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January 2010

There are currently 180 writing prompts on this site. I counted them and surprised myself. I have been doing the site since 1998, and we were once more ambitious in our prompts - offering two a month.

I believe that almost all of those prompts were inspired by reading a poem.  But, our January prompt was inspired by lunch.

One cold day last week, in a post-holidays, end-of-year mood, my wife started cleaning out "expired" items from our kitchen shelves. This led to a purging of the fruit in the baskets. She produced a rather large plate of apples, pears, bananas and a peach that she claimed were "ripe to the point of obscenity." They exuded a heady aroma that was enticing and just at the edge of revulsion.

The sense of smell can be a powerful trigger to the other senses and memory.

This month our prompt is amazingly simple: write about fruit. If that sound too simple, consider how some other poets have approached the subject.

I paged through a few anthologies looking at titles and did a quick online search and there are plenty of poems to choose from that use fruit.

I selected two poems this month that share that subject in a similar way.

"Aubade: Some Peaches, After Storm" by Carl Phillips begins with damselflies hovering over the "blond stillness" of fallen peaches. And, in "Fallen Apples" by Tom Hansen, there are wasps in the apples.

Both poets chose fruit that was rotting and fallen, not picked. Neither poet can resist using "flesh" to describe the fruit - a cliche that still fits and explains why fruit often has an erotic place in poetry.

For Hansen, the apples are both "food of the gods" and a "mushy corpse."  When he lifts the fruit, the wasps are a "congregation" that falls "into the cupped bowl of my hand."  (If we were in the classroom, this might be the time for someone to bring up another famous piece of fruit and a Fall... but not here.)

Both poems move into another place in their second sections. I particularly like how the drunk-on-fruit and night-chilled wasps move "like sleepwalkers feeling around for the light" before they "fall into flight."

One poem I came across that I have always liked is the small "White Apples" by Donald Hall. It's not really about apples at all. It's a poem that both frightens me and makes me hopeful. It has the taste of a sweet white apple and the taste of stone.

when my father had been dead a week
I woke
with his voice in my ear
I sat up in bed
and held my breath
and stared at the pale closed door

white apples and the taste of stone

if he called again
I would put on my coat and galoshes

Here are some other poems - prompted, perhaps, by fruit.

"Forbidden Fruit" by Michael Lally
"Couple Sharing a Peach" by Molly Peacock
"The Pear" by Chad Davidson

For more on our prompts and poetry, visit the Poets Online blog.


It was late August-warm air rushed into the open windows
as we drove along the back roads of southern Ontario.
The noise of the city was gone now; the last bits
of conversation surrendered silently to the summer heat.

We passed orchard after orchard before pulling into one.
You asked the woman at the stand about the harvest.
She was talkative after sitting there alone all morning
with only the drone of lightheaded bees to keep her company.

The peaches were full and heavy with sweet juice.
They weighed the gnarled limbs down, almost as if
their ripeness was too much for the trees to bear.
Basket in hand, we walked through the grove, ready to pick.

You plucked one perfect fruit from a low-hanging branch,
then handed it to me. The others you placed in the basket.
Juice dripped down my chin from the half-eaten peach,
its soft wooly flesh warm from the sun.

An unexpected gust of wind stirred the trees,
and the knotty branches waved back and forth.
We could almost hear the sighs as peach after peach
began to fall, easing the burden of the trees.

Mary Kendall


He won the Nobel Prize for this novel,
This portrait of a picaresque hero,
This inexhaustible flow of invention,
This paperback book I begin to read.
Oh yes,
It has the unmistakable gloss
Of the master craftsman,
But my banana sits so invitingly on my armrest,
So firm and waxy yellow,
Not yet tinged with brown,
A blush of green near the stem.
I put the award-winning, death-defying novel down
And seize the banana.
I split open the side
For the skin is still too tough
To open by pulling on the stem,
And inside the fruit is perfect,
Almost white,
So well-protected by its thick skin,
All the way from Ecuador
Where the whole of someone's life
Is all about bananas,
Knowing so many will end up brown
And uneaten.

I bite off a chunk.
It is firm,
Not too ripe,
Yet it still dissolves without much chewing.
I set the banana down,
Making sure the skin covers the fruit
So it will not make sticky contact
With the arm of my chair.

I look over at the novel.
I am older now
And have read so many important novels
That I no longer expect great revelations.
The fictional dream of this great work beckons,
But this banana is so beautiful somehow,
So perfect
That I must take it in hand once again
And savor every bite.

Russ Allison Loar

for Haiwee the Badger

You picked him off a dirt road under the cliff
where he’d rolled from his nest, eyes closed.
Fostered on dog-kibble soaked in milk, he grew up

wild anyway, biting at your children’s fingers.
He’d huff his breath into the burrowed halls
of rodents; snatch the ground squirrel, gopher

as it dashed for daylight; remained forever
famished. Child of a desert’s privation.
How could you know his wordless want,

until you sliced a watermelon into cold red slabs
dripping seeds and sweetness? He snatched
them, rinds and all, from your kids; devoured

melon before they could run crying to daddy.
Not a huff of thank-you. Badger-gruff to the
ecstatic core. What did you know of badgers?

Taylor Graham


God, how I love this store
It is too pricey, I know, but still it whispers to me
of provincial European bakeries
and of bloody butcher blocks
and of vineyards dancing with a world of bees
Things I’ve never seen
but have lived for a lifetime

I remember when your sister
said she loved the smell of our pantry
“Like a health food store,” she had opined

But I call the pungent smell of fresh herbs
and whole grains
and dried fruit
mingled heaven

Today I walked the forbidden aisles
like halls in a memory
and lusted
not for things I wanted to buy
but for a memory just out of reach
yet powerful
and nearly lost

The walls come down
just a little
when I think of him
and of the she that was me
that day

(How does it feel to be called “him”?)

Dancing around the discomfort
of feeling naked, fully clothed
I remembered
the feel in my mouth
(thick and full and sensuous)
and the taste on my lips
(sweet and voluptuous and urgent)
and I heard his words – your words – in my ears

And so, silliness of silliness,
I bought some pear nectar today

And thus she finds him in the halls of memory
and lets him in, with dim eyes
and hunger
and hope

Laurie Sitterding


Her soft and sinless hand
Held it out to him
Full blaze of orchestral sun
Fell upon its lusty red.

Remember, you are an orb
In multitude, a cell party
Sublime, she said, but
Couldn’t we ever ask for more?

The bite, the squirt
Of delicious more, better, now
Sent down to the acids
Rotting there, it gives strength.

But, look, Daddy’s in the woods
Looking for his Gretel
Dressed in blame, arrayed in gorgeous shame
Her downcast eyes - empty sockets of need.

Patty Tomsky


And when winters sunless morning weeps
Its wave of dim diffuses like lush bruising of fermenting figs
Sky still wrapped up in sleep, spreads an effect of stillness
while, sunlight seemingly reflects, deep within lie of wintry setting
Slight peeks of pomegranate, in vividly pink teardrops awaken me
Each gleam a conduit of change; a clause to set up stars shadows
And contact does not have very far to seek,
as soothe gives breath to suite

Long lost shadows halo around sudden free range of rosiness
and dreamy shifts, since twilight bring stagger to dim;
throughout, tone’s revision rests by way of a veil’s trail
Winter is pale peace and seems blind to mourn of light
Nightingales role, as peer of the realm, lopes in strut;
naïve to frost in mounds and eager to sing, flawlessly rounds:
“rest in peace; a perfect peace” and lay of clouds shed crumbs of season
I face east, to direction’s stirring; as wine of winter boons way of unveiling

C Elyse Goulden


You have been after that banana for days,
had junky food up to your eyes,
had some bad water in seventy-five,
dysentery, too.

They start so green, the plantain,
so spider-rich and rigid, they are
dismissible in the contusing dawn
of straw, black, blue, goose and salmon

So at noon, soup.

Later comes thunder in the snow storm,
you step out of the kitchen,
down the stairs, into the garden, to see.
But the sound is gone, the night holds all
that is gone: somewhere in the snow
lie lavender and rose.

Back in the kitchen, rooting through
the cabinets, for flour and baking soda, salt
all pouring white into the bowls,
you can only peel and mash the banana now.
For bread, and a warm oven.

Edward Harsen


Fruit has its sweetness to tempt us
to reach the seeds within.

The birds that roost in the mulberry
care nothing for the seeds they spread:

the red fruit’s succulence is enough.
And if, as a boy, while burying your face

in the ruby depths of watermelon,
your mother warned that the seeds

you swallowed would sprout and grow
inside your belly, you learned myth’s power

to cling and haunt. Persephone
ate of the pomegranate.

Eden’s light was dimmed
By a shared taste of temptation.

But there are no seeds, of course,
in the flowering cherry that bears no fruit

we planted to remind us you were almost here,
unborn one, your neverflesh made myth,

our own unripe forbidden fruit.

R.G. Evans


the bulging hound
begs for another bite
of my asian pear

marie a. mennuto-rovello


The first time I was in Italy
I did it on two dollars a day
By sleeping in the Ostelli della Gioventu
Easily known as youth hostels.

The one outside of Firenze
Was rumored to be a villa
Of one of Mussolini's causal girl friends.

The court yard of the palazzo had Cachi trees
As in a surreal painting
The trees without leaves;
Still the bright orange fruits hang
As make believe.

Anyone who wanted might pluck to eat
But it was an ironic Garden of Eden
The fruit so tart and astringent,
You would spit it out and want
Something to rinse ones mouth.

If you wanted ripe Cachi
You went outside
Where there was a fruit stand .
That were cheap enough for me
One hundred twenty lira the kilo

An old man sold them
For they were gathered in abandoned fields
Would with boney fingers point,
"Buona a mangia, mangere,"
He'd point to them as full as nursing breasts
With stria, stretch marks of ripeness
And being discolored
To reach a sweetness
That strangers to the fruit distrusted.

One could easily eat away.

I tried to explain the fruit
A Brooklyn Adam to a suburban Eve,
"They are something like me
Not an earlier smooth perfection
But with motley spots
An ironic harlequin in domino
Something you do not think you understand
The grammar of desire eccentric and erratic
The thought incomplete
Still kind and sweet,
Only do not be embarrassed, try.

Edward N. Halperin


She bathes in Bubblelicious Fuzzy Peach
towels off then spritzes Kiwi Melon Splash.
She chooses Mango Sunscreen for the beach
or Lemon-Lime or Berries from her stash.

She balms her lips with Sour Cherry Twist
her body polish sparkles Groovy Grape.
She freshens up with Pomegranate Mist
(such well-fed skin will never turn to crepe).

Her hands are buttered Strawberries 'n' Cream
her hair is tousled with Pineapple Glaze
even her rooms smell like an Eden dream
Forbidden Fruit-soaked reeds stand in her vase.

Fresh, innocent, sweet, dangerous and more
Essence of Eve enchants her to the core.

Violet Nesdoly


I wanted to gather you all to the comfort of my home
Create a sanctuary, a place where the garden bore fruit and
Offered itself freely, to be taken for giving
A place where we could share straight from the tree
That is what I wanted.

I wanted these sandy soils to turn good and welcome
The friendly earthworm and the raucous frog
For birds to call and bathe
In the waters I had prepared, to eat the seed
And stay awhile.

I wanted to gather my grandchildren around my knees
And spend time here with my friends beneath vines
Heavy with grapes and the heady hum of a dragon fly
As she skimmed the pond and settled in the shade.
I wanted a light breeze.

I wanted a sort of order where the beauty of abundance
And the art of the chaotic
Children’s voices and convivial chat could
Ebb and flow on the passing air
Inviting the neighbours in.

I wanted a place
Where jam could bubble on the stove and someone could
Bring out a guitar and we could sing and tell stories
I wanted
To eat cheese and drink a glass of wine or two.

So I planted this plum seed by the fence
And forgot about it
Until one day I noticed that a tree had appeared
Fully grown and laden with small red fruit that fell at last
Ungathered to the ground.

Iris Lavell


Hunger for reading
dissimilar of homework
novitiate and
to his, "I'm thirsty" midnight;
reading, here begets hunger

Prompts... and what to the
wondrous gastrome should appear
(and does!) but the seg-
fermented platter "obscene"
delight - mango, persimmon

star fruit (doin' carambola)
papaya, quince, hints
of apple in sinopome
kiwi to all ripe

read-y, this heady
bouquet... uncommon lunch, brunch
munched like a picnic
sliced away, from vinegar
Drosophila Melanogaster

Like bounty, breadfruits
abundant to an ample
sea, fruits who labor
sweet and acrid repartee
dissuaded not for love's glee

Reading for hunger
this thirst enquenched by Poets
knowits; and like the
apricot grain salves, eager
eye to life's light in TR.

H.E. Mantel