Wednesday, 3 January 2018

Desert Watermelon

by Kate Rauner


Wild in the deserts
Of Egypt and Sudan,
Grows hard and bitter fruit
Called gurma in the land.

Harvested and hoarded
Somewhere in the shade,
It holds a fount of water
In green flesh that it made.

Water for dry seasons,
Water kept in storage,
Water for a Pharaoh's Ba
On his celestial voyage.

The fibrous fruit was pounded,
So water bound would flow.
A gift to desert dwellers
Five millennia ago.

From one gene only dominant
Its bitter taste was made,
So if recessive flowers met
The bitterness would fade.

Melons bearing yellow flesh,
By Common Era's time,
Rabbis placed with grapes and figs
As sweet within the rind.

The gene for sugar links with red,
Though DNA was not yet spelled,
Medieval farmers bred
A fruit fit for angels.

Ruby slabs of watermelon
Decorate my table,
While in the wild deserts
Its ancestral stock is stable.

Civilization could collapse,
There could be Armageddon.
But in five thousand years,
Our kin could
-Again -
Have watermelon.

* * * * *


"Desert Watermelon" is from Kate Rauner's collection of science-inspired poetry,