A student asked me today, “Is this whole poem really about a watermelon?”
“Yes,” I replied, with nod and a smile at the note of sarcasm, exasperation.
The group of boys exchanged knowing glances and smirks that seem to say, Wow, this guy needs a life.
But Neruda is from Chile, where the scorching heat of summer places the sumptuous bliss of cold watermelon into an entirely different context. It might seem strange to write a two-page Ode to the Toilet too, but I could wax poetic (at length) about the gleaming perfection said porcelain goddess after holding my bladder for three hours in traffic on the heels of a vente Starbucks. Deprivation breeds delight. A counterpoint: excess breeds apathy.
And therein (a microcosm) lies a glimpse into the incremental collapse of the Roman Empire.