Provocation Four: In Praise of the Sweetest Nectar
Updated: Oct 11, 2019
By Gillian Kessler:
Li-Young Lee’s gorgeous “From Blossoms” is a poem of gratitude. The focus, the detail, and the rich, attainable sensory elements brings forth a deep sense of appreciation for a seemingly simple fruit.
This poem seems to be the perfect fit for any occasion involving something miraculously everyday: the greens in your garden, the words of a child, the way wildflowers sprout from the earth in June. Lee reminds us to savor the moment and breathe in the precious present in celebration and praise.
Food that grows from the soil, food that is simple and nourishing and pure, fills us with the literal and metaphorical sustenance needed to be our best selves. Choose a food you find remarkable—perhaps a fruit or vegetable—something pure, something, perhaps, grown in your watershed.
To begin, focus all your attention on what the object looks like: color, texture, shape. From there, move your sensory awareness to how it smells, how it feels in your hands, perhaps what it looked like before it reached you. If you choose a fruit or vegetable, focus on the idea of this lovely gift growing straight out of the earth. Finally, indulge your taste buds!
Write notes as you eat, filling the top of your page with a “sensory word bank” related to all of the associations you’ve had while really focusing your attention on this sacred object and all it provides.
Give yourself fifteen minutes to write on the sensations of engaging with intention.
From blossoms comes
this brown paper bag of peaches
we bought from the boy
at the bend in the road where we turned toward
signs painted Peaches.
From laden boughs, from hands,
from sweet fellowship in the bins,
comes nectar at the roadside, succulent
peaches we devour, dusty skin and all,
comes the familiar dust of summer, dust we eat.
O, to take what we love inside,
to carry within us an orchard, to eat
not only the skin, but the shade,
not only the sugar, but the days, to hold
the fruit in our hands, adore it, then bite into
the round jubilance of peach.
There are days we live
as if death were nowhere
in the background; from joy
to joy to joy, from wing to wing,
from blossom to blossom to
impossible blossom, to sweet impossible blossom.
This poem of mine about mangoes was inspired by Lee’s poem and was an absolute delight to write.
San Pancho After the Storm
During the storm, mangoes fly from trees,
litter the street like migrating crabs,
like post-party detritus, like golden orbs
open for business, homes to colonies of bees,
to bare feet and beggar hands.
We scoop them from potholes and cobblestones,
peel back their thin skins and
suck them dry: mangoes gathered in
buckets and bins, mangoes beneath
fallen street lamps, mangos caught
in palm fronds. Long and languid, the trees
hang heavy, luxurious and immediate.
Mamas gather mangoes for
babes while chickens peck
through sticky pulp, sun-baked and sinewy.
From the window, I watch
the old donkey slip
mangoes from the crate,
juice drips down his smile,
he bends for another.
Gillian Kessler is a poet, teacher, and a regular writer for Flapper Press. Her first published book of poems, Lemons and Cement, is available for purchase.