El Melon

There is a maze or map on melon skin
Even the blind could read and seek to solve.
A little girl watches the housewives, deft,
Touching the head shapes swiftly, one by one,

Until they somehow know which to select.
Sometimes they set it wobbling in the tray
Under the clock-face, watch a moment, frown,
Then lick a finger, peel a plastic bag.

You ever wish that you could read God’s mind?
Open a cantaloupe. And treat yourself
To the smooth color of His current vibe.
What do you think of? Salmon? Marble slab?

The stone bricks of a lost piazza site.
The glow of frescoes at an excavation.
This is a globe of youth. A honey well.
Carve it like sherbet for the President.



El Arbol

A garden was Our Father’s first idea.
The abbot made his hand into a cup
And gently poured the water from his palm:
“Because the shoots can’t bear a sudden rush.”

The grace of water flanks Hole 17.
He laid out royal palm trees, coconuts,
And limned the fairways with a thousand oaks
To complicate the whispers of the dusk.

Are the trees just a sideshow, casting shades?
I’m asking of Saints Martin, Dominic.
Appleseed answers with his pan for hat:
It’s all gratuitous, magnificence.

Like God’s first plan. It’s nothing that He needed.
He did it all for love, America.
Your blooming treehouse, child. Your Fall apple.
Orange groves, olive rows. A thousand oaks.



Monika Cooper is an American family woman.

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20 Responses

  1. Morrison Handley-Schachler

    These are both lovely poems about fruit and trees. In both cases, you capture a calm, relaxed atmosphere. Canteloupe melon is something marvellous to taste and your poetry reflects that well.

    • Monika Cooper

      Thank you, Morrison. Yes, these are age of peace poems. I’m so glad you liked them!

  2. Sally Cook

    Monika, very mystical; full of references to little-known saints and the characteristics of various fruits and ways to care for them…
    You are right in this. I hope to see more of your unusual work, and thank you for what you have shared.

    • Monika Cooper

      You’re welcome, Sally, and thank you for your thoughts. “Mystical”: it seems that your poems too reflect a touch of that. I hope for more of yours here soon as well.

    • Monika Cooper

      Saint Martin de Porres and Saint Dominic both planted fruit trees. Saint Dominic planted oranges and you can see some of them through a keyhole into the courtyard of Santa Sabina on the Aventine hill in Rome. (There’s a more famous keyhole on the same hill where you look down a tree-lined alley and see the dome of St. Peter’s at the end.)

      Saint Martin, a Dominican, planted lemon and olive trees in the New World.

  3. Jeremiah Johnson

    I love how you start out both poems with children being instructed by adults, either advertently or inadvertently, regarding life and nature.

    The line about the “thousand oaks” complicating “the whispers of the dusk” is wonderful!

    Also, “A Garden was our Father’s First Idea” – a great line that’s redolent of so much that goes on throughout the Bible – Creation; Gethsemane; etc.

    Thank you for your lovely poems!

    • Monika Cooper

      Jeremiah, you’ve picked up on one of the recurring themes of my series, the bond between generations, the transmission of wisdom from elders to the rising generations. Kids absorb so much from example, even at times remote example. These two make a good pair; a nice decision on the editor’s part to publish them together.

      I think the trees told me that line 🙂 I was also meditating a lot on Proverbs when I wrote these poems.

      Thank you for commenting. I’m so glad you liked them.

  4. Paul Freeman

    I particularly enjoyed ‘El Melon’ since I’m usually the one who has to roll and tap and test the melons before purchase, and am suitably chastised if I make a bad choice.

    Thanks for the reads, Monika.

    • Monika Cooper

      Actually the melon-selecting process is still in large part a mystery to me!

      Thank you for your comment, Paul. I’m glad you enjoyed the poems.

      • Joseph S. Salemi

        My father ran a produce store. He always told customers the three ways by which to identify a fresh melon: 1) Touch the place where the melon was broken off from the vine to see if it is still moderately firm; 2) Smell the fruit at that same spot, to see if it has a fragrance; and 3) Run your hand over the whole skin, to make sure there are no yielding areas.

      • C.B. Anderson

        Your father was exactly right, Joseph; bruises are unacceptable.

  5. C.B. Anderson

    You got both poems just right, Monika, and, just like Milton, you saw no need for end rhymes. Would that I could write such luscious verse.

    • Monika Cooper

      Thank you, C. B. Blank verse is a different game from rhyme schemed poetry, for sure, but an ancient and honorable one. I’m glad you liked these!

  6. Joseph S. Salemi

    I’ve been re-reading “El Arbol,” your beautiful poem about trees. All of a sudden a memory came back to me from my grade-school Spanish class. We were reading an excerpted text where the author mentioned that there were three things to do in life that would indicate one’s sanity, stability, and maturity, and that would lead to great satisfaction and peace of mind. They were these —

    Plantar un arbol, escribir un libro, tener un hijo.

    (To plant a tree, to write a book, to have a son).

    • Monika Cooper

      What a wonderful triad of life-goals and there’s a reflection of the Trinity in it that wavers a little as I try to bring it into focus. I’m very glad you liked the poem, Dr. Salemi.

  7. Margaret Coats

    I too have been re-reading both these poems, Monika, and with your reply to Jeremiah Johnson, I see your poetic method. These are meditations (not descriptions or definitions). You set an intriguing topic for meditation in the first line of each poem, and move from there, but not in strictly logical syntax. You shape the poem to hold a selection of thoughts that come up during meditation time; they are not fully worked out, because this is not what meditation does, but they are arranged to present the fruits of mental practice.

    Might you be a third-order Dominican? Clearly you are also an American, carving melon for the president (not emperor), and acquainted with Johnny Appleseed. My suggestion to perfect meter and diction in El Melon is “The stone bricks of a lost piazza site.” However, I very much appreciate meaningful irregularity in “Your Fall apple.” And I like the repetition of “thousand oaks.” This stresses the number of trees in a thoroughly Biblical manner. You may know that the biggest number in Hebrew is “thousand.” Anything larger must be built with it. The Old Testament has just one reference (in Chronicles, also know as Paralipomenon) to a million, where it is expressed as “ten hundred thousand.” Your “thousand thousand” could be the equivalent.

    • Monika Cooper

      I originally thought of these poems as short, associative essays (or sketches) in verse. Meditations is a good way to think of them too. To meditate and to share the fruits of meditation: those phrases ring familiar somehow. I would love for my poems to be that kind of fruit-sharing.

      And, wow, Margaret, very sharp guesswork! Thought I’m not a third order Dominican, I did discern that way for a time and I love the Dominican saints and the Dominican spiritual family. But God had other plans.

      You wrote: ‘My suggestion to perfect meter and diction in El Melon is “The stone bricks of a lost piazza site.”’ How so?

      Very interesting about the Hebrew numbers. Thank you for reading my poems so closely; it’s wonderful and a little unnerving to know they can convey so much.

    • Monika Cooper

      I didn’t realize I had left out the indefinite article in that line about the bricks. Even after your comment, I needed my husband’s eyes to see it. Thank you for pointing that out!


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