September 6, 2016

James O’Hern

A PRIZE WATERMELON

I carry a huge striped watermelon
cradled in my arms like a baby
making my way slowly
across deep rows of a plowed field
toward the blue ’38 Ford pickup

Chispa stands in the truck bed
in white chinos, sweat-stained Panama
knee deep in watermelons
arranging them so they won’t break
on the bumpy ride back

I lift my prize to him
it bumps off the running board
onto hard ground and splits open
exposing that I am not yet a man
big enough to help

Chispa taught me la vida es el sueño
life is a waking dream
seen through the eyes of a nagual
he asks me ¿que quiere decir el sueño?
I answer it is a bad omen
that my life is a failure
I cannot do anything right
and he says, ahorita, da me un pedasito

I hand him a piece
he motions for me take one
and as we eat the hot sweetness
asks me to enter the dream
desde adentro de tu conejito
he wants me inside my rabbit
—with a snap of his fingers
I’m in the watermelon dream

When I get big enough to leave
I forget Chispa and turn my back on
la dulzura del sueño de conejo
the sweetness of the rabbit dream
to live in the other world
in which I drop the watermelon

from Rattle #20, Winter 2003