Al Ortolani, “Shopping for Fruit”

orange line

Shopping for Fruit

What is melancholia? I ask
the class of 17-year-olds. One boy
just outside the T-zone answers,
A fruit. And I had to laugh.
Yes, probably in the produce section
at HyVee, you’ve got the honeydew,
the cantaloupe, the melancholia,
most likely priced higher than
the watermelon, so germane to
family picnics, ice cream socials,
class reunions. The melancholia
ripens slowly on vines of discontent.
It is only purchased by the disillusioned
when the fruit bin has been emptied
of choices. But I keep this cherry
to myself. These boys haven’t
done much produce shopping.
They still find bananas amusing.


Al Ortolani’s poetry has appeared in journals such as Rattle, Prairie Schooner, and Tar River Poetry. His newest collection, On the Chicopee Spur, has just been released from New York Quarterly Books. Ortolani is the manuscript editor for Woodley Press in Topeka, Kansas, and directs a memoir writing project for Vietnam veterans across Kansas in association with the Library of Congress and Humanities Kansas. He currently lives in the Kansas City area.


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