Thinking Like a Split Melon

Jamaal May


In a sixth grader’s notebook
             only two lines are written:

             I go outside. I look at the stars.
                        Then I’m sad because of death and stuff—

At a funeral when I was her age, I punched
             dots into the program with a bow
                        compass then held it to the light

to trace paths I drew between holes.
             Those constellations. The paths
                        drawn between neurons. Their firing

             is how I think.

She adds in pencil

             the castle of the mind is full
                        of hundreds of bright specters—

and I wonder what’s going on in her head
             and mine. What sky did we fall from?
sounds like an appropriate question,
             when I think about it

but it’s too much to ask a child, right?


Outside, I ask a steel sculpture
             ascending from the depths
                        of museum grass if I am
                                      contextualized by its immensity.

The bending blades of grass
             told me it’s not appropriate
                        to ascribe words—

which become ideas,
             and soon become my ideas—

to them, as they’ve done nothing wrong.

             The wind says
             we can’t figure out on our own,

I said, but no one was talking to me.


A melon falls from a bag,
             a platoon of ants pours in
                        and out of its gash,
and I wonder if it takes being broken
             open and emptied
                        to be filled with something new.

Didn’t a poet say cracks are how light gets in everything?

             I’m probably mixing that up.
But this is how I think. Give me a box,
             and I’ll fill it with dirt
                        or fill it with water
                                      or fill it with both

and trouble that mire
                                      with whatever stick I happen to find.