Arils

I was in the seventh grade when I first encountered a pomegranate. My enrichment group was putting on a pantheon supplement for the whole grade’s Greek Week, and, of course, we had a Hades and a Persephone in our group. At the time, I refused to be anything so domestic as a member of that (or any) complex couple. I was Artemis, solitary huntress, and I made a bow and arrow from slim branches and string. I stole my brother’s model paints to make it all silver, and my fingertips were stained ungoddessly gray, too. But my gray fingers are not the point of this piece. They did, however, factor in: our teacher–flawlessly hip and hatted in rural Pennsylvania where no one was hip or hatted in any way beyond the baseball cap–had purchased pomegranates. They were to illustrate the Hades and Persephone story, and to give our very limited palates something new and striking to process during our historical and mythological course plan. I don’t know where she got them. She must have driven the forty miles south to Harrisburg; our grocery stores didn’t carry anything more interesting than kiwifruit until 2000. And those pomegranates turned my fingertips a wet kind of ruby, and I’m certain that some of that model paint wore off under the fascinated touch of my tongue. I was and am a lover of all things sweet, but the tart, bright burst of each aril amazed me. Amazed us all, standing in the basement hallway of our aging middle-school, wrapped in togas made of the cheapest bedsheets our mothers could buy. We picked the seed-shards from our teeth with our fingernails and ignored the grapes and the plates of dense bread and olive oil, and we were all of us far, far away, clustered around red-stained paper plates, tasting the legend of longing, of hunger, and of a kind of soured passion we were a decade from even scenting.

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