PART I: The Farmer
Babushka referred to our farm as “Dom Wschodzącej Śliwki” which translates to “House of the Rising Plum.” I smile at this as I step out of our cottage and into a pastel-colored dawn. My fluttering eyelashes fan damp mist in a soft breeze. Dull shades hover past a fog, above vibrant dark shadows. Through the orchards and pastures, I see ruins of other cottages calling out from the distance. Crossing a hushed road that leads through the village and into town, I slowly bend and tuck my feet to form a legless stool. I lean toward the edge of the road, where cobblestones stamp the cap of my knees. And notice my hands; a veiny topography mapping the hard-working days of a Polish farmer. From the edge of weft-patterned sleeves, I pry them open toward a Central European sky, pressing down to measure the chill of this Mid-September morning.
Centuries past, Cistercian monks maintained these rich black-earth farms–an agrarian monastery in the Sandomierszczyzna region. I imagine braided belts and prayer beads ringing in the wind as monks climb to collect apples. Or heavy drapes dragged down in the dirt where seeds are planted. I imagine a commune of men sitting ‘round a sturdy table ritualizing daily prayer, living off a diet of flavorless legumes and broth consumed by candlelight. They might end the day reflectively strolling the same road I am standing on, as the sky darkens the way wet watercolor dries.
Our land hosts orchards and produce with few animals farming milk and soap. The orchards are what sustain us. Apple trees stand in rows on the far end of the main cottage. Their crowns spread out pregnantly preparing for labor at harvest. Oval leaves brightly reach with mist-washed apples bursting out. In the back property, atop a hill, one can find a small patch of plum trees. They huddle as though whispering secrets among family members. Every year the family adopts new members while losing others. Each tree offers only a brief few years of harvest.
As a child, I would trail in my Baba’s shadow, waddling our way toward the hill at the end of the farm. I didn’t understand much of what was said in her native tongue. Her basket of shears along with the sparkle in her eyes signaled to me the time was ripe for harvesting the plums. With this memory, I now approach the plum trees in my own sense of expectation.
Tying the hem of my skirt into the waist of my apron, I pinch a basket into my forearm. Beginning to grope the ladder, I sense Baba’s presence and ask her to hold me steady. Curling toes cling to splintering pins, avoiding the spaces in between so as to keep from falling. With a twisting spine and bent shoulder, I reach hard determined for this perfect stone fruit. To my surprise, there is a petite plum attached to the same drupe. I take hold, churning my wrist to no avail. This dashing young plum must come down as a pair. It snaps. I break the cluster, breasting it as I climb back down. Upon closer look, I notice the fruit is fused like a first-born twin strangling out the other.
Part II: The Fruit
Adam’s rib snapped at birth–
The whole world blamed it on his sister
Two plums came tumbling out
Into a puddle of thick crimson envy
Double the fruit a mother’s labor
Surprised and warm, Momma tore
Into dark loss of memory
Doctors flock to prune our chords, while I
To shove you
Right back in
You were a doll dressed for prize
And I, a son, the apple of their eye
Spinning words into hypnotic sedation
Twisting ribs from which I came
Preying on the offspring of Eve
I choke them into silence
Void any sense of shame