When Life Gives Her Lemons

When Life Gives Her Lemons

Emily Su

Is there a word

for when you look in her eyes,

and find yourself

suffocating, clenched

in the wrenching grip

of helplessness?


The sweet, bright air that you’ve held—resting

so sweetly on the tip of your pink tongue—

slowly squeezes out

of your heart

like a lemon exhaling its life,

leaving a dull ache, a shriveled up peel, and a sour aftertaste.

She clings to you.

The tired folds under her eyes
shrivel, curl inward, and

tuck into themselves
like introverted seeds

longing for the return

to a rich, dark soil,

where they could sleep

until the time

for second chances

came again.

You grip her hands fruitlessly back,

her skin punctured

with small holes—lost opportunities and broken


She tells you simple words,

“When life gives you lemons, why make lemonade?

There’s nothing sweet enough

to help the taste.”

And so all you long for now
is to find the magic word

to soothe her pain from the bitter slice
of a harsh life.

Is there a word for that?