Early July my sister and I filled two sacks of plums from our orchard. We shook each tree until the ripest orbs fell from highest branches, closest to the sun. The less ripe ones hit hard as hail. The softer ones bruised or split against the recently mowed grass. Later we carried them to our neighbor who owned a twelve-acre farm with sheep and one goat, 40 yards over. “Aren’t these the best I ever had” he thanked us, pouring them into a large bowl. We hoped for more praise: Given how young and thin we were, and with such delicate hands—we shouldn’t have gone to all the trouble. He offered back two of the plums for us to eat, but even though we waited there, he kept the empty sacks. Because he was a strong man with thick forearms flecked with golden hair who seemed to care about all things great and small, we imagined he used them to carefully gather the fruits of his hard labor or to sort his harvested crops. Instead, for the rest of summer, they drooped from a rusty nail in the corner of the barn. Earlier that day, Father had promised us two dollars for all the picking and gathering but later reneged on his offer. We remained empty-handed. He looked down at us from the porch. No rotting plums, no pits, and the grass now cleared for the next mowing. He smiled to himself like a man who had just made a dollar, like a man who just by looking past us could make it rain.
Dzvinia Orlowsky is the recipient of an NEA Translation Fellowship (with Jeff Friedman) and a Pushcart Prize, and is Founding Editor of Four Way Books. She is also the author of five poetry collections published by Carnegie Mellon University Press including her most recent, Silvertone and Convert