Poetry spotlight #1: Meditation on a Grapefruit by Craig Arnold

As I mentioned in my last blog post, I will be doing a 40 day poetry reading streak and sharing my favorite at the end of the week. This is the first.There were definitely points in the week where I made reading an after thought, halfheartedly reading my one poem and being done. But there were also moments where I really got in a groove and would read poem after poem with a hunger for more.
The following poem comes from my current poetry read: an anthology called “The Open Door: 100 poems, 100 years of Poetry magazine”. (for the exact formatting click the title)

To wake when all is possible
before the agitations of the day
have gripped you
To come to the kitchen
and peel a little basketball
for breakfast
To tear the husk
like cotton padding      a cloud of oil
misting out of its pinprick pores
clean and sharp as pepper
To ease
each pale pink section out of its case
so carefully      without breaking
a single pearly cell
To slide each piece
into a cold blue china bowl
the juice pooling      until the whole
fruit is divided from its skin
and only then to eat
so sweet
a discipline
precisely pointless      a devout
involvement of the hands and senses
a pause   a little emptiness
each year harder to live within
each year harder to live without.

Grapefruit-slice1I selected this poem because it’s a prime example of what good poetry does: it elevates the mundane. Here Arnold takes something as basic as eating a piece of fruit for breakfast and gives it a new, unfamiliar beauty. I also love this poem because it’s ripe with optimism; the opening line “To wake when all is possible” breathes hope into our day while the poem’s next line balances that with an acknowledgement that this is temporary: “before the agitations of the day/have gripped you”. This poem is honest appreciation delivered through vivid imagery.
The repetition of infinitives (“to wake”, “to come”, “to tear”, “to ease”, “to slide”) forces us, as readers, to take the scenic route on our way to the “action” of the poem. And when we reach that main action: “to eat” (yet another infinitive) the poem shrinks for a moment, its lines becoming so short we can’t help but give it our full attention: “and only then to eat/so sweet/a discipline”.The final two lines struck me immediately; they’re what solidified my love for this poem. Yet it took me a bit of time to come to an understanding of them. The final line, “Each year harder to live without” is as cliche as it comes but the preceding line is what made this line & stanza refreshing: “each year harder to live within”. I asked for my brother’s interpretation of the end and he agreed that the idea of living “within” was peculiar; it’s a different way of saying what we’ve been hearing all our lives: can’t live with it; can’t live without it. With each passing year it becomes harder to live within and without these meticulous/seemingly trivial processes.
This poem shows that a simple, even “cliche” concept can be crafted into something foreign, beautiful, and intriguing. And that’s what poetry is about. You don’t always need to say something new; but you do have to say something well and in a way that its never been said before.
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