Sweet cherries will be coming in soon here in the Cherry Capital of the World. Not in time for the Cherry Festival, but oh well. We celebrate cherries nonetheless.
Here is a poem, not exactly an ode to cherries, more like an ode to missed chances. I like the way the cherries stand for all the sensuality built into the scene — his thick but careful hands, the cherries’ thin skin, the pies, tartlets, turnovers.
The poem starts by putting us deep into summer — flip-flops, lemonade ice cubes, iced tea with mint. I’m interested in the word fruitwounds — the wounded cherries that run all over her fingers. The fruit is the first wound. The second is the speaker’s rejection of a date with the farmer. How sensual he is, himself, pointing out the double-stoned cherries and spitting. And of course her favorite color is red. She’s very much attracted to him, we see that. She’s looked closely enough, after all, to notice his worn and twisty jeans, and the cherrydust and fingerprints on his glasses.
Why does she reject him? We don’t know. Maybe because he’s “only” a cherry farmer. All we know is that she’s sorry afterward. It would have been taking a chance on an unknown. The whole poem is built on her recognition of her terrible mistake, her not taking that chance. The desserts made of cherries — that could have been them. A sweet mixture.
Aimee Nezhukumatathil was born in Chicago to a Filipina mother and South Indian father. She earned her BA and MFA from Ohio State University and was a Diane Middlebrook Poetry Fellow at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. “Miracle Fruit” (2003), the book in which this poem appears, won the ForeWord Magazine Poetry Book of the Year and the Global Filipino Literary Award. Her other books have also won awards. And now she has a book of illustrated nature essays, “World of Wonder,” forthcoming from Milkweed Press.
She was the 2016-17 Grisham writer-in-residence at the University of Mississippi, where she is professor of English in the MFA program. She lives with her husband and sons in Oxford, Mississippi.