language with which we understand the climate change that may destroy us is also the language we use to understand the elements that give us life. Andrews converges these lexical groups in “Pastoral,” where words such as “environment” and “field” and “America” can and do hold a number of meanings:


By field, I mean both the expanse across which

[] [] [] [] [] [] [] [] []

and the sum of all possible relations between a person

and the objects in their environment


The punctuation of a double bracket [] translates to an array in JavaScript, and I think of array here as a kind of absence but also as the formation of possibilities, answers, and meanings—a box to be filled. The poem does not concern itself with sense so much as it does with sound, which props open the door to the poem. The arrays provide the fill-in-the-blank-ness necessary to push the reader toward a range of meanings:


By America, I mean the sighing sense of moving from body to

[] [] [] [] [] [] [] [] []


A Brief History of Fruit is inventive, textured, and deeply interesting. One of the many powers of this collection is the way it navigates possibility. Andrews writes into questions such as, How do we name ourselves? How do decide who we are? How does one name and navigate the world? These poems are fervent explorations of the capacity for language to name what can’t be named and to help us understand tensions that, as argued by Diane Seuss—who selected the collection as winner of the Akron Poetry Prize—do not “resolve; [because] to resolve would equal self-abandonment.” And to pretend to resolve the questions at the heart of this collection—for one, “What does it mean to live in a country?”—would be far less interesting than what Seuss rightfully says that Andrews does so well: to “inventory a parallel history.”


Pollarding & Animal Spirits



In this unwitting dawn. In the begonia
I put in the poem because of its incantatory


sound. In the vine I thought was a sweet

pea—to put a sweet pea in the poem—


but was actually a weed, common vetch.
In the still early summer heat like gentle


pressure on the forearms and wrists.



A trio of military planes screams overhead.

I squint into the glare and the leftover


cosmetic product on my hands flashes
in a type of dim recognition. Wash it off. Who


is going to read about botanical misprision.

There’s a war on and I am the yellowing


pages of Bishop’s National Geographic.

There’s always a war on and its location


is not a function of place but of people, plucked

for the vase or the oven, wilting or burning or


eaten as a delicacy. The word of the day

is upward. The word of the day is all cops


are bastards. Who am I to say what we should make

of the clay at our feet, minor gods with shovels


and grass seed, with kilns and molds, the joints of

our fingers curling around some texture, releasing


it in the checkout aisle or through the window

that backs the checkout aisle.



After adrenaline, a comedown just like any
other high. You’re sitting on the floor in a hoodie


and biting all the skin off your lips. Outside,

the day continues to mulch itself, there are


robins, someone is invoicing someone else

for another order of rubber bullets.


The symbolic vulture will not arrive



To hunch in the middle distance. Sorry,
I’m back now, I was on the patio this whole time,


my mouth is bleeding and the roar has faded
such that it might be mistaken for an air conditioner,


the mechanical hum of comfort
in deeply inhospitable environments,


a fueled and speedy monarchy, it’s coming,
I tell myself, get up, it’s well-rested and armed


to the teeth literally but also and importantly
for my purposes metaphorically, a giant blossoming


of dipshit noisemaking. It doesn’t have to go
to the office and it is responsible for the existence


of Phoenix, Arizona. I wobble on my feet

like a newborn anything. I am melancholic


about structures. Look: no matter what you grab

out of the kitchen drawer, it can be used


as a lever. In what follows, we’re on the side

of the ice, those tropical begonias be damned.



Animal Spirits

“If the animal spirits are dimmed and the spontaneous optimism falters, leaving us to depend on nothing but a mathematical expectation, enterprise will fade and die.” —John Maynard Keynes





Enterprise withering on the vine. Enterprise left to rot in the sun.

Out of its carcass, a cooler wind—





/ / /





If the world is bad to you, you are sad.
If the world is good to you, but you know about the world, you are sad.
If the world is good to you, and you do not know about the world, you will not be sad.
If the world was bad to you but it is no longer, it is easy to forget about the world, and easy to

forget you were ever sad.


O dripping globe. What we’ve blamed

on the elements. On the accident
of our cells rather than the rapidity

with which we turn water to cement.





/ / /





The idea that the brain is the seat of the soul is older than most people think it is.


The history of naturalizing economic activity is exactly as long as you think it is.


We were made for money / / we were made of money





/ / /





Falling through a substrate,
the gentle “u” of the body as it faces upward. The hands and feet like a dancer’s, directional.


On the curb, a man turns over shovelfuls of dampened sand in a wheelbarrow. The sound is like

stiff fabrics hung too close to one another on a line. A recursive intimacy.


A brief and wild optimism, and then the grinding sludge of machinery, its unmatchable






/ / /





A bull in the blood.
A bull made of blood, made of air, air carried in the blood air seated in the brain.


The brain a bull. The world a bull with its hooves on the world.


O beast that could be gentle. Asleep in the beige autumn of the shaken head, slow wading

through the pool of counter-liquefaction.


Abolish selling.
In the hand outstretched, these cool bristles
like a hand broom, a horned smoothness and the scent
of fields and a fire recently extinguished. This animal pause.





/ / /





Frenzied acquisition of undergarments,

small vases, linens, soaps, followed by the hatred of stuff—





/ / /





The dog on the surface of the water, the dog on the silver of the coin.1






1See Robert Burton, in Anatomy of Melancholy, on rabidity: “That in Hydrophobia they seem to see the picture of a dog still in their water” (222).