I haven’t tasted the cherries from the tree in my mom’s front yard,
never seen them. It’s mature, with a ropey habit and lichens that badge
its ox-blood oilskin, the county’s original country squire.
I thought it was ornamental, a free-range specimen of the fru fru kind,
until the summer day my mom let drop, in response to the flock of birds that shot
out the shrubbery, scissoring and waving like quintuple double-dutch over the fields,
her cherry tree bears irresistible fruit. Every July — though I have reason to doubt
her vigilance — the birds get there first. She says the tree prepares a meal the second the mob
arrives to gorge on bloody cherries. “When you face it with your faint hurt, it looks at you like,
‘Yep. So what?’ — a survived-the-pogroms insouciance, if you’ll permit the paradox.”
The cherries of hearsay are ascending alongside the ravening songbirds.
But they’re real! Self-befuddling gesture, the performance of belief —
it underwrites a spiritual oomf, a protean messianism that’s shackled to my mom’s cherry.
Benjamin Gantcher’s first book of poems, Snow Farmer (CW Books, 2017), was a finalist in several book contests. His work appears in many journals, including Tin House, Guernica and The Brooklyn Rail, and he was Poet of the Week at Brooklyn Poets. His chapbook Strings of Math and Custom was published by Beard of Bees Press, and his first poetry manuscript, If a Lettuce, earned finalist honors in the National Poetry Series and Bright Hill Press contests. A recipient of a LABA fellowship as well as residencies from the UCross Foundation and the Omi International Arts Center, Gantcher is a Pushcart Prize nominee and a former poetry editor of failbetter. He teaches English in Manhattan and lives in Brooklyn with his family.