I usually have to have poems explained to me, unless they are about, like, Drummer Hodge and how sad it is that his northern brains are somewhere because of (I assume) the Boer War, because in that case, I’m like, Ah, this poem is about Drummer Hodge’s northern brains. So the first time I read “Goblin Market” (for SCHOOL, obviously), my response went something along the lines of, “Nice poem. What industrious goblins. Fruit is an important source of vitamins and fiber.”
My friend Jos who knows a lot about poetry said that usually people who read “Goblin Market” have to be talked out of thinking it’s just about sex into thinking it’s about something else. I forget what Jos said it’s actually about. (“Actually.” “About.” “Said.”) Death, maybe? Anyhow, I had to be talked into thinking it’s about sex first, because I kept delivering a blank stare when my professor started talking about Imagery and I was like, It’s just a list of fruit, my guy, don’t read too much into it. Anyhow, here’s “Goblin Market.”
I don’t know how it is that goblins first got into fruitmongery.
You wouldn’t expect it of them, necessarily,
on account of the, I guess, troglodytism?
Most people think of them as being miners, like dwarves,
if they think of them at all.
Which is not to say you should think more about goblins
than you already do. However much you think about them
is fine. Anyhow, they’re really solid fruit husbandrists,
as a general rule. They have orchards!
(I mean, obviously they have orchards. That’s where fruit
comes from. You know what I mean.)
So here are the fruits the goblins generally have on offer:
Apples, quinces, lemons, oranges, cherries,
melon, raspberries, peaches, mulberries, cranberries, crabapples, dewberries, pineapples, blackberries, apricots, strawberries, end of list.
End of the fruit list.
Shoot, there’s more fruit, there’s a subsequent fruit list,
here is the Fruit Addendum:
Grapes, pomegranates, dates, bullaces (which,
don’t be intimidated, it’s just plums),
pears, greengages (I don’t know what that is),
Damsons, bilberries, currants, gooseberries,
barberries, figs, citrons.
So you can buy a lot of fruit from them.
Anyhow, there were two sisters who were interested
in becoming fruit-owners in the near and immediate future.
Lizzie and Laura. For some reason they tingled a lot;
maybe that’s not relevant to the story to include,
so feel free to expunge that detail from your mind.
Tingling or otherwise, the point is that they wanted to buy some fruit.
And Lizzie said to Laura, “You should not peep at goblin men.”
Which, fair enough! You shouldn’t. Just make firm, friendly eye contact
for about as long as it takes to buy goblin fruit, and then move on with your day.
Also, and this is unrelated to our primary narrative,
their friend Jeanie was dead.
So Laura bought some fruit, and I guess the goblins were polite enough
to overlook her staring, and subsequently ate the fruit,
and got home in plenty of time before dark because honestly, how long does it take
to eat fruit? Even a lot of fruit, even an implausibly large amount of fruit.
Even a bushel. Which, holy cats, I just looked up and that’s 64 pints!
64! You couldn’t eat that much fruit. I couldn’t, anyhow.
Probably not even Johnny Appleseed could. (Do you think he was their brother?
The poet wants us to figure that out for ourselves, I guess.)
The maximum amount of time a person could spend eating fruit,
even if they were really milking the situation, like pretending they
were in an erotic novel, or whatever (Do you ever apologize when you’re eating a plum if you didn’t get a chance to slice it beforehand?
Sometimes I do. Like, yikes, I promise I am not trying to be an Anaïs Nin novel at you. This will be over soon! Next time I will remember to slice it first!!!) is,
at most, an hour. You can’t spend more than an hour eating fruit. Good Lord.
Whatever amount of fruit she ate, eventually Laura had to go home,
and announced her intention to eat more fruit the next day. Which, fine!
And then Lizzie listed some more fruit. Including very cold melon,
and seedless grapes, which I guess used to be a big deal instead of just
“what grapes are.” Then they slept like how pigeons slept.
Weirdly, the goblins sold most of their fruit in the late afternoon,
which is not a great time for fruit-selling because most farmer’s markets are in the morning. But timely or not, that’s when the fruit was available.
Lizzie tried to buy some fruit for her sister, and since the dwarves also stood to gain from the exchange, they definitely sold her some, instead of jamming cherries and whatnot into her face and ripping her hair out.
Which would be a completely inappropriate response,
as a seller of fruit, to someone who said, “Hey, can I buy some fruit?”
So she went home and said, “Hey, there’s some more fruit in the bowl on the counter.”
And Laura said, “Oh, is it goblin fruit?”
And Lizzie said, “Yeah, I stopped by today.”
And Laura said, “Oh man, thanks, they have exceptionally good fruit.”
I mean, all fruit is pretty good, right? There’s not the same variety in quality
you get. Like, bad meat is pretty bad. And bad dairy is awful.
But the worst fruit I’ve ever had (outside of something spoiled, obviously) was still fine.
And they kissed whatever was a socially appropriate amount for grown sisters in their particular cultural milieu, and no fire knocked on anybody’s hearts that day.
Then later they had something else. Gyros, maybe.
Mallory is an Editor of The Toast.