Friday, August 1, 2014

A Poem by Linnea Wortham Harper

Poem to Popsicles
                  after Judith Barresi
Popsicles, popsicles,
sweet and cold,
I estimate your worth
by the calculus of calories and color,
refinements of texture and taste,
the power of the pleasure shock,
hydraulics of licking and sucking,
numb lips, dull ache of jaw, brain freeze—
the internalized science of melting.
Like kids out of school
popsicles say, Now it’s winter. 
Come and play.
There will be no premature thawing
in this house.
Fruitsicles, fudgesicles, Rockets
and push-ups, blueberry, raspberry,
strawberry, orange—
I choose you—
because the iceman no longer comes
but still has a pension, because in
hospitals you can get one any time,
tonsils or no tonsils,
because between things,
like the space between stanzas,
or generations,
you need something sweet
and bracing, to give you a reason
to stop, and gather what’s needed
to go.
Allowance:  Enough to buy one
double popsicle five days
a week, preferably blue, but
root beer will do.
Obedience:  Not crossing 6th Street
alone to buy popsicles at Reeves’.
Obeisance:  Abject subjugation.
Popsicles, I am yours!
Coconut, mango, tangerine, cherry,
grape, lime, mixed fruit, berry—
if I never eat one again, how will I fill
this void that wants to swallow me,
reward thirst and task completion,
bring childhood’s sweet mystique
to the heart of each day, escape
the tyranny of meal time, win
sweepstakes, make angels
in snow?
My dears, the cold wars are over.
Heat rises around the globe. We must
conserve our resources. In the freezer,
fill up the spaces between things with
popsicles. Pack popsicles in the cooler
instead of plain ice. Use crushed popsicles
for a cold pack. Drop popsicles for
drought relief in Africa, to distract the
Taliban in Afghanistan, and annoy the
French wherever they are. Make slicks of
popsicle slush to slip-up Wall Street.
Provide popsicles free to the citizenry. 
Let us eat popsicles!
Creamsicles, Jolly-pops, diet or sugared,
store brands, Dreyer’s, home-made with
jello, quiescently frozen or rock-hard—
I eat popsicles not to satisfy hunger
but to celebrate it. A longing somewhere
between lust and thirst rises up and my
organs sing a churchly tune. A mouth has
so much to do, all that talking, spitting and
flossing, it needs a quick lift now and then.
Boxes of popsicles, take me home now.
In the movie version I leave the store
with a sackful of edible mercies—
personal sandbags that keep the black holes
at bay. But what of the waif with a sign who
preys by the door? I give what I can
or at least what I have in my wallet.
I know she can’t fill her belly with bills.
Must I give her what I love most?
Jolly Rancher, Ice Pix, Arctic Blasters,
Swirl Stix— wave your wands and take me
to your truth. The freezer is calling. Cubes
clatter as the ice maker drops a new litter.
They do not pelt me when I open the door.
It is not the cold I fear, but the emptiness.
Linnea Wortham Harper is a regular contributor to Kind of a Hurricane Press, most recently in the Storm Cycle anthology. Her work has been published in CALYX, and she has been a finalist for the Bunchgrass Prize. She was once a social worker, twice a mother, and always a poet. She lives and writes on the Oregon Coast. 

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