When do we stop wanting
to go up into things?
When I was ten,
we went inside the St. Louis Arch.
My brother and I rode the tram
like a caterpillar along a stem
that bends under its weight.
At the top we looked out the windows
and felt we had grown wings.
Next summer at the Statue of Liberty
we learned the crown was closed.
He didn’t care. He was older,
bored by the seeming-smallness
of brothers, cities.
Following the interstate
we took decades earlier,
I’m on my way again.
Can the drear of adulthood
really be this obvious:
The gas station where my brother and I
got Big Apple keychains and Bugles or Combos
or some other past-its-heyday snack,
even that is somehow worse-off now,
overtaken by weeds.
Behold the Pawpaw
A secret delight grows native
to our PA home: The pawpaw,
left from another time when
indigenous people foraged, built eel weirs
in Susquehanna symbiosis.
We traveled highways to a pawpaw sale,
stood giddy in a (socially-distanced) line
hustled home snuggling Potomac, Shenandoah
in crinkly brown bags heavy with hope in the promise:
Tropical flavor, banana plus mango, creamy inside.
Because we were bored, lonely
worn out from pandemic living
couldn’t help feeling
these Prehistoric-looking trees
persisted for ages in the understory
destined to bear fruit for us
yellow flesh was ours to discover
floral scent set free to fill these nostrils.
So we read blogs, Food & Wine
hungry for joy, novelty.
Pawpaw ice cream
would redeem lonely summer days.
Pawpaw salsa would salve our restless souls.
At home I sliced one open
revealed an eerie smile of black seeds
—this will be good!—
glistening flesh like overripe melon
—I can’t wait to taste!—
But if I’m honest,
what I discovered
was twenty-seven dollars
of soapy, slimy mush
not at all tropical
And if I’m honest, I was foolish
to think a fruit could save us.
Jessica Whipple is a writer for adults and children. Her poetry has been published by One Art, Nurture, Ekstasis, Rathalla Review, Stanchion, Door Is a Jar, and Pittsburgh Quarterly, with some forthcoming in Pine Hills Review and Anti-Heroin Chic. Her debut picture book, titled ENOUGH IS…, will be published March 7th, 2023, by Tilbury House, and another titled I THINK I THINK A LOT by Free Spirit Publishing is forthcoming in August. To see more of her work, visit AuthorJessicaWhipple.com or follow her on Twitter @JessicaWhippl17.