That season the sky rained melons:
soft and plasmic,
unapocalyptic, each fruit
uniquely cut—wide, short, cucumiform—
nude as palms or parted hair.
Outside: street lamps sweltering
in a perfume of wet seeds,
cul-de-sacs now plates
and piled high.
It made a person want to say
Now I’ve seen everything!
It made a person want to say
I love you to the cashier in the convenience store,
bibbed overalls, stalky braids
ribboned back, her Christ is All necklace
blinking in the fluorescent light.
Each and every girl a slur
of smells—peach tree, its bark
or fruit, well-rubbed leaves,
denim and vulva and deodorant—
all of it begging the question
Will you marry me?
Two by two they came:
Botwin to Major, Kelly to Davis,
Yaples to Mitchum, names
chanted like hands
along a rosary—Hill to Hickersmith,
Fatton to Marsborough—at first
set apart by a pair
of pinched-wire glasses or a bowl
haircut, then all of them lost
beneath the glazed umbrella
of the town going under. Listen
for the sound of kissing,
there like a motorcycle’s rev. Something sweet’s
leaked into the drinking water,
sticking in a star to every tongue.
The preacher’s teenage daughter
insisted on the barn, ghosting it
in white crepe, gold-rimmed dishes,
azaleas, a baby
grand long out of tune,
its keys a wicked garden
of curled veneer.
She came out as if from a kiln
lacis dress a network
of here and here and here,
fast—the skirt of it
never moving. Her eyes on top
The third that day and her father
crying into his cocktail napkin,
watering the toast he’d copied down.
His homburg hat in his lap.
Only some of the words
he could manage were Gods.
Outside the muskmelon piled up,
and the town was growing sick
of sherbet, pie, cold soup
daubed with cream. The jeweler
ran out of wedding rings and instead
began to offer Cross pens:
if you take this woman,
then sketch the band on her skin
with fountain ink. Young couples
at their restaurants refused
to wet their hands—lower
a finger into a river and love
could be washed clean.
But could anyone find magic
in the fruit? In a cottage
across from the village thrift, an old man
brought home a cup of seeds,
a pulpy lake still tided
by the moon. He left it
on the counter to ferment
into tough cologne, he counted
to nine hundred and forty-five.
Meanwhile his wife caught basilica
spiders in her hands. They had arrived
with the sweetness, just as puckered shadows
accompany any pantry
of light. She found her fetal
body, she slept until she could hear
her own sleeping. Love, the man said,
Love wake up. And she did.
When she yawned, someone
had set a web inside her mouth.
The hundredth day, it stopped
raining melons. Off came the vinyl raincoats,
the bulldozers finally ceased
their metal keening and all the breathing
could happen again. In the aisles
of the Kroger now: freshman brides
with stomachs swelling high, each a pale
dirigible, cleaner than air and anchored
to her shopping cart.
One moment the sky was still
yellow. The next, the women
turned to their men with the tiny cans
of kidney beans cradled
in their arms. Look at the sun, they said,
sitting in the window out there,
swinging his legs. The husbands
watched out. What sun? they asked.
The sky was piebald now,
and hungry for itself.
— sarah crossland