michael brownstein | a history of melons

24 03 2012

POETRY DISPATCH No.366 | March 25, 2012

A HISTORY OF MELONS

by
Michael Brownstein

Editor’s Note: As much as I admire and preach the small poem as the way to good writing, I love, too, writers who take chances, who go their own way, whatever way the wind blows. Risk-takers who may fail to connect with editors and readers (perhaps even themselves), yet often discover it was worth it. That whole storm of words seeking substance and form, (writing/rewriting…adding/subtracting…moving/reshaping), though traditional editors, old fashioned readers may find the final piece not to their liking, unfit for publication…too experimental…lacking meaning, let alone art.

Every serious act of writing has something to teach. Especially if it fails.

I write this by way of an introduction to Michael Brownstein’s “A History of Melons.” I’ve been too long at this as reader, writer, editor to know that too many readers will look at the opening of “A History of Melons” and stop reading by the third or fourth line—assigning it to “What’s this? Oh, Come on.” Or consign it to another Whitmanesque list of words trying to be poetic or worse—just plain boring. Turn the page: Egads, there’s more?

Stay with it. Start, quit, and begin again. Go through it once…pause…read it again. Read it once more. Read it aloud. Come back to it tomorrow. Next week. Next month. Next year.

It may stay with you forever. All or parts of it.

It’s as luscious as an Orange Sherbet Cantaloupe…as a Moon and Stars Watermelon. – Norbert Blei

A History of Melons

by
Michael Brownstein

Types of melons: Ambrosia Cantaloupe, Angel Cantaloupe, Athena Cantaloupe, Blenheim Orange Cantaloupe, Burpee Hybrid Cantaloupe, Burrell’s Jumbo Cantaloupe, Bush Scar Cantaloupe, Earlisweet Cantaloupe, Male’s Best Jumbo Cantaloupe, Hollybrook Luscious Cantaloupe, Honey Rock Cantaloupe. Noir Des Carmes Cantaloupe, Orange Sherbet Cantaloupe, Pulsar Cantaloupe, Early Silver Line Asian Melon, Queen Anne’s Pucker Melon, Plum Granny Lambkin Hybrid Christmas Melon, St. Nick Winter Melon, Amy Casaba, Golden Beauty Casaba, Sungold Casaba, Honey Girl Charentais, French melon, Hybrid Charentais, Early Hybrid Crenshaw, Earlidew Honeydew, Green Flesh Honeydew, Honeydew Magic to Dew, Orange Sorbet Honeydew, Sweet Delight Honeydew, Unforgettable Honeydew, Black Diamond Watermelon, Bush Sugar Baby Watermelon, Crimson Sweet Watermelon, Garrison Rattlesnake Watermelon, Jade Star Watermelon, Jubilee Watermelon, Moon and Stars Watermelon, Red Bush Watermelon, Royal Jubilee Watermelon, Sangria Watermelon, Sugar Baby Watermelon, Sweet Beauty Watermelon, Sweet Diane Watermelon, Tiger Baby Watermelon, Yellow Doll Watermelon—list compiled by Edward Greenhouse

Prologue

Ancient Japanese and Hong Kong traditions tell of a path to heaven that crosses the peak to a mountain lost in cloud worlds of snow and weather; fields cultivated with melon.

Educated Sumerians studied The Scrolls of the Casabas, layers of cuneiform describing their demi-gods’ lust for its flesh.

The Book of Going Forth One Day contains the geography of the cave of the Dead Sea Scrolls, The Book of the Dead and countless watermelon seeds preserved in folds of papyrus.

Temple prostitutes of Mesopotamia ate the seed of Sweet Delight Honeydew and remained barren, but when they tossed these same seeds onto bare ground, great vines filled the horizon with abundance.

Travelers on the Silk Road left rinds of yellow melon everywhere for scavengers to find. It was written: Better vultures go after the remains of fruit than what we men are made of.

In one of the few surviving passages from Tehnti (48,000 BCE), he described a large cantaloupe at the entrance to the passage of the Scales of Judgment: “If the soul’s roots and the melon balance in The Book of Deeds, the newly dead enter into life after death. If not, the soul is forced to wander forever within its rotten core.”

1.

We did not live forever then
nor do we learn to age gracefully now.

Would you rather be
somepIace else?
Would you rather be
shadow in shade?

2.

Stop giving up.
Think this is one life I live
and I can live another,

3.

but if you continue to slap
the face of god
and hit the wall of standing
know this:

4.

5.

a snow pocked empty lot
weed filled and drunk,
discarded glass, discarded diets,
psoriasis, eczema, a cancer,
infected tears in the skin.

Interlude

(melons) taste like watered-down perfume—Amy Gebsler

(Did you really drink perfume, Amy Gebsler?)—M. H. Brownstein

6.

We are made of mad men,
hard tack and possibility bags,
prosperity boxes and droplets
seeded with color and light,
smothered with clouds smoldering.

7.

How do you give someone a broken cup?
The same way bone is broken?
The same way underwear is found?

Is it not enough to know
the voice of words
after death, a geometry
of shade across sidewalk
and street, the empathy
of clouds cooling off heat,
a litany of breeze,
a burning of wheat?

And still what a glorious day
for all the animosities
between us

8.

even as you bundle your words into growls
and pitch them against the scars of others.
Aren’t you the glad one able to build
bonfires, lightning storms, a great tornado.
It is no wonder plagues move away from you,
history repeats itself?

Epilogue

No mention is made of melons in the Norseland Book of Magic, the Druid Tome to Destiny, the Old and New Testaments of the Bible, the Qur’an, The Buddha Meditations. The Tao or the Book of Mormons.

[From: AFTER HOURS, a journal of Chicago writing and art, Issue No. 24, Winter 2012]

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