Dictionary Fruit

I didn’t have the name for it
in English: lumpy fruit soft
as thin leather, knobbed with
the biggest outie I’d ever seen.
She took it back, sliced it in half,
& handed me one of the hemispheres
together with a Western spoon.
Kezuro wa ne, oishii desu yo,
she said, speaking slow & smiling
as if to a child. That first seedy,
pulpy spoonful tasted like
it could have been any fruit.
I remember the brush of her fingers
on mine, & how it suddenly became
difficult to meet her gaze.
I placed the empty skin cup
upside-down on the table & fumbled
for my dictionary. Pomegranate,
I said, handing it over with my finger
on the word. Her brows knit
as she sampled the unfamiliar syllables.
I still have it, that little red dictionary
bound in thin fake leather.

For Read Write Poem’s pomegranate prompt.

21 Replies to “Dictionary Fruit”

  1. The thin leather of both pomegranate and dictionary is a nice touch. Very evocative narrative of a relational learning experience. The play between East and West permeates the poem and the flirting is a wonderful detail to include.


  2. I love “Western spoon.” That phrasing, coming as it does a line after “hemispheres,” wonderful. I also like the dictionary as a souvenir of this moment. Nice.

    Is the language Japanese?

    1. Yes, Japanese. The Western/hemispheres combo was a lucky accident. The East Asian spoon, of course, is basically a small porcelain bowl with a handle designed for sipping broth, too big to fit in the mouth and useless for a task such as this. Incidentally I think this was a very un-Japanese approach to eating a pomegranate (kezuro), which would typically involve the meticulous separation of seeds from pulp.

  3. Well I had all sorts of visions of Paul Gaugin with one of his Polynesian beauties. Even the language seemed a bit like an Indian dialect. Not so. A much more intimate portrait. Thank you Dave.
    Doesn’t the pomegranate feature heavily in some of the more earthy songs of ‘Solomon’. I need to head to the produce department and see what they really look like.

    1. The pomegranate was all through the ancient Near East. According to the Wikipedia, even the coins of Judea were stamped with it. It was, like, the uber-fruit.

      1. It also appears in the legend of Persephone and Hades.

        I would think that eating a pomegranate with a spoon would be not merely “un-Japanese”, but nearly impossible. Unless you first extract the seeds to a bowl….

  4. Love the “thin leather” — I’m with you on everything in this poem except “gelatinous.” I’ve eaten a lot of pomegranates but never one with that consistency.

  5. I love the east-west communion in this, made flesh in the interchange over the fruit, and in the brush of the woman’s hand. There is much wonderful subtlety here (“& how it suddenly became difficult to meet her gaze” followed by the exhaustion/consumption of “I placed the empty skin cup…” The intimacy-as-understanding that teases but ultimately transcends language (and culture and difference and associated boundaries)is hauntingly expressed as missed opportunity, dead residue, with the deft ending.

    1. Thanks, David. I appreciate the reassurance that this poem does indeed suggest what I hoped it would.

      I went to hear a reading from a wonderful fiction writer the night before last, and much as I loved the story he read (and the way he read it), I kept thinking how overwritten it seemed. I do like understatement sometimes.

  6. Cupid and Edesia. Shades of Lawrence’s fig here. The erotic element has been touched upon in the comments, but it seems to me a crucial component in this fine poem.

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