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Prairie Schooner 80.3 (2006) 115-116
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Quinces, and: And the crow makes wing to the rooky wood
Elizabeth Biller Chapman
QuincesNearby, the water blue and on it a white pelican swims
fishing Charleston Slough. Does that connect to the Bay?
My friend is impatient because I haven't read today's Times
naming the Nobel Prize writer: "That really is not nice."
I do not apologize. I do not even care to
apologize. My hair is growing back. Her hair is growing back, thicker.
She's taken me to lunch – our salads still a streak of summer, fresh
mozzarella and tomatoes and basil, plates piled with greens –
at the shoreline. We're surviving in our different ways while the pure
pelican is dipping and dipping in his deep lagoon
a righting instinct, and his portly self, "immense" Sibley's bird guide said.
I tell Helen, "I'm obsessed with quinces this week,"
seeing the world in a quince light. She smiles, "You remind me.
Alex loves them and when they are soft enough, eats them raw.
In Russia my mother would put them with another fruit.
Blackcurrants, which will not grow here, too hot."
Quinces are in the market, fragrant, knobbed like breasts.
I take three and add two pears, following Jane Grigson's rule: [End Page 115]For a rosy compote, peel, core, and boil up the panful of debris
and stir it till it turns a good, rich red. . . .
And cook the pieces till they soften, as I remember –
at my godmother's old house, Long Roof,
my baby daughter asleep under the medlar tree, the first
summer just ending – her quince shape fruit of Aphrodite –
picked without blemish in a ruff of silver down.
And the crow makes wing to the rooky woodWings of moss, the fabric of this place where
lambs toward evening chew upon their damp green
grasses till each ewe's distinctive call, then
butt under the belly to nurse. Mother –
A sparrow hurls his dawn song at our wall.
Those droplet fingers I nuzzled, your linen
shroud, all becoming mossed – only for an
hour or so at a time can I feel whole.
What thrift, this tide incoming among lined
limpets whose pale blue circles are left behind.
A sand like honeycomb: presence and absence
from me, and she moved through the fair. Listen –
Will you hear field-blackbirds? The way they dance,
tap with their feet – pretending they are rain.
Notes: The title is from Shakespeare's Macbeth, III, iii, 51. For "Wings of moss" I am indebted to a line from Frederico García Lorca's poem "Gacela del Niño Muerto": 'Los muertos llevan alas de musgo.'