Poem of the Week | January 23, 2023

This week’s Poem of the Week is “Stone Fruit” by Rebecca Foust.

Rebecca Foust’s fourth full-length book ONLY (Four Way Books 2022) received a starred review from Publisher’s Weekly. Recognitions include the Pablo Neruda, CP Cavafy, and James Hearst poetry prizes, a Marin County Poet Laureateship, and fellowships from Hedgebrook, MacDowell, and Sewanee. Recent poems are in The Common, Five Points, Ploughshares, POETRY, and Quarterly West.


Stone Fruit

On the boat in my dream after we parted
you used a dive knife to cut the fruit
that had floated to us on the tide:
mango & avocado. The flesh was firm
but yielding & inside, the implacable fact
of the stone like a human heart
that swells while it also hardens with age.
It was just before dawn & the stars
hung swollen & listing near the horizon.
The avocado tasted like cream,
& the mango like copper & honey & blood.
While we ate we watched whales
roll, slap & breach like sudden day.
It was still all unbroken promise then,
stone fruit ripe on the limb, my heart huge
& listing under its own weight & a feel
in my mouth like soft, secret flesh.

In the dream it got light & we dove down
into another world shimmered
with turtles & rays & then we saw
something undulate
crimson & white & slowly exquisite,
beating its full-body wing.
A Spanish Dancer, you called it,
somehow saying underwater
a thing you’d never say in waking life,
or even remember from Cirque du Soleil,
the aerialist suspended above us
& turning on her own hair,
then the silk streamers poured ceiling-to-floor
like a waterfall of blood she rode.

It hung & swayed there in the current,
a rare, soft-bodied creature
consisting of one wide flat ribbon
twisting & spiraling as if to invert itself,
like a human heart seen in dissection,
its complex helix unwound
into one long, still-beating muscular band.

Some kind of weird mollusk,
was what you actually might have said,
but I knew what it was when I saw it—
an angel or a vision, a message urgent in flesh
like DNA, like a still-pliant young heart
able to be utterly opened, like mine
when we first married & I loved you,
recalled in a dream in the downturn decade
of our life together, the dream sun
still keeping its promise to rise, dream fruit
floating unsought into our hands, floating to us
on a pale green, fathomless wave;
the rinds after, floating away.


Author’s Note

I wrote this poem during the last years and months of my 34-year marriage, and although its specific dramatic situation is fictional and was inspired by a dream, some details are true, even factual. If the internet is to be believed, the human heart does enlarge and harden as it ages, and it can be dissected into a long, muscular band with alternating musculature that torques it like a strand of DNA. My ex-husband and I did once, while snorkeling, see a nudibranch, an invertebrate mollusk whose shell is vestigial. We did watch that brilliant Spanish Dancer at a Cirque du Soleil performance and, on another occasion decades ago, did eat an avocado that had floated into our hands on a wave. I was trying in the poem to capture the awe and gratitude I felt in those moments along with the gratitude and awe I still feel for many moments of a long marriage, along with the sorrow and inevitability of its ending.