by Joyce Carol Oates

Page 4

A feminist poem, conceived in anger but executed, I think, with rather more a sense of play; in response to an epigraph from Paul Valery--one of those 'great men' whose greatness excludes women.


     Women are fruits. There are peaches,
      pineapples, and hazelnuts. No need
      to continue: it is clear.
          --Paul Valery, Melange

No need to continue, it is clear
how ecstatic we are you're dead
though we must not say so, but compose
our faces otherwise. Though death
is that marbled world of Absence
we cannot enter. We lead you to it--
but cannot enter. Peaches, pineapples,
hazelnuts, oranges, grapefruits, red
apples, apricots, plump black cherries,
sour red cherries, plums and prunes and raisins,
avocados, nectarines, kumquats
skin and all!--sweet pulpy bananas, pears
and papaya, persimmons and pomegranates,
rhubarb, blueberries and blackberries and
huckleberries and raspberries, straw-
berries, lemons, limes, mangoes, kiwi,
cantalope and watermelon so red-flushed and
coarse,--no need to continue but I love best
this sweet heavy Persian melon with its
fleshy meat like the softest skin
of the inner thigh, so many seeds and all
so sweet, subtle as the most judicious
of poisons.

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