Kirsten Keppel


Spherical like a toy blimp or side of tire,

the august member of the cucurbitaceae family

appeared on our table as an offering

every time my grandfather found one in summer.

My toenails curled against the floor, scraping linoleum,

teeth clenching as my clan began to ooh and aah,

delight dribbling down their chins once molars sunk

into the mess, squeals pealing as the knife whacked out

more slices. My insides heaved in squalls.

Why were they not repulsed by its eerie look?

Its splotchy exterior? I dreaded its rose juice,

teeth shivering through the pink cheesecloth feel,

body shriveling in response to the dried-twig taste of seeds

I spit out, gagging. How I envied others’ wonder and awe,

while I waited for it all to pass, when they would give up

on convincing me, and turn back toward each other in rapture.

Yet this morning, it’s the first thing I remember,

almost as if I’d been fond of it,

when my cousin posts a picture of her granddaughter

in watermelon baby pajamas.

“And who doesn’t love watermelon?” she asks.

I like her post, consider replying, “Me!”

then think again, and instead type,

“She’s so cute. Watermelon for Ferragosto!”

Why do I pay homage to a fruit

I’m determined never to taste

again? Highly cultivated, sweet

to most, bittersweet to me.

Still, I’ll post a picture of a watermelon

for Ferragosto on my social media,

high holy hypocrite that I am.

Kirsten Keppel is a 2017 Russo Brothers Italian American Film Forum semifinalist for her documentary Ringraziamenti: The Saint Joseph’s Day Table Tradition. She is a member and past videographer of the Abruzzo and Molise Heritage Society of Washington, DC, and a regular contributor to Ambassador magazine of the National Italian American Foundation.  Her poetry has appeared in Mediterranean Odyssey, The Chesapeake Reader, and Lombardi Voices. A descendant of Molisani great-grandparents, Kirsten lives in Washington, DC.