The Peach Tree
Because my daughter came home in tears
from the birthday party and could not be
consoled, I have taken her out to harvest
what’s left of the garden, whose splendor
has begun to run to rot and squalor
in the haze of August heat. Still
the beanpoles stand bound and heavy
with knotted vines, and here and there
a ripe tomato hangs ready for her hand
to close around it, twist, and pull it free.
Why can’t I bear to ask her
what it was some other innocent
did or said, or didn’t do or didn’t say?
Instead, I try to keep her close and hope
our work together will be enough to make
the sting subside. But when I turn to look
for her she’s gone, running from me
towards the young peach, halfway up
the slope, where we planted it three years ago.
All summer we’ve watched amazed
the swelling fruit beneath whose weight
the slender branches bend, drooping at their ends.
Though they’ve turned to butter and crimson,
the peaches aren’t yet ripe, and I tell her
not to pick them but she pays no mind,
then yelps and comes to show me how
one side of the peach she holds in her hand
crawls with bugs who have eaten away
half the flesh, revealing the stone at its middle.
If we’re going to save them, we’ll have to
harvest now, before they are ready,
let them ripen the rest of the way inside.
We’ll have to lay them out on the table
by the window where, when she’s finally off
to bed, I’ll stand in the settling dark,
watching the evening rake its black loam
over the lawn and the garden going
to seed and then the solitary tree,
its free, unburdened branches bowed
as if still beneath that weight.