It sits where the shadows of other trees
slide in late afternoon, dug deep and patted
down. Touched by a breeze, then still,
the green skin of soon-to-be sour
fruit bends the branches, fruit that will be,
in a week or less, halved and left
to float in sugared water for the children.
It is a small thing—this point in the future—
but the man who planted this tree
listens to it as if it were an orchestra tuning.
He imagines his father now, begrimed,
sweating from ground that needed breaking
before pipe and other ironwork could
be laid. This father, who muttered through
his accent, who thought comfort was rubbing
Vaseline over the cracks on his palms. Who offered
stories, on those rare Sundays he could be
around, of dark yards and fledgling,
decorative space. Stories he never thought would be
This poem is part of the "Origin Stories" special feature in Gulf Coast 33.2, curated by Vievee Francis. Read Vievee Francis' introduction. To read the entire special feature, purchase issue 33.2.