by Rochelle Mass

I want to pick the apples from the tree behind my daughter’s house,
make apple sauce, at least gather the fallen for salad.
I watch them roll into the grass, bird-pocked like grieving pomegranates.
They’re not worth the trouble, my daughter says.
Leaves shingle the grass with crusty shapes.
I slide over, paddle along.
The swooshing hugs my shoes as I think of apple pies, clear jelly.

At her cafe, my daughter bakes cornmeal muffins
with rosemary and red pepper to be served with vegetable chili.
By mid-morning she’s made apple tarts, but from apples
the grocer sends me
she says mine are not good quality.

That afternoon I go with my father to 8th Avenue, where we lived
when I was a child. I look for the tree that spread over most of the yard.
The apples were a bit sour, I remember, green with a red slash on the side.
The yard looked too large; the tree wasn’t there.
Another was in the very same place, a sapling
with wrinkled, pleated fruit. They’re plums, I see, when I come close.
Hadn’t been picked, hanging heavy from each limb.

Things have changed, said my father. The back porch has a place to sit now.
The front steps seem wider
I add as we turn to the car.
Want to talk about the tree but my father has already shut the door.
The radio is blaring.
I remembered the tree as clearly as the shape of my father’s back
as he shoveled coal into the furnace by the basement window
while mother dug in the earth, pulled out lettuce for dinner.

I’m trying to hold onto something of that home, that time.
But I need to keep those memories under control, loosen their grip.
I’m straining to let go, yet afraid that if I do
there’ll be nothing left of me.


Award-winning Rochelle Mass has published widely in anthologies and journals both in Israel, where she now lives, and also abroad. To learn more about Rochelle and her most recent collection, The Startled Land, please visit Wind River Press