Literary Hook: Mango key lime chutney: A dangerous travel companion

By Christine Swanberg

Author and Poet

This week, I am taking part in a writers’ conference in St. Augustine, Fla. Sponsored by Flagler College and Jane’s Stories Foundation, the three-day conference will feature readings, panels and workshops.

In preparation for any reading, I try to choose poems that might best relate to the anticipated audience.

This poem was inspired by a trip to St. Augustine, Fla., a few years ago. I had purchased a jar of mango key lime chutney. I hadn’t quite made the connection that the jar would be considered an airport threat. It was confiscated. That made me think about all the other unsuspecting souls who inadvertently brought “suspicious” items to the airport. The more I thought about it, the funnier it got. So, this poem is partially hyperbole (exaggeration), and, I hope, satire. It was first published in a Florida anthology, Meridian Anthology.

Mango Key Lime Chutney

I tasted you and knew we could have a history:

You in cream cheese with peppercorn crackers,

or as a garnish for blackened fish. A splash of you

on an English muffin would bring back

lush days of Florida, brilliant indigo dusk

and mango sunrises.

Oh, how we would show off for company:

Your complex zest contributing

to a memorable meal, sparking

good conversation of travel and music

among kindred spirits at the table.

You were perfect in cut glass.

I didn’t mind overpaying for you,

my bittersweet, succulent spread.

Wrapped in key lime-colored tissue

in a lemon-colored bag—why, you

could even serve as a special gift

brought home from the tropics.

So, my dear patriot, I am sorry

you have been confiscated.

Double sorry that of all I imagined of you,

weaponry wasn’t in the mix.

Your bright tissue has been rolled away,

and lo, you are more than 3 ounces.

You, my sweet, pose an airport security threat. You!

You are being thrown into whatever witch’s brew

the mango orange alert has deemed mandatory.

A Limbo of the lost and forgotten:

Cans of Ensure in every flavor,

a multitude of Lilliputian screwdrivers,

designer shampoos, a Gucci manicure kit,

fruit cocktail, St. Augustine perfume,

a monopod that looks like a billy club,

K-Y personal warming jelly, tanning oils

with varying degrees of coconut and UV protection,

a jetty of plastic bottles…

Who gets all this stuff anyway?

Do they throw a party?

How do I get invited?

Oh, I know: They’re only doing their jobs,

following orders, the blithe airport Gestapo

with their magic wands and nimble fingers.

Sure, if I thought about it a long, long while,

I could see you, my brave and bold

jar of mango key lime chutney,

cutting a forehead, severing an artery,

maybe even blowing up

the whole damn plane.

Why, I could use you against the terrorist

who got onboard without a souvenir!

Oh, well, I still have my banana,

which I was saving for lunch.

I could poke an eye, not out exactly,

but with due diligence, indulge a good bruise.

This poem was first published in Meridian Anthology (Boca Raton, Fla.).

From the November 11-17, 2009 issue

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