Sunday, November 11, 2012

Pomegranate Musings

Yesterday I peeled my first pomegranate of the season.

I love pomegranates. For us in the Northern hemisphere, they're winter fruits. Apparently they're native to Iran and Iraq--Middle Eastern fruits. For those of you who have (alas!) never peeled a pomegranate, it's a messy, bloody process--the seeds don't stain like beet juice does, but they still stain pretty thoroughly. Peeling a pomegranate is tricky; as you can see, the tiny ruby seeds are encased in layers of yellow pitch. They remind me of beehives for some reason. Sometimes you have to claw the seeds out with your fingernails. Yesterday I kept finding hollows flooded with red seeds tucked in hidden places in the inedible flesh.

I like the shape of pomegranates. I like that they feel weighty in your hand. I like ripping them apart and and shucking the juicy seeds. I like their weird little pointed cap on top of their round red heads.

Don't they look funny?

Pomegranates play a crucial role in Greek mythology: when Hades kidnaps Persephone, daughter of Demeter, Zeus tells Demeter that her daughter will be able to escape the underworld as long as she doesn't eat anything. However, Persephone is tempted by a single pomegranate seed, which dooms her to spend half the year underground with Hades. In modern narratives, Persephone is associated with rape and kidnapping and trauma, the archetypal abused woman; in a "find your inner goddess" quiz for a new age-y women's literature class, I was Persephone. Everyone who got Aphrodite was embarrassed.

I peel my pomegranates in a bowl of lukewarm water. My dad told me once that peeling them underwater made the seeds easier to rip from the pith, and he was right. I ruined a phone once that way--I tried to text a friend with my slick pomegranate-stained hands in between plunging them into water to tear the fruit apart. The water slowly seeped through the phone's core until it rotted away.

Yesterday I was thinking about how peeling pomegranates makes me feel like I'm discovering something--thoughts, or secrets. The yellowy gray matter makes me think I could be looking at an artistically rendered brain, the pith the muscle, the seeds thoughts rubied and made flesh. Or, I thought, is this an invasion? Am I tearing, ripping, dissecting, gutting? The metaphors started mixing, and I couldn't figure out which one best fit.

Perhaps neither worked. Sometimes metaphor is too vague and imprecise and dramatizes real life unnecessarily. So maybe I should just come out and say it instead of speaking in pomegranate metaphors: today, like the protagonist of The Perks of Being a Wallflower, I am both happy and sad and trying to figure out how that could be. I'm stressed about finals and papers and church and going home for dinner, but I'm listening to Christmas music and eating pomegranates and fascinated with the play of purple and green nail polish on my fingers against my black keyboard. I'm reading poetry books and wearing fuzzy blue socks. Like the pomegranate, I'm a paradox: bisexual and Mormon. Happy and sad. Anxious and okay. Love Christmas but confused about God. Atheist and believing. Sometimes one dominates more than the other. These parts of me aren't necessarily contradictory (unless someone tries to make them paradoxical--like I do, sometimes, or like the often-oppressive nature of Utah Valley). The pomegranate can stand for both things at the same time--destruction and rebirth. Life and decay. A red, beating heart and a plucked one spurting blood. Both broken and okay.

Those are my thoughts on this sunny wintery day. I'm watching the sun settle on our snow-clad, orange-leaved tree, waiting for my brother to pick me up for dinner, and I'm both happy and sad. And the untouched pomegranates shake and settle in my fridge, waiting for tomorrow.

Now that I've been long-winded enough, I'll let Eavan Boland, an Irish poet, sum everything up for me via poetry. Have a lovely week, everyone.

The Pomegranate

The only legend I have ever loved is
the story of a daughter lost in hell.
And found and rescued there.
Love and blackmail are the gist of it.
Ceres and Persephone the names.
And the best thing about the legend is
I can enter it anywhere.  And have.
As a child in exile in
a city of fogs and strange consonants,
I read it first and at first I was
an exiled child in the crackling dusk of
the underworld, the stars blighted.  Later
I walked out in a summer twilight
searching for my daughter at bed-time.
When she came running I was ready
to make any bargain to keep her.
I carried her back past whitebeams
and wasps and honey-scented buddleias.
But I was Ceres then and I knew
winter was in store for every leaf
on every tree on that road.
Was inescapable for each one we passed.
And for me.
                    It is winter
and the stars are hidden.
I climb the stairs and stand where I can see
my child asleep beside her teen magazines,
her can of Coke, her plate of uncut fruit.
The pomegranate!  How did I forget it?
She could have come home and been safe
and ended the story and all
our heart-broken searching but she reached
out a hand and plucked a pomegranate.
She put out her hand and pulled down
the French sound for apple and 
the noise of stone and the proof
that even in the place of death,
at the heart of legend, in the midst
of rocks full of unshed tears
ready to be diamonds by the time
the story was told, a child can be
hungry.  I could warn her.  There is still a chance.
The rain is cold.  The road is flint-coloured.
The suburb has cars and cable television.
The veiled stars are above ground.
It is another world.  But what else
can a mother give her daughter but such
beautiful rifts in time?
If I defer the grief I will diminish the gift.
The legend will be hers as well as mine.  
She will enter it.  As I have.
She will wake up.  She will hold
the papery flushed skin in her hand.
And to her lips.  I will say nothing.


  1. Have I ever told you that I love your posts? Because I do. Your words and thoughts are beautiful. And I get what you're saying about paradox. I love paradox. It can be confusing as hell, but a lot of times it is the only thing that makes sense. :)

  2. Oh man, that's the nicest thing I've ever heard D: Thanks, lovely girl. I always loved your posts myself :) I talked to Tiff and will hopefully be seeing you crazy kids in December sometime at your place?? I adore both of you from afar and soon I will adore you right up close! Thanks for being lovely.

  3. I really enjoyed this post; it was lovely. I think you described very well the complexities of being queer in a Mormon community. You're the wonderbras.

  4. This reminds me that I learned how to de-seed pomegranates this weekend. Video of the 'proper' way:

  5. Kylie, i am so very in love with you and your beautiful, beautiful writing!
    What wonderful musings you have. :)

  6. Thanks to both Emma and Tiffy. You're both lovely humans that I love.