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LAce Posted Monday, January 22nd, 2007
Picking Cherries in the Espaņola Valley
Leah Browning

Our mother's friend invites us out to her house for the day.
Her orchards are bursting with ripe fruit, apples and cherries,
and she sends my sister and me outside with baskets
on our arms. We wander up and down the rows of trees
picking fruit from low branches, and my sister's basket
grows heavy while mine swings loose and empty from my arm.
I prefer eating cherry after cherry, twisting the stems
around my fingers like rings, and daydreaming.

In the afternoon I retreat to the house and sit near
my mother's friend on the cool stone of the fireplace.
I drink a glass of water and tell her my favorite fantasy:
a pet monkey I imagine loving like my own child.

To my surprise, she tells me that once, briefly,
as a girl about my age, she had a pet monkey of her own.
But her version is far less romantic than the one I have
invented. There is no white lace dress, no black leather boots,
no (don't laugh) no talking. Her monkey speaks little English
and, apparently, eschews all clothing, even lace and leather.

In her story, the monkey chases the little girl, pelting her
with oranges. There is no hard-won connection, no happy ending.
And I can't help feeling disappointed: betrayed by real life
with its plainness and rough edges, and by this beloved animal,
so free of frills and unsuited for domestic life.

The woman returns to her canning, and I run back out
to the orchard, unable to escape this fierce new monkey,
who chases me down toward the apple trees
on her rough, scabbed legs, both of us already hearing the knock
of fruit against flesh.

Comments [post a comment]

Posted by jocelyn johnson on Monday, January 22nd, 2007 at 12:09 PM
It's icy and cold today in Virginia, so I'm especially appreciating the warm fruit, the wild little monkey, the leather and lace of this story.

Posted by Ashley Minihan on Tuesday, January 23rd, 2007 at 5:53 PM
Beautiful and evocative

Posted by Donia Carey on Sunday, January 28th, 2007 at 6:28 PM
Some really beautiful writing, and I love the images of the two monkeys and their symbolism. Thanks for this story.

Posted by Sharon Hurlbut on Monday, January 29th, 2007 at 3:14 PM
This is enchanting! Beautiful writing and a true life-lesson.



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