Charles Simic

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Analyze the figures of speech and message in Charles Simic's poem "Watermelons".

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The poem is about enjoying a moment of peace and happiness through the simple act of eating watermelons. He starts off by saying "Let's spit out the teeth," which refers to spitting out the black seeds of a watermelon. This suggests that we should get rid of any painful things in our lives. It also shows his love for watermelons. He then goes on to say that if you are looking for something better, you will be disappointed, because there is nothing better than watermelons. He ends with a line full of imagery, "green buddhas."

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This is a tiny little poem, only four short lines, but there is a lot packed into it. It's a gnomic poem, almost like an Anglo-Saxon riddle poem which would leave the reader to figure out what is being discussed; but Simic makes it easy for us by signpointing in the title, "Watermelons," what his metaphors refer to. The fact that he does this gives some indication as to how he wants us to feel after reading this poem—he wants us to feel the same sense of peace and contentment that he derives from eating watermelons. This isn't a time for mental wrestling, but rather to remember how it feels to bite into a watermelon and "spit out the teeth" of life.

The first figure of speech in the poem, "green buddhas," also helps Simic convey this message. The image of the Buddha immediately conjures up thoughts of serenity, meditation, and contentment; we may imagine the Buddha as a fat, smiling man who wants to help us transcend this reality and simply enjoy a peaceful moment. We can picture the round, squat watermelons as "green Buddhas" clustered together in this way, waiting for us to reach out to them.

The "smile" of the watermelon, a second metaphor, of course refers to the way a watermelon slice appears to have a row of "teeth," symbolized by the black seeds. Think about it this way: watermelons are an opportunity for us to consume something pleasant and appealing—the "smile" of the watermelon's flesh—while at the same time simply spitting out the "teeth," the part we don't like. We can interpret this as having a broader application—"teeth" are biting, sharp; they are useful, but they are uncomfortable if they come into contact with us. Eating a watermelon, then, allows us simply to fill up with smiles while putting aside the niggling, irritating, and uncomfortable things about the world.

Essentially, Simic is here describing a very simple moment of bliss, achieved through the mundane, and yet beautiful, act of consuming a fruit.

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