Julia Kolchinsky Dasbach

Week 34: Cantaloupe


The first color they see

is red. The second,

a deeper still. Your son  

asks about blood. Wants

to see it rise to the surface.

There are times you forget

to flush. He sees traces.

Bites his tongue or the inside

of his cheek while eating

cantaloupe. Red streaks

the fruit’s flesh. Rock

melon. Skin like the moon’s.

He asks why his mouth

fills with pennies. Copper.

The shade orange turns

when mixed with blood.

The taste of oxidization.

Too much air and rust.

He asks you to kiss

his tongue and inside

where it hurts. Asks you

to sing about hands because

the other night, you wept

singing and he was charmed,

delighted even, by the startle

of your crying. Why are you

crying, Mama? You lied

it was a sad song. Said nothing

of where you’re hurting.

Closed your eyes

and sang in the womblike

dark of his bedroom

about the man in love

who begs the bells

to ring again so the one

he loves would return home

and he would kiss her

chapped, red hands.


Julia Kolchinksy Dasbach emigrated from Ukraine as a Jewish refugee when she was six years old. She is the author of three poetry collections: The Many Names for Mother, winner the Wick Poetry Prize (Kent State University Press, 2019), finalist for the Jewish Book Award; Don’t Touch the Bones (Lost Horse Press, 2020), winner of the 2019 Idaho Poetry Prize; and 40 WEEKS, forthcoming from YesYes Books in 2023. Her poems appear in POETRY, Blackbird, American Poetry Review, and The Nation, among others. She holds an MFA from the University of Oregon and a Ph.D. in Comparative Literature from the University of Pennsylvania. She is the new Murphy Fellow in Poetry at Hendrix College and recently relocated to Little Rock, Arkansas with her two kids, a cat, a dog, and a husband.