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Garden in Sachsen-Anhalt

Erin Calabria

This July bore so few apricots
            they fell without us noticing
                        and exhaled silver tents of mold
            over the grass
till the rain washed them under

Meanwhile the Zwetschge tree
            that last year broke its highest branches
                        under a weight of plums
creaks low again in the shortening light
            feral fruit beaded with sticky gold
                        wherever worms have burrowed in

The other day my mother told me how
            her grandfather once worked as a chemist here
                        before the war and the bombers came
            and shelled the city to the ground
I told her how we had followed
            chain-link fences fleeced with clematis
                        in the shadow of those abandoned plants

                                    rising huge
                                    and vacant
                                    and almost whole
                                    north along the Elbe

The couple who tended this garden before
            tells us we should slice the hard plums thin
                        and bake them strewn with sugar
over a dough made with yeast
            till they become soft and sweet
                        till they become something else

All this time I’ve just wanted to know so badly
            how long you can carry the pulse
                        of another time zone in the blood
counter rhythm like a pair of metronomes
            slowly untwinning their knocks
                        as if to re-sound again and again
there is always some other place to go back to
            as if to run a rip current
                        against the irreversible drain of hours

In spring
            at the end of the line
                        on Kastanienstraße
            in a housing estate crosshatched
with empty clotheslines
            a friend let fall
                        falafel in a crackling pot
            and on his shelf saved
two chocolate Santa Clauses wrapped in foil

He said
                        they are waiting for my children
he said
                        but they do not come

Outside the chestnuts bloomed like torches
            in this place where so many now
                        can name the countries they have seen
                                    in the order they walked across them

This afternoon I stooped
            under the plum tree’s curling leaves and spoke
                        the crowded consonants that meant
            not so many mothertongues ago:
of Damascus

I tossed what fruit had rotted
            into bushes at the garden’s edge
                        the blue skin sagged and stippled orange with fungi
            throbbing a vascular heat that startled
even through to gloved hands

and drew them tight to the ground
            in case they might catch
                        some vanishing point
                                    of sunlight already spent.

space break

Mourning of Crows

winter evenings now they gather
            on rooftops and in the trees
                        flapping darkly or sitting plump
                                    and still like bird-shaped fruit

meanwhile I stay perched in that morning
            we’d forgotten to turn the clocks back
                        when I woke in your brother’s old room
            surrounded by stacks of books
and curtains flossed in cold March light

it was too early and too late all at once
            like all your photographs
                        like the fan of tabs I keep unfurling
            towards the ghost your mother says she is glad
you left on the internet

crows they say will keen
            and wake their dead
                        if only to signal threat
            if only to witness a thing
they cannot know and still be

at daybreak I watch them take off in a cloud
            soaring high and spooking one another
                        each flight trail a sine curve of mischief and joy
            each wingbeat a shape
I pretend to capture

against so much daylight
            no longer saved
                        a distance now marked
                                    with my living.

Erin Calabria grew up in rural Western Massachusetts and currently lives in Magdeburg, Germany. Her writing was nominated for Best of the Net 2015 and selected as a winner for The Best Small Fictions 2017. You can read more of her work in Third Point Press, Atlas and Alice, Five 2 One Magazine, and other places, or find her on Twitter @Erin_Calabria.