Monday, May 28, 2018

Quarter-Life Poetry: At The Fruit Stand

At the Fruit Stand


She stand by the roadside-
a dusty country road
full of dead weeds and oak trees
the ground the color of pale honey.

Her hands are always full-
in one hand a peach or plum
or a handful of cherries.
In the other, an open library book
with yellow pages.

When the locals buy fruit from her
they call her 'honey' or 'sweetheart.'
They ask about her brother and mother
and her confused grandfather
who outlived his only son.

When the strangers drive by
they smile at the young woman selling fruit.
When they imagined visiting the country
they had imagined someone exactly like her-
A girl from an old book
a woman both odd and ordinary
with a dusty face and a pale blue dress
that she washed by hand
and hung from a clothing line
to let the wind whip dry.

So the tourists stop to buy fruit
and ask "how are you?" or
"Tell me everything there is to know."

The woman will sigh
and instead of telling them about
her life at the fruit stand
she will tell them all about her past lives.

"I was never anyone
particularly special."
she'd say.
"But I remember each one
as clear as day."

***

Once, she was an old man
living with his wife in a small house
with pale yellow curtains.

When he breathed
he sputtered like an old engine
and coughed up black soot.
He was only eighteen when he began
his life as a coal miner.

Sometimes when he was in the dark mountain
he thought about submarines or outerspace
but mostly he thought about daylight
If he could
he'd spend everyday
in the tops of trees
with the sunlight warming his skin.

Underground, all noise was muffled
and the only sounds he heard
were the thuds of picks
chipping the side of the mine
and the heavy breathing
of one hundred different men.

And sometimes he heard the nervous chirp
of the canary in his wire cage
the birds small heart
beat like the  clatter of wind-up-toy.
His pale wings longed for sunlight
more than all the miner's hearts combined.

***
Once she was a folk singer
who never made it big
so instead she sung songs on street corners
dirt encrusted finger tips
strumming tunes
that stumbled through the listless nights
turning the rain and the wind
into elegant friends.

Her voice sounded like a thousand moths
their wings beating against a summer street lamp
their antennas vibrating toward the pull of the moon.

Sometimes lonely men with
books in their back pockets
and patches on their jeans
would long to wrap a blanket around her wet shoulders
and with their fingers, they'd want to search for a home
on the flesh of her palm.
But she'd only want to go home alone
where she'd fall asleep by herself
and have the same dream she always had-
darkness and the echo of a bird's lonely chirp.

***

Once she was born to a wealthy family
brought home from the hospital
to a house adorned with crystal chandeliers
but she only lived three days
before dying in her sleep
so no one knows who
she would have become.

She was buried in a graveyard by the sea
underneath a woman made of ivory
-Our Lady of Infinite Sorrow or,
Our Lady of Unattainable Peace-
with one graceful hand stretched forward
and pupilless eyes staring toward the distant sky.

At the funeral-
the family clad in black
In the sky-
the seagulls swooped and cawed.

***

When the tourists left-
boxes brimming with fruit,
they tried to remember their own past lives

with fruit juice dripping down their chins
they could only remember
the life they'd lived sense they were born.

At home, they fall asleep
on quiet nights
and have the strangest dreams

When they awake
they no longer remember who they are. 

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