David Cappella

The Walnut

Consider the walnut

            its crenellation, its meat

            like a miniature human brain

            that you chew; a nut

            that imitates a cerebellum.


Consider the flesh of the brain

            which you will never see

            except as splotches of color

            on a CAT scan prior to diagnosis

            of cancer, if you are diagnosed

            with brain cancer, or are, instead,

            told that your headaches,

            stress related, can be controlled.


Consider how the flesh of the brain

            responds to the positive news

            that today you have not been told

            that you will surely die,

            though some people, a lucky few,

            do, in fact, survive brain cancer

            but not the daughter of a colleague

            who withered away after months,

            eighteen to be exact, of various treatments

            and you had coffee with him,

            her father, and watched him cry

            every Friday between sips

            over the fact that he would outlive

            his darling, his beautiful darling,

            only twenty-eight, and a nurse,

            if you can believe so much in Fate.


Consider the softness of the brain exposed

            how it was the spikes driven

            into her head, the ones that shoot

            streams of radioactive chemicals

            to kill the tumor and the person, too.

            He could not stop visualizing

            the spikes, like a weird punk hairdo,

            in his own brain. A type of crying, too.


Consider the walnut cracked open

            two halves, broken, bicameral,

            like consciousness is broken

            when we cry, when we think

            and feel simultaneously, when

            we thank something called God

            (whose brain we cannot envision)

            that we are not dead, though

            we can watch someone wish

            he could die, could give his life

in place of his daughter’s.


Consider the taste of the walnut

            slightly bitter, not as bitter

            as the father’s view of life

            at this moment, crying and

            alone with Fate. The walnut

            flesh softly breaks in your mouth,

            the earthy tang deepens

            as you chew the meat;

            it sweetens slowly, you swallow,

            instinctively reach for a glass

            of Montepulciano to complement

            the subtle, nutty taste, a combination

            that soothes your brain, which,

            had it been cracked open

            and closely inspected,

            would not look like meat

            of a walnut at all, but would

            look like a hardened mass of gray,

            crenellated clay folds, inedible,

            except to other animals, maybe,

            though gourmands eat the brains

            of certain ruminants, would taste

            like nothing, which no doubt is

            how the coffee tastes to the father

            whose quiet tears have not stopped

            and who stares straight at you

            to ask the unanswerable, “Why?”




“The Walnut” first appeared in The Bryant Literary Review.