Reflections on a gift

I was thinking back to poems I used to love as a kid, and my mind kept going back to one by John Tobias, a gift from our eighth grade English teacher Miss White (upon whom I had the most intense schoolboy crush, which at the time I was quite convinced was true love). I hadn’t thought about this poem in years, and I was afraid to look at it again, worried that I wouldn’t like it anymore.

I am very happy to report that I like it just fine. In fact, even more. I’m sure some of you know this poem. For the rest of you, happy discovering! Does anyone else happen to have a favorite poem from childhood, one that still resonates for you now?

      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 never have been at all;
But which has become more real
Than the one that was--
Watermelons ruled.

Thick 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.

2 thoughts on “Reflections on a gift”

  1. Perhaps not resonate in the same way as your poem, but as in high school I was on the speech team in dramatic interpretation, I spent a lot of time with the Glass Menagerie and Robert Newton Peck’s A Day No Pigs Would Die. And I can still recite the Jabberwock..

    Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
    Did gyre and gimble in the wabe
    All mimsy were the borogoves
    And the mome raths outgrabe.

    …and so forth. 🙂

  2. Most of mine came from this:

    But there there were two that I liked. The first one was from the book above:

    Ladles and Jellyspoons
    I come before you
    To stand behind you
    To tell you something,
    I know nothing about.
    Next Thursday, which is Good Friday
    They’ll be a mother’s meeting, for father’s only.
    Wear your best clothes, if you haven’t any
    And if you can come,
    Please stay at home.
    Admission free,
    Pay at the door,
    Take a seat,
    Sit on the floor,
    Makes no difference where you sit,
    The man in the Gallery is sure to spit.

    The Generals by Shel Silverstein

    Said General Clay to General Gore,
    “Oh must we fight this silly war?
    To kill and die is such a bore.”
    “I quite agree,” said General Gore.

    Said General Gore to General Clay,
    “We could go to the beach today
    And have some ice cream on the way.”
    “A grand idea,” said General Clay.

    Said General Clay to General Gore,
    “We’ll build sand castles on the shore.”
    Said General Gore, “We’ll splash and play.”
    “Let’s leave right now,” said General Clay.

    Said General Gore to General Clay,
    “But what if the sea is closed today?
    And what if the sand’s been blown away?”
    “A dreadful thought,” said General Clay.

    Said General Gore to General Clay,
    “I’ve always feared the ocean’s spray,
    And we may drown!” “It’s true, we may.
    It chills my blood,” said General Clay.

    Said General Clay to General Gore,
    “My bathing suit is slightly tore.
    We’d better go on with our war.”
    “I quite agree,” said General Gore.

    Then General Clay charged General Gore
    As bullets flew and cannons roared.
    And now, alas! there is no more
    Of General Clay or General Gore.

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