Persimmons

Here in Santa Cruz, California, the ripening persimmons are hanging from bare branches. Since it doesn’t snow here, this is what I think of when I think of “winter.”

From Li-Young Lee’s “Persimmons,” published in his debut collection Rose in 1986:

In sixth grade Mrs. Walker
slapped the back of my head
and made me stand in the corner
for not knowing the difference
between persimmon and precision. […]

Other words
that got me into trouble were
fight and fright, wren and yarn.
Fight was what I did when I was frightened,
Fright was what I felt when I was fighting. […]

Mrs. Walker brought a persimmon to class
and cut it up
so everyone could taste
a Chinese apple. Knowing
it wasn’t ripe or sweet, I didn’t eat
but watched the other faces.

My mother said every persimmon has a sun
inside, something golden, glowing,
warm as my face.

Once, in the cellar, I found two wrapped in newspaper,
forgotten and not yet ripe.
I took them and set both on my bedroom windowsill,
where each morning a cardinal
sang, The sun, the sun.

Finally understanding
he was going blind,
my father sat up all one night
waiting for a song, a ghost.
I gave him the persimmons,
swelled, heavy as sadness,
and sweet as love. […]

He raises both hands to touch the cloth,
asks, Which is this?

This is persimmons, Father.

Full text here.

In Traditional Chinese Medicine, persimmons are a cold/yin food. However, I quite like the solar imagery, especially considering how much crows (an ancient solar symbol in China) love persimmons. Though perhaps they’re eating them to cool down…

The China Internet Information Center also says that “The bright reddish fruit shaped like round Chinese lanterns are often given as lucky presents to newlyweds to symbolize eternal love.”

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