Masker’s Orchard, October

Fresh from rain, the orchard sags, wet.
Branches drop drips in the grass.
Apples dimple the ground, some too soft, rotted,
my thumb puncturing its skin,
some glistening a perfect red.
We plod along together, unsure of a direction,
embarrassed at Nature’s unabashed display,
her fruit laying about like a woman’s undergarments
on her bedroom floor.
The wetness climbs our shoes, darkens the hems of our jeans.
Somewhere children shout, run. Slowly our bags fill.
I wrap an arm around her for warmth.
She crunches into red flesh, exposing a pocket of white cotton,
comments on the balance of sweet and tart.
We crest a hill. I’m still lost, this many years into my life.
The sky gently pulls grey clouds away from itself.
My mother, pulling blue blankets up to my chin.
The tucking under the chin. The kiss.
The hand disappearing into blackness.


Donut Dollies (by Yusef Komunyakaa)

The three stood outside TOC
smiling, waiting with donuts & coffee
for the dusty-green platoon
back from a fire fight,
as the midday sun
fell through their sky-
blue dresses with Red Cross
insignias over their breasts,
like half-hearted cheerleaders.
But the GIs filed past them
with night-long tracer glare
still in their eyes
& the names of dead men
caught in their throats.
Across the hills a recoilless rifle
& mortar spoke to each other.
They followed a thousand-yard stare
until they walked out of boots and fatigues
& fled into the metal stalls
to shower off the night.
For days the donut dollies
were unable to stop shaking
their heads, like a ripple
trembling through horses.
Even back at the Officers’ Club
they couldn’t pull their eyes away
from the line of infantrymen
dragging their tired feet,
molded into a slow melody
inside bowed heads. They
were unable to feel the hands
slip under their uniforms & touch
money belts next to their pale skin.