Reaching Sunward

Turning Lemons into Lemonade

Reflections on a Gift of Watermelon Pickle Received from a Friend Called Felicity

on September 7, 2007

My friend Gina is canning peaches and tomatoes, figs and all kinds of summer-lovely things, and as she was telling me about going to buy the last of the summer fruit, I was reminded of this poem that I loved when I was a kid. “Stop the grocery list right there” I said, and I ran to my poetry collection to show her this poem…

After Christmas, when the long, drawn out months of winter are on me and I can’t wait for Spring, I will be so thankful and happy to have some of Gina’s beautiful yellow-orange-pink peaches, and let the colors and flavors of summer refresh me. Thanks Gina!

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, pink, 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.

John Tobias


5 responses to “Reflections on a Gift of Watermelon Pickle Received from a Friend Called Felicity

  1. RubyShooZ says:

    Beautiful! I want to have your friend Gina and I’m glad to have found you here – I’ve only seen a few posts and you’re speaking my language!

    These posts both:

    Beannacht (”Blessing”) by John O’Donohue
    Meditation for healing
    Meditation practice from The Art of Mindful Living by Thich Nhat Hanh

    I’ve read and heard before and I am so thankful that you’ve reminded me. I’m wondering what fantastic stuff I am going to find as I wander around your weblog here Thank you thank you!

    Peace today.

    ~ RS ~

  2. Shaheen says:

    I am currently studying this poem in school and whilst reading it I feel rather nostalgic as it reminds of all the fun, care-free things I used to do when I was younger…unfortunately as I am now in IB I have no time for such things anymore….time flies that is why every moment is precious and must be treasured… 🙂

    • john says:

      haha, same, i’m studying it right now, for the IB to ironically. But unlike you, i really do not enjoy english.

      • felicity says:

        I’m also doing IB and I know exactly what you mean. It seems cruel to give us a poem about summer and childhood at a time when we can no longer experience it ourselves. When one considers it was an exam piece in 2007 it seems an especially cruel choice.

  3. Tom Worthen says:

    My favorite poem. An interesting story. We publish children’s poetry with our company Creative Communication. I received a call from John Tobias who was calling about a student poet he knew. When he identified himself I immediately did the first line from Reflections on a gift….he then asked if I would like him to recite the poem. It was wonderful and then he told me the story about his friend Felicity and how she had brought the pickles to a summer party. We wrote back and forth for several months and he would share new poems with me. It was really cool.

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