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Wednesday, November 16, 2022


by Diane Kendig

When President Volodymyr Zelensky visited the newly liberated city of Kherson he joked that he was there because he "wanted a watermelon".

It was important to support people there despite the continuing risk, he added. But why a watermelon?

The president was referencing the fruit that has become an internet meme in the last few days - a fruit that is a symbol of the southern Ukrainian region. —BBC,  November 15, 2022

Pablo Neruda called it “the green whale of summer,”
but this is November and these whales,
beached all autumn on the shores of the Duipro,
could not swim up river to Kyiv
from the rich farmlands of Kherson, under siege.

And since the fruit has always been a sign
for the region, with its statue of this “moon on earth”
floating, cut open, its ruby slice bearing “black stars”
on a brick platform over everyone’s head, a flag
green, white, red, /that dissolves into/
wild rivers, sweet as sugar,” when news came
of a counteroffensive to retake the city,
watermelon memes bobbed up on its Twitter account,
not yet freed but amassing like pods.

And when
their liberators arrived, the people surrounded them
and embraced them as people once did in Paris,
and the soldiers embraced the people. One soldier,
running to an old woman, on her knees
in front of her house, lifted her up and held her,
his grandmother.

The citizens greeted them with armloads
of flowers, mostly chrysanthemums,
because this was not the season of the sunflower
but of the fall, with yellow, orange, and russet mums.

And too, the watermelon rose up on the streets
in drawings and in all their real roundness,
this “mine or mountain of fantastic food,”
sustenance floating buoyantly in the hands
of the rescued and rescuers, sustaining them.

Diane Kendig is the author of five poetry collections. Her latest is Woman with a Fan. Her writing has ppeared in J Journal, Wordgathering, The New Verse News, Valparaiso Review, and other journals. She ran a prison writing workshop in Ohio for 18 years, and now curates the Cuyahoga County Public Library weblog, Read + Write.