Judy Herzl

Apricots in 14 parts



Apricot, mother’s favorite, lilacs too

I said yes to the house she died in

it had both

and that spring they carried me


Apricots: mother’s passion

with delicate orange flesh

the inside of sunshine

the color of wholeness

rooted in what is good



Climbing tree

knees scraping against bark

cats sleeping in branches

then walking across reaching rooftops

where boughs extend in brilliant

cacophony of springtime fruition


slipping out in the dark of night

under its canopy, I’m looking up

moonlight rains through the shape

of branches and leaf and bud becoming fruit

blossoms smell of our becoming

what we are meant to be

interrupted by the wild spring snow

they often do not make it

the inevitable happens

the fruit a rare pleasure



dappled light on a golden wall

sun coming through in patterns

recognizable and familiar

the language of trees

poking their way inside

into that wordless opening of morning




looking out my apartment building window

at the lone tree living in the backyard next door

an anomaly

in a row of apartment buildings

the single family home, a hold-out

that tree, my friend, if only through the window

when they cut it down, I cried

making way for another apartment building that looked just like mine



100 years old or more

apricots the size of peaches

and that one year where we only got two

from a tiny branch closest to the ground

it must have stayed warm enough

to keep those two buds from freezing

in the storm that killed everything else



On the lucky years

we called ourselves filthy rich

in apricots, friends picking on tall ladders

baskets filled with golden fruit wrapped around soft brown pits

exchanging recipes

then making dressing with tarragon and rosemary and fruit smashed

buckets of rotting fruit in all phases of decay

our compost pile rejoicing in a sugar dose



Once a year

the birthday tree holding money with clothes-pins

usually the lower ones made for an easy pick

cards and messages and poems hanging, colored ribbons fluttering in the wind

place of shelter and home

the boy growing alongside the tree




thinking it must be the cat making a thump

we heard in the night during a wet winter storm

eerie beauty

in place of the usual morning greeting

instead branches pressed against the window

in black and white stillness tumbled snow and wood lines




the tree lying on its side

(I don’t understand)

straddling the entire yard

crushing grill and tables

branches punching through the bathroom window

as if to say outside is no longer other



rotting inside the trunk and heavy wet snow

barrenness and unpleasant views into the neighbor’s yard

hearing unnecessary conversations

missing that rumble of branches, birds and cats

all at once in ear’s view

refuge no longer 



huge trunks in a feeble circle

begging for a campfire or storytelling

a husband’s attempt to soothe the loss

around a very young apricot tree

bought by a friend in an attempt to replace

what is irreplaceable



the wood burns slowly

not like pinon or pine

burning softly, not hot, 

it goes and goes

gives and endures

Judy HerzlApricots
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