Would I rather be peeled like an onion, opened like a pomegranate, or eaten like a fig? The answer changes from day to day. And yet if you were to ask me now, this moment, I would say all three.
Or I might be a walnut, whose heart is exposed with the breaking of day.
My grandfather had a pecan tree. The jays would pick up the nuts, and then drop them from a great height onto the roof of his house to break them open.
One hot summer morning when I was mowing his lawn, he noticed a preying mantis on the leaf of one of his rose bushes. Without hesitation, he crushed it between his thumb and the first two fingers of his right hand. When I asked him why, he said, “Darned grasshoppers.” When I told him what it really was, the meaning of my words did not penetrate his tough, eighty-year-old shell. He wiped his hand on his pants. On my memory, too.
He also had a soft heart and a sweet tooth. Once, he took me to the fall carnival. In those days, rides cost a dime. A penny found was a treasure. So was a stick. So was a feather. Several years later, when the price of a maple bar at the Royal Dutch Bakery went all the way up to seven cents, I had to think well and think long before paying such a price. It was a rare purchase indeed.
Coins, arguing in his pocket. “Just keep walking,” he thought.
Poems, Slightly Used, April 4, 2009