Poem: American Persimmon

Poem: American Persimmon

From our poet of the month, Rose McLarney

Persimmons on a wooded table

“Some things are best / enjoyed alone. Some things can only be / enjoyed alone.”

American Persimmon

I have tried to carry a persimmon home,
to share one fruit. I passed the tree running,

a pursuit which allows no pockets, no bags.
Needs no equipment. No team.

I was many miles away,
and could not clench my fist.

I told myself to hold my hands like good men
every time they choose not

to use their strength.
But a good persimmon

is already halfway to ruin.
A ripe fruit falls,

wrinkled and dark.
Too fragile to bear reaching the ground,

it bursts. Too fragile to bear touch,
the skin of the fruit I gathered

skidded off. Pulp pushed past
my knuckles’ best intentions.

Men can be considered good
for what they don’t do. How small

of a taken action could be a saving
grace then? I tried again, another day,

dropping a persimmon in the emptiness
between my breasts.

Home, undressed,
there was only a sweaty smear

no man could find sensuous.
Some things are best

enjoyed alone. Some things can only be
enjoyed alone.

And so, this morning, I eat right
on the roadside, picking grit from fruit’s soft insides.

Across town, a man I love sleeps.
Around the world, the hungry and sleepless.

Here, my fingers so sugared
I can’t suck them clean.

Rose McLarney shared her insight with Spirituality & Health:

The American persimmon, if you’re not familiar with it, is a wild-growing and unattractive fruit. To expand a bit on what the poem says, it is small and wrinkly; the skin is so soft that, when it falls, it more often than not splatters and gets dirt in the good parts; and it should have turned from orange to nearly black—be rotten-looking—before you eat it. Otherwise, the fruit is so tannic, your teeth will feel furry. However, I find its complex, custardy, spicy taste to be far better than that of big, shiny, pretty Asian persimmons available in stores. I wrote this poem while feeling less than proud of my country, and to be able to title something “American” and assert it the best was a redemptive moment.

A number of the poems in my book Forage—about the loveliness of the dresses I own in numbers, or the coupe glasses specifically for certain cocktails, for instance—question the indulgences I am allowed due only to fortune into which I was born. Also, social issues aside, I am troubled by how little of what I mean to share in the forms of words and ideas, even with people I am close to, actually reaches them. (Hence, my efforts at honing communication into poetry.)

But, looking back at this conflicted poem now, I can come closer to making a pronouncement than I usually do. The downside of pleasure the speaker takes in the windfall she finds is really just whatever discomfort others feel watching her eat messy stuff they didn’t plant and wouldn’t touch off the neighborhood streets. Some fruit is provided for the foraging.

Read Rose McLarney's poem “Uncollected.”

From Forage by Rose McLarney, published by Penguin Books, an imprint of Penguin Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random House LLC. © 2019 by Rose McLarney.

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