“Grape Sherbet” by: Rita Dove
I think this poem is a great one, but also complex. The Author, Rita Dove tells us of a certain day with her family, that obviously was a special day for her. But, there are a couple of lines in this poem that are mysterious, and kind of leave you not knowing what she’s meaning. You can tell she had a good childhood, and fond memories, especially of this particular memorial day with her family.
She talks about the taste of lavender and sherbet, a taste that she thinks was wonderful, and yet it seems that for some reason was almost unattainable. Now, whether that is because the ingredients were expensive or rare, one is not so clear on that, but I think Rita Dove is really trying to put down her words very thoughtfully, like she wants the readers to know how she felt that day.
She also seems to have wrote this for her father.
At least that is a guess on this poem. At the end, she does talk to her father, as if it were just a letter for him. Or, it might just be a poem in tribute of her father, and how his secret recipe of a special treat left a mark on her so much so that she felt she needed to write about it and share this particular story of this day.
Memorial Day that year seems to have stood out for her. Was it because the family was together? Was it because it was one of her favorite holidays? Or, could it be that she just wanted to savor the smells, tastes and emotions that Memorial day felt for her so we the readers could share in it with her.
She talks about the family’s meal, obviously outside, cooked on a grill. Then, her father appears with, as she states, ‘his masterpiece’, ‘swirled snow, gelled light‘. Now, I assume that she is talking about sherbet. It’s not too clear with this sentence, so I can only guess, since later in the poem she’s talking about sherbet.
Obviously this ’swirled snow’, is definitely a treat and loved by her and her family, for she writes in here that they cheer when her father brings it out for them to eat.
She goes on to tell that this recipe her father carefully made for them is a secret and he fights his pride, obviously when he sees them all so happy and well pleased for this treat. She says he ’fights a smile’. Now, one wouldn’t think that a father that has just presented his family with a treat that obviously they love, would be ashamed. No, it has to be because he doesn’t want anyone to see how happy he is that they are so excited that they cheer him and this incredible delight of a dessert. That if he does, he feels as if that would make him seem to eager for the approval of his loved ones. Although obviously, that is exactly what he wants.
She makes a point of telling us about her father’s cap, and the way he’s turned up the bill so it looks like a duck. When I read this, it seemed to me that she made a point in telling us of her father’s hat because it meant something to her. Was it because he was being a ‘clown’, being funny? Or because he had
turned the bill up like that because he wanted to ‘pretend’ to be someone in particular bringing in the treat? I think that maybe she told us of it, so we could see, by just that little bit of information, that her father was not only loving and thoughtful of his children and family, and wanted to please them, but that it also characterizes him for us as a joshing, funny man. A man with a sense of humor to delight and please his family even more.
I like how she ‘let us in’ on her morning with her family. Sharing with us the fun that they had had that morning, ‘galloping throughout the grassed-over Mounds’. She wants us to know what fun they had, and all they shared that morning.
She claims that they ‘name each stone for a lost milk tooth’. I’m not quite sure where they were, the Author, Rita Dove, doesn’t really go into a full description of what these ‘mounds’ are or where they are as they play.
When I read it, I pictured a big field, on their land, a type of farm house. With a picnic table, and a father cooking food on a grill, a mother sitting on the porch in a rocking chair, beside her mother, and kids running all over the land. Stopping to count stones that were in a little brook, and climbing over little hills in their way. Whether or not, that is what really happened, or whether it was what they did, I’m not sure, but it is what I saw while I read this poem.
When she explains that each drop of sherbet is a ’miracle’, it makes me wonder why? Was it a very rare treat for them to have sherbet? Or was she just expressing how glorious it tasted, as in calling it a miracle. I think it was the latter. The taste in your mouth and your palate, feeling like it just savored the most incredible invention and creation in the world! You want to have been there as well, so you can ’share’ in this delightful miracle. And, when she goes in to saying that it was ’like salt on a melon that makes it sweeter’. I knew that I was right about my observation of the miracle of the sherbet.
It seems that maybe my questions and assessments on this particular line in the poem, was correct. It was rare, and a truly delicious treat. Her father’s secret recipe kind of gives that away, as you read again and really think on that. Also the fact that she compares it to the taste of another food, to try and let the reader’s in on the taste, to let us try and know what she’s talking about.
When everyone is said to agree it’s wonderful, you can imagine everyone eating this treat out of a bowl, little ones with their faces and fingers all sticky from the sugar in the sherbet, and everyone smiling as they go consume this treat, savoring every smell, taste and feeling they get from sharing with each other the delight they have gotten from this sherbet.
I would take it since she says ‘everyone agrees that it’s just how they imagined lavender would taste’, that starts to get more definitive on the sherbet. Before, you knew it was sweet, and rare, and cold. Now, you know it is more than likely purple sherbet, since she says, lavender, and I would assume it is the flavor of grape, since I haven’t heard of a lavender flavored sherbet before.
So, now, the Author, Rita Dove, is trying as best she can to not only describe emotions, thoughts, people, and happiness, but now taste. She is really trying to include the reader on this day and the happiness and excitement that went with not only her family being together for this holiday, but the sweet tastes and the true thoughts.
She tries to let us see and know how much this treat from her father meant to her and the rest of the family. To try and include us on the fact that she
really wants people to know how very thoughtful her father is, and to show us how much he loved his family, and relished the happiness he could bring to them. And, of course, to let us know what she thinks of her father for doing this. Obviously endearment, love, happiness.
She goes in to letting us know that there may have been one person there that was not so happy, the grandmother. She is obviously diabetic, the Author tells us so. Which means that she could not partake in this delightful dessert. She seems to be glaring at everyone, seemingly angered at the fact that she could not partake in this delight, or because she doesn’t want anyone else to eat of it since she can‘t. I would think that the grandmother is angered at the fact that her body, because of the diabetes, won’t let her eat the sugary treat, so therefore she is angered that everyone but her can eat this special treat. She is more than likely jealous at everyone as well, seemingly causing the Author to compare her grandmother’s stare as a ‘torch’.
I’m not sure what she means in this line, ‘we thought no one was lying there under our feet, we thought it was a joke’. The only conclusion I can come to on this is maybe that she was speaking metaphorically, like they had to hurry up, because someone was ‘lying under their feet’, as in telling them to hurry and eat? Or, maybe it was that she was talking about the lavender, or that her father had told them a tale or spoke of something, since she states, ‘I thought it was a joke’. This is a true metaphoric statement, or at least I think so. I cannot draw any other conclusions from this line.
She speaks at the end of trying to remember the taste, but says it doesn’t exist. I think there may be two possible scenarios for this line as well. One, that since it was her father’s ‘secret recipe’, that no one has ever been able to make anything remotely close to what he made for them that special day. That no matter what she has made herself, or bought and tried, nothing can compare to her father’s carefully made recipe. On the other hand, two, that maybe this was completely a dream. That none of this existed at all for the Author, Rita Dove. That she’s telling a tale of what she saw in her mind, and the taste she had come to think of that this type of dessert would taste, had it been real. And that no matter what she’s tried, she can’t re-invent what her mind had created, because it wasn’t real.
But, on the same note, the very last line of the poem makes the ones before
it, all the more mind-boggling. ’Now I see why you bothered, father’. Is it a tale
Her father told her. Is it real, did that day really exist, but because it was her father’s secret recipe, he didn’t share it with anyone, so no one could create what he did. That she’s telling her father that she sees that no matter where she goes, or what she tries, she cannot reconnect with that day. That her father held a secret that only he knew, that only he could create. That she understands that it doesn’t matter what she tries or what lengths she goes to, she will never recreate that recipe and will never taste that sweet, cold, dessert ever again.
I think that, for the most part, the story is true, although baffling, and leaves you ’hanging’ at the end. The Author does well to create an image for us, to tell us what, in her mind, was a great day, a great dessert for her and her family, and that even though one member of the family, the grandmother, could not partake in tasting this dessert, it still held the power to delight anyone who did.
Even though the end sticks a lot of questions in your mind, you still have to believe that it really happened and it was all real. That the food they had gathered around for the grilled food she first speaks of, that, more than likely, the father made as well as that sherbet. That her and her family had a lot of fun that day, and she fondly remembers it and the memories, as well as the memories of her father and the special way he was. I gather that he was a funny, kind, strong, and loving man. That he took a talent that he had, example the sherbet, and made it what he could. A joyous and mouth watering treat for his family.
That on that day, it was like no other. She remembers it quite well, the smells, the tastes, the happiness, and the sights, and wants as many as she can to remember it with her. She wants to hold on to that ’carefree’ day, and remember fondly the kind of man her father was and that his ’special’ and ’secret recipe’ that he holds dear was just as special and dear to her. That no matter what she tries, she can’t re-live that day. It is gone forever. Only the memories remain. So, she writes everything down, in hopes that it will live on forever. And that all the readers can try and share in that joyous experience with her. That she has invited everyone to that Memorial Day, where there will be family, good food from the grill, laughter, play, jokes, fun, and even anger from the grandmother with obvious disproval of the treat.
But, most of all, she invites us in on her father’s secret recipe. Even though we don’t know how to create it, and we might never in reality partake in the tasting of it, but we will be able to imagine it, just like she does. To feel that we have seen that day as clearly as her, and know what it meant on that Memorial Day, to be with family and enjoy her father’s grape sherbet.
Cite this “Grape Sherbet” by: Rita Dove
“Grape Sherbet” by: Rita Dove. (2017, Jan 25). Retrieved from https://graduateway.com/grape-sherbet-by-rita-dove/