Womxn’s History Month Special Issue Poetry Runner Up: “Claiming Honey”

My mother knows how

to choose the best: the ones

with smooth pale skin.

She presses a honeydew

to her cheek, closing her eyes.

She listens to its song— the river

cradled within its rind.

Bringing the melon home,

my mother whets a blade, plunging

into pale flesh. She seizes

a crescent, fat as a quarter

moon. Between her teeth,

the flesh sings—gleaming seeds,

boats upon the Pearl River.

In the stories she tells me,

a girl weeps in a classroom closet,

her hand stung by a ruler,

a slap for each English word

muddled by a small tongue.

In the musty darkness,

she imagines of her father’s store,

the melons nestled in rough crates.

She reaches for their cool rinds

to soothe her branded palms.

My mother gave me

an English name, but calls me

Little Lily. The brush-stroked

characters open softly

on rice paper, unfurling

like vine-tendrils.

When the other children

slant their eyes and jeer,

my mother places my hand

on smooth green skin.

She shows me how

to wield the blade, to cleave

the full moon. Seizing flesh

between our teeth, we devour

honey from its rind.

Photo Credit: “Honeydew melons in a stack” by Jeffery Martin / CC0 shared obtained from Wikimedia Commons.

About the author

Sayuri Ayers is a native of Columbus, Ohio. Her prose and poetry appear in The Account, Entropy, SWWIM, Hobart, The Pinch, and other literary journals. She is the author of two chapbooks: Radish Legs, Duck Feet (Green Bottle Press) and Mother/Wound (forthcoming from Full/Crescent Press.) Sayuri is a Kundiman Fellow and VCCA Resident. In 2020, she was awarded the Ohio Arts Council's Individual Excellence Award in creative writing. You can find her at sayuriayers.com.

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