How does Craig Arnold's poem Meditation on a Grapefruit show us how to be more present in the living of our lives? How is it an "exquisite lesson in being here?" How precisely, does the poem help...

How does Craig Arnold's poem Meditation on a Grapefruit show us how to be more present in the living of our lives? How is it an "exquisite lesson in being here?" How precisely, does the poem help us to understand how to be more mindful?Wwhat do you suppose Arnold means when he writes "each year harder to live within/each year harder to live without?" How does relate to what you've experienced with mindfulness?

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kipling2448 | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

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Craig Arnold’s poem Meditation on a Grapefruit is an ode to the essential importance of everyday life.  The grapefruit represents nothing more than the beginning of a day filled with routine, but Arnold’s exquisite attention to detail elevates the poem’s meaning and gives it a life that the subject matter might otherwise not warrant.  Read in the context of the 2008 publication of Arnold’s second compilation of poetry, Made Flesh, Meditation on a Grapefruit is part of a broader examination of the meaning of life, including the inexorable march of time and the ultimate resolution to which we will all eventually succumb (notably, Arnold died the year after this compilation was published at the young age of 41, presumably from a hiking accident while exploring a volcano in Japan).  The attention to detail Arnold provides in the otherwise mundane activity of preparing a grapefruit for breakfast follows his expression of joy with the dawn of a new day, but tinged with the certainty of difficulties to come, as the nameless narrator begins to confront the world from whatever perch he or she inhabits:

“To wake when all is possible

before the agitations of the day

have gripped you . . .”

Arnold’s description of the act of pealing and sectioning the grapefruit is far richer in metaphors than the task would seem to warrant, but there is method to his madness.  The act of preparing the piece of produce for consumption is an integral part of the challenge of navigating the day’s responsibilities, be they selling insurance, teaching school, preparing clients’ taxes, or any other of the myriad professions that collectively comprise civilization:

“To tear the husk

like cotton padding        a cloud of oil

misting out of its pinprick pores

clean and sharp as pepper

                             To ease

each pale pink section out of its case

so carefully without breaking

a single pearly cell”

The drudgery of daily existence, however, lies ahead for the poem’s narrator, and Arnold meticulously brings the reader back to reality.  This everyday task, executed with surgical precision, constitutes, as the title suggests, less than the sum of its parts.  In the end, the entire endeavor is really rather unimportant:

“ . . .a discipline

precisely pointless       a devout

involvement of the hands and senses

a pause     a little emptiness. . .”

This is the context in which Arnold ends his poem with the fateful stanza:

“Each year harder to live within;

Each year harder to live without.”

Meditation on a Grapefruit is a recognition of the importance of living in the moment, as, eventually, the end comes for everybody.  Even with the acknowledgement of the beauty inherent in everyday life, we can’t ignore the fact that, for many of us, those lives are slipping away and lack the meaning we would have preferred.


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