Nathaniel Perry: “Remaking a Neglected Orchard”

American Life in Poetry: Column 306

BY TED KOOSER, U.S. POET LAUREATE, 2004-2006

My grandmother Moser made wonderful cherry pies from fruit from a tree just across the road from her house, and I have loved fruit trees ever since. A cherry tree is all about giving. Here’s a poem by Nathaniel Perry, who lives in Virginia, giving us an orchard made of words.

Remaking a Neglected Orchard

It was a good idea, cutting away
the vines and ivy, trimming back
the chest-high thicket lazy years
had let grow there. Though it wasn’t for lack

of love for the trees, I’d like to point out.
Years love trees in a way we can’t
imagine. They just don’t use the fruit
like us; they want instead the slant

of sun through narrow branches, the buckshot
of rain on these old cherries. And we,
now that I think on it, want those
things too, we just always and desperately

want the sugar of the fruit, the best
we’ll get from this irascible land:
sweetness we can gather for years,
new stains staining the stains on our hands.

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