“On Peaches Days,” Ensign, July 1977, 62
Sticky sweet in the morning, waking up,
The leaves crisping,
The sun in my window and on my floor
The house today is doing peaches in saffron bottles.
I know because I heard my mama talking
About the peaches Uncle Clarence brought from Freedom.
I stay in the sunny smoke of my room as long as I can.
I don’t like to hold hot peaches,
Slip them naked with thumbs,
Snap out pits, wrinkle the skin beneath my nails,
Place the halves like the yellows of eggs in glass:
Too many rows of empty bottles to fill …
On peaches days I sometimes steal away.
My mama never says a word;
Except I know she needs my help.
Sometime … I will …
Today I yearned for sun. The crisp leaves buzzed
A singing melody across the trees.
Light sparkled on my hands and in the glass.
I pushed the window open, swallowed breeze.
I climbed the window sill, slid down the elm.
Beyond the yard, the fence, the fields were full
Of ripe flowers: paintbrush, lily, star, and butter bell.
My mother loved them all.
I took the tub we used to slop the pigs
And found my brothers on the hills.
We laughed, ran, rolled and filled
The bucket with a hundred flowers.
The sun climbed high and we harvested for hours.
“Where have you been?” my mama said,
When we came in for bread and cheese.
Across the table stood,
In rows, the bottles filled with food.
I didn’t say. I hugged her good and kissed her,
Gave her the flowers and laughed.
“I love you, Mama.”
She smiled, a glaze on her eye,
Took the flowers, and asked if I
Would help her some.
I said, “A little.”
So I made the sandwiches for the pails
And took the lunch out to the hills.
It was almost dark before my brothers and I
Came in from the field.
The kitchen was quiet, empty,
And still smelled sweet.
Mama had gone.
On the table she left a note
Propped on the lids
Of some glittering jars:
“We have gone to Grandma’s.
If you want to eat, these are yours.”
I lifted the note and looked at the bottles
Of tiny folded umbrellas
With golden heads sprung close
Against the saffron glass like scars …
Bottles of flowers.