REFUSAL

by Claudia F. Savage

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I don't even want them all,

but when the neighborhood hoards

come with their ladders, come with their bags,

when they keep the motor running on their cars

like a stone fruit gang, doors open, grabbing, breaking branches,

even green ones, even pea-sized, stripping the lowest fruit,

leaving so much smashed, I court greed.

 

Loss of anything, right now,

is intolerable.

 

I want to yell, stop, my mother is dead.

 

It is late August.

She's been gone four months.

They cluster in threes, in fives, efficient devils,

skin taut as my girl’s infant cheeks, thick beyond imagining, heavy

aubergine moons.

 

Two years before I sent her jam from the harvest. She hid it

deep in the refrigerator after one bite. Her mind tricking her.

My father, convenient thief. Finding it, overcome by mold,

months later, I hid my weeping and tossed it quick.

For a second, I imagined her alone with the jar. Maybe

the magenta came through despite her blindness. Maybe

the cinnamon and ginger tingled her tongue.

She had so few secrets left.

 

Once a painter, she would have loved the way they turn purple

on the branch, and then go, somehow, darker still.

Deep sugar vibration. Ripeness only certain through

the flesh's dusty yellow. Ochre. I remember it

neglected in her studio. Seemed a useless color.

Sad almost. Muddy. But, here, in the center of what is mine,

it rewards patience. It says, take me into your mouth.

 

When the neighbors return to their homes, I put my daughter to bed,

go outside, take the picker to claim as many as possible. The sky refuses me

light, grays, swallowing clouds, roofs, my hands. I take aim at the top ones.

I won't give up on them. Those plums picked at by crows.

Burned plums. Rotting plums. Plums battered by wind. Those plums

most like me.

 


Claudia F. Savage

Arab-American poet and performer Claudia F. Savage thrives on collaboration and performs and records with the improvising poetry-music duo Thick in the Throat, Honey, as well as working with dancers, other poets, and visual artists. Her poems and writer interviews have been published in Water-Stone ReviewThe Denver QuarterlyIron Horse ReviewNimrodThe Columbia JournalBookslut, and Late Night Library, among others. Her column, “Leave the Dishes,” about balancing parenting and art-making was a 2015 blog feature on voicecatcher.com. She co-runs the poetry-music label Thrum Recordings and has been awarded residences and grants from Jentel, Ucross, The Atlantic Center for the Arts, and Portland’s Regional Arts and Culture Council. Find her at www.claudiafsavage.com.