Bird Damage/Fire Blight
Placer County, California
In each parcel of backyard crabgrass, scorched soil, ant trails, star thistle, goat thistle, goosegrass, a lone loquat leans at the perimeter, deep river-green leaves grin at wild oats and mallow. Higher fronds, paler green, arch their backs toward winter warmth, bursting panicles of wooly buds that soak light. Some say freshwater carp will swim below a loquat’s branches, swallow the orange thumbfruit, grow scales of armor, barbelfire, turn dragon fierce, but the amber stone, bright and wet as a pony’s eye, curdles to poison in the belly of any human. Unlike us, the loquat flourishes after severe pruning and no more water than the sky’s daily offering, or lack. My father called them kumquats— one of his smaller mistakes— made weapons of the unripened. From my window I watch jays thrash in the branches, gash the flesh, steal away into farther scrub oaks. Their hunger and late-season rain will spoil a crop, but around here no one much cares. The loquat, like an apricot, makes fine jam, liqueur, pies, balsamic reduction. Scrape and steep the leaves, sip the tea, make a poultice for the most tender places. Instead, I drag a ladder along uneven ground, scatter squirrels, bees, twist the fruit from its rough stem, fill my mouth with the furred skin. All of my childhood was this: gorging on neglect, praying for my eyes to glow golden, for the smoke to tendril from these famished lips.
Patricia Caspers is an award-winning poet, columnist and journalist. Her poetry has been published widely, most recently in Barren Magazine, Atticus, Barnstorm, and SWWIM. She won the Nimrod/Hardman Pablo Neruda Prize for poetry, and her full-length poetry collection, In the Belly of the Albatross, was published by Glass Lyre Press. She has an MFA in poetry from Mills College, and she lives in the foothills of California where she edits West Trestle Review.