Destroying the Orchard – Poem

Destroying the Orchard

Our parents took us there one winter
to visit a distant relative one last time
before she died – smatters of fleshy fruit
still sagging the branches, rawboned
boughs snarled as arteries. I don’t remember
who she was, or why she mattered,
but I recall the rigid rows of trees,
proper as stones in cemeteries,
each swallow of air a blossoming thorn
in the lungs as if each breath
were a dying one, the suck of soil
against our shoesoles like the garden’s
last gasp. Then one of us reached
to where a ruined fruit had fallen,
its heavy coat split and the bitter marrow
bared, then flung it skywards, a little sun
spinning above the skinny elbows of the trees.
When it returned, a joyous burst
curving back to earth, it awoke an urgency
within us for ascendance. Together
we bowed over and again, and vaulted up
our sticky gifts, arms stretched high
in adolescent genuflection, the strange sap
dappling our eyelids and our hair,
and we reveled in the generous violence
of our work, and we kept at it for hours,
gloriously destroying every rotten, wasted thing.

Grace – Poem

Grace

An old man, wheelchair-bound, is eating
in a back corner of the cafeteria, bits of food
strewn around him on the floor. A sturdy nurse
in a shapeless uniform thumbs his chin
with the sharp edge of a blue cloth napkin.

The man’s hands tremble, but he insists.
She does not argue, or take the silverware away,
but hovers near him as he tries to reach his mouth,
to slip in the spoon like a coin from a cautious mourner,
the mess on the floor ignored, left for an unnamed janitor

who will clean up later, without complaint, the sweep
of the steely broom a censer swinging from a chain, each stroke
a blessing for the world, the old man in his immutable chair,
the quiet nurse who wheels him away, gliding slightly
on her sensible shoes.