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Poet's Choice: 'Watermelon in the Afternoon' by John Gallaher

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By John Gallaher
Sunday, November 22, 2009

We travel from our small town near Kansas City to Austin, Texas, two or so times a year to see family, stopping in Dallas to see my wife's grandmother, who is in her 90s. We've been doing this for several years. Our children, now 7 and 3, aren't much for sitting and talking, so every visit I find myself following them up and down the halls and little courtyard of the assisted-living community in which she lives.

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I'm in the habit of keeping a small 3x5 notebook with me, and while we were walking on one recent visit, I wrote down the opening sentence of what became this poem. The rest of the poem came about quickly, as a fairly straight report of that visit and my attempt to think along with it while my kids and I wandered the halls. We were there on a day they were cleaning out one of the rooms near the main lobby. It was summer, and there was watermelon.

Writing the poem was something of a challenge for me, as I had never written a poem opening with the image of grandmothers before, and I wasn't sure how the tone was going to work. In fact, I can't think of another poem of mine that even has the word "grandmother" in it. I'm sure there must be one. I have several with watermelons in them.

(Editor's note: To see this poem laid out correctly on paper or on your screen, click the Print button in the Toolbox.)

Watermelon in the Afternoon

Several grandmothers are in a half-circle

eating watermelon from plastic cups.

.

Let us not forget to act differently.

Let us not forget

to start the music, to play the music loud.

.

And stir the chairs as they empty.


CONTINUED     1           >

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