Kathleen Hart is the recipient of the inaugural Jacopone da Todi Poetry Prize for her collection A Cut-and-Paste Country. A poem is forthcoming in Poetic Medicine and a book review is forthcoming in Presence. Hart is a former college instructor and high school teacher who resides in Longview, Texas.
Italian Grows Forgotten Fruit.
What She Preserves is a Culture.
— The New York Times
Even as you wait for the surgeon to walk down the hall,
for the story to break, for the storm to pass, for the other shoe
to drop, even as we speak
A Tuscan woman searches for the notations of orchards
in old estate catalogues and convent records, and even in the plans
for the gardens of the Medici Grand Dukes.
And then she walks through their lands, locating the vestiges
of these orchards in the few ancestor trees left standing,
and gathers branches with fresh buds to graft onto rootstock,
as has been done for thousands of years.
And so she assembles an orchard of apples and pears, cherries and figs,
that maintains its composure, standing as it does within its natural
confines, on small hills surrounded by a valley, the trees slanting
ever so slightly in the direction of the prevailing wind, within a rhythm
That a Medici Grand Duke must have felt as he surveyed his orchard
from his balcony, the exact intervals between each tree and the exact intervals
between each row intoning their breadth of line, their purity of tone
That the nuns walked through, allowing the blossoms of the convent trees
to make lattice work of their veils, a gradation of color so composed,
so balanced, that they are enclosed in steadfast love,
even as we speak.
My childhood backyard contained two rows of apple trees for a total of eight, which seemed to me to be the vestiges of an orchard. I always wondered what happened to the rest of the trees; I always saw them in my peripheral vision, and I was enchanted by their symmetry and grace. I was therefore quite taken with this story from the New York Times, in which a woman puts an orchard back together again on a literal level.