are what she wanted in the end
said they reminded her of South
Carolina that summer she was
fifteen, living with her Auntie
Josephine in a white clapboard
house at the end of a dirt road.
They’d pick cotton during the day,
eat peaches for lunch, her fingers
sticky the rest of the afternoon.
There was a boy who worked the farm,
Jerri, who kissed her one July afternoon
and then never returned to work.
There were thunderstorms, she said
so quick and fierce, all you could do
was lay in the fields and let the rain
wash your dirty face, your hair,
pray you didn’t get struck by lightning.
And dogs would appear, follow behind
you for an hour or two then disappear.
Her aunt would walk out into the field
with a wicker basket of peaches, smiling,
saying take two, take three and she took
all she could stomach. In this nursing
home, now, I don’t have anything to give her
except my time, my ears for her stories, so
on my next visit I bring her a peach and while
she can no longer chew it, still she lifts it
to her nose, smells the sweetness beneath
the surface, rubs it against her cheek,
a scene so private I have to look away.
— Steve Cushman