Reflections on …

Reflections on a Gift of Watermelon Pickle

Received from a Friend Called Felicity

During that summer
When unicorns were still possible;
When the purpose of knees
Was to be skinned;
When shiny horse chestnuts
(Hollowed out 
Fitted with straws
Crammed with tobacco
Stolen from butts 
In family ashtrays)
Were puffed in green lizard silence
While straddling thick branches 
Far above and away
From the softening effects
Of civilization;

During that summer –
Which may have never been at all;
But which has become more real 
Than the one that was –
Watermelons ruled.
 
Thick pink imperial slices
Melting frigidly on sun-parched tongues.
Dribbling from chins;
Leaving the best part,
The black bullet seeds
To be spit out in rapid fire
Against the wall
Against the wind
Against each other;
And when the ammunition was spent,
There was always another bite:
It was a summer of limitless bites,
Of hungers quickly felt
And quickly forgotten
With the next careless gorging.

The bites are fewer now.
Each one is savored lingeringly, 
Swallowed reluctantly.

But in a jar put up by Felicity,
The summer which maybe never was
Has been captured and preserved.
And when we unscrew the lid
And slice off a piece
And let it linger on our tongue:
Unicorns become possible again.

John Tobias

John Tobias’ poem about his childhood friend is one of my favorites.