Quả Hồng Vàng

With lines from Li-Young Lee’s “Persimmons”

That first autumn in Hanoi I didn’t eat persimmons because I’d mismatched books and life. A Chinese apple, your teacher said, and in my farm valley bedroom I conjured what I learned a decade late was an Asian Pear, mottled gold with translucent skin like fresh ginger–summoned its roundness when Chinese authors wrote of a beautiful girl with a persimmon face.

Not those baboon-butts jauntily piled atop one another, the reddest bulge topping the pyramid. I passed them every day on my motorbike, one more mystery amidst the dragon fruit and rambutans. Your mother said every persimmon has a sun inside but I dreamed the harvest moon and freckled complexions. I had yet to unravel the skin ablaze with juice and suck it from my fingers, lobes of grainy sweetness sliding out.

A persimmon face can’t be translated as apple cheeks or peaches and cream. We don’t have a word for this moment in English, to see a girl’s taut skin and want to slip it into our mouths–not that we don’t have this feeling, but wordless will the reader know better or like me walk on through a field of adjectives, lexicating her own private pinhole.

I thought I knew their weight from my childhood, that deeply sloped orchard surrounded by tall, wind-breaking trees with branches crossed like young girls’ arms across their chests. Some things never leave a person. The orchardist had been experimenting with exotic fruits, but after a few years declared them unsuitable for the land of Red Delicious, Bing Cherry. He was going to rip up the lot, couldn’t stand the waste and so invited us in. I remember that afternoon devoted to windfalls because it held my first taste of departure, sweet pulp in the mouth–each bruised, golden orb an aperture to the outside world, everywhere winking in the tall grass.

Kelly Morse

Kelly Morse is the author of the chapbook Heavy Light (Two of Cups Press, 2016); her creative work appears in Gulf Coast, Mid-American Review, The Cincinnati Review, Brevity, and elsewhere. Kelly’s translations of censored Vietnamese poet Lý Đợi have been published in Asymptote, and received Lunch Ticket’s Gabo Prize for Translation and Multi-Lingual Texts. She holds an MFA from Boston University, is a Robert Pinsky Global Fellow, and has been awarded residencies at the Vermont Studio Center, and the Kimmel Harding Nelson Center for the Arts.