On the first night of winter, I did dream
of snaking branches sprawled with waxy leaves
and bowed under the weight of fat red cherries.
From that moment
my heart knew no rest.
On the advice of ghosts
I devoured a bowl of ten thousand cherries
heaped blazing high
and still bleeding wet with rainwater
sucking flesh from each
as sweet and tart as vindication
until my fingers were jiggling grubs
too well-fed to make a fist.
these newly made limbs
their bright, twitching muscles
But I pressed foreign fingers through the snow
the dirt beneath
inserted these cherry pits
filled to the brim with poison
as small and hard as baby teeth
From the moment the first sprouts rose
and hungry for what lay under the soil
they refused to be forgotten.
My saplings called to the monsters
who came to devour:
glowing-eyed rabbits and snaggle-fanged deer
and parliaments of magpies
until there was one sapling left.
I loved it, so I named it Mine.
Mine grew fast and always hungry
like the desperate buzz of dragonflies
until the bones deep within the earth
progenitors of this stolen land
had dissolved like frost under rain
And still, Mine’s need throbbed through its branches
begging to be slaked.
I am a good mother
And so I kneeled
and buried my flopping dinner—
In the morning, I awoke to Mine’s first cherries
swelling between its limbs
And when I dug my fingers into the loam above this fresh grave
they were met by root-tendrils
that had expertly picked flesh from bone.
From then on, I cooked
but did not eat.
At Mine’s base, I set my meals
my pots of soup and stew and rice
my loaves of bread, my sweetmeats, my pickles
And bowl after bowl of fresh cherries.
After each night of digestion
Mine’s fruits grew
until they were fine, brilliant things
plump and shining like fresh blood.
One day, I descended from Mine’s boughs
And found myself face to face with three foxes.
They had sensed Mine’s hunger
And now they were hungry, too
For fruit or bark or flesh.
But I would not give up these cherries
For they were mine and Mine’s.
At the last knuckle of my pointer finger
I snipped with pruning shears.
I threw the end at their snapping jaws
sure that would be the end of it.
By morning, the foxes were legion
Smacking their lips
Unveiling their teeth
“We have tasted blood,” they said
“And you must share with us,” they said
And I cut for them the meat of my forearm
The backs of my knees
Segments of each of my deflated grub-fingers.
When the foxes were finally sated
I covered Mine’s crown with nets
To ward from bird and beast.
And before I slept
curled around Mine’s trunk like a serpent
I snapped off a branch
and sucked its moisture until it was as dry as goose down.
Like any good mother,
I grafted my own arm in its place.
When the foxes horded close
saying, “We have tasted blood,”
saying, “And you must share with us,”
I lit the branch and waved it ferociously.
The skulk backed up but did not leave.
“We have tasted blood,” they cried
and I did not answer.
“You must share with us,” they howled
and I did not answer.
They slunk away at nightfall’s first breath
as the searing flames reached my remaining hand.
In the morning, only one fox returned
“You have tasted blood,” it said
“And I will share with you.”
I shook my head.
“I want nothing of what you have to give,” I said
“I am well provided for,” I said
and with a burned, crackling finger
I touched a cherry through the net
its flesh as firm and wet as gums
“Is that so?”
The fox sat
its russet fur gleaming gold.
“While you slept, I buried a thing in the night.”
It nosed aside the loam at Mine’s base
And there I found a fingernail.
From its jagged edge
I knew it to be mine
“Look upon your cherries now,” said the fox
And so I did.
Once fat and plump and red
now shriveled like a fingerprint
They hung quietly
and yet still hungry
for now having tasted me
Mine could want nothing else
and I loved Mine more for it
would feed it all that was mine.
The fox grew restless.
“I will share with you,” it whined
even as I kneeled
to dig my grave with my remaining hand
even as my mouth filled with the taste
of cherries, sweet and tart.
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