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

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