Spring Tree Picking
By Brenda Ethridge Ferguson
April 15, 2023
April 15, 2023
In June, the grandsons arrive, fresh
from another school year, clamoring
for their grandfather’s attention.
“Let’s go tree picking,” the younger one says,
our grandchildren’s parlance for the mulberry harvest.
Grandad strides importantly to the tree,
hangs one hand above his brow and surveys
the great, green-laced branches
opened like a bumbershoot well-practiced at warding off
pandemic monsoons of recent springs,
monsoons that divided soul and spirit, child and cognate.
In buoyant mood, he teases the boys,
says they must be cautious, make sure
the tree doesn’t lift upward with Mary Poppins
hanging from its trunk.
When Grandad goes for a ladder and buckets,
the boys do not wait to pull the sun-kissed
berries from low limbs, filling their hands and mouths.
Mulberry blood oozes down their chins. They wipe their
hands on a sleeve, then an arm, and across their
faces, but Grandad is not new to this game,
returning with bubbles and rags.
He will need to scrub them later before
they bring their bounty into the kitchen, removing
stains with the tenderness of nurses he watched
through plate-glass windows clean the blood from each boy at birth.
But human blood, the claret of generations,
cannot truly be rubbed away; instead,
it thickens like mulberry jelly in a grandmother’s cupboard,
and love’s labor seals it against ruin.
Brenda Ethridge Ferguson—an Army wife, English teacher, librarian, and writer—now lives on a cattle ranch in Central Texas with her husband. She has a MA in English/Creative Studies and a MS in Library Science. Brenda’s poetry often addresses familial relationships or longings for social connection. Her articles, stories, and book reviews have appeared in such publications as Wee Wisdom, Family (The Magazine for Military Families), and Library Media Connection. She has a children’s chapter book forthcoming from Pelican Publishing. You can follow Brenda’s blog titled Story Mill Ranch at www.storymillranch.com.