NOTES on “metaphysical visual details of an assault”
I was in the park with a boyfriend and I bought us popsicles. I handed him watermelon and he said, “watermelon? is that because I’m black?” The thought had not crossed my mind, and I replied, “no, I wasn’t even thinking that.” He responded smartly with, “now you are.” He had to question my intention behind the quenchable nature of watermelon because he lives in the United States. He immediately made me still... “now” I was thinking about it obsessively. How did this racist association start? I had to look it up:
"The stereotype that African Americans are excessively fond of watermelon emerged for a specific historical reason and served a specific political purpose. The trope came into full force when slaves won their emancipation during the Civil War. Free black people grew, ate, and sold watermelons, and in doing so made the fruit a symbol of their freedom. Southern whites, threatened by blacks’ newfound freedom, responded by making the fruit a symbol of black people’s perceived uncleanliness, laziness, childishness, and unwanted public presence. This racist trope then exploded in American popular culture, becoming so pervasive that its historical origin became obscure." —from a Google search
A year later, I saw Roger Miller's episode for the first time, and pondered on his performance in a watermelon pat in an early-20th-century monopoly suit. I wondered if that stereotype was being paraded. What sparked the poem’s inception was that performance coupled with the opening number where penguins on the Mayflower sing, “Alabamy Bound.” The penguin is obviously both black and white, and has been used symbolically in American literature. It’s ironic the penguins are headed thataway, because Alabama was actually the last state to amend its anti-miscegenation law— and it was the year 2000, no less.
Do you notice the red fire bucket that appears in this episode? No? Well you’re a chicken! Everyone’s turning into chickens, you know? It's a pandemic. As I was making finishing touches on this poem I searched the internet for Arthur Miller and noticed that he passed away on February 10th, the same day I was thinking of him and searching for him— randomly.
Most interestingly, a watermelon is not a melon, but a berry.