/patricia caspers

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.