I stand on the top rung and the step ladder
shakes; above me the winter pears just out
of reach, clean and strung heavy along limbs
and swaying like my grandmother’s aprons
hung on the line to dry. I drop one into
the bag she holds open below me. She grins,
and I’m drawn into the embrace of her gaze—
down into handfuls of earth, seasons, the empty
cup of a lost daughter, a lost breast.
I’m stitched into miles of quilts, curtains,
tablecloths, hems of pants, skirts.
I’m held to her like a button on a shirt pocket,
and I smell soap, tomatoes, chicken soup,
Portuguese sweet bread, goat cheese, pears…
and I lower myself out and around the gnarl
of branch, down the ladder to take the full
bag of the fruit I love, warm from
the sun and spotted like her hands.
– Gary J. Whitehead