“A Bowl of Fruit” by Stephen Dunn

Stephen Dunn


For me, the pleasure of poetry
is taking it apart.
—Jeanne-Andree Nelson

Jeanne, I have spent days arranging
this bowl of fruit, all for you,
knowing how much you love fruit
(not to eat, of course, but to examine),
and I’ve been careful to make sure
the bananas are the shape of bananas,
that the oranges rhyme with oranges,
and for your pleasure I’ve included
a lone pear, which may signify
something to you I haven’t intended,
which is my intention.
No doubt you’ve begun to question
why the quince and the apple
are so close together, and (knowing you)
if there might be a worm
in the apple, whether this gift
is a gift at all. And perhaps it’s true
that I’ve covered up the worm hole
with putty, painted over it perfectly,
though this would be a mystery
that only can be solved
by cutting open or biting into,
letting the juices run down the sides
of your mouth, or onto your hands.
It would be the kind of bold probing
I would love for you to love, the final
messiness of theory, still-life breaking open
into life, the discovery that the secret worm,
if real, will not permit you any distance.
But surely by now you’ve come to realize
there is no worm, only this bowl of fruit
made out of words, only these seductions.

from Rattle #17, Summer 2002

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