Sleetmagazine.com

Volume 12 • Number 2 • Fall - Winter 2020

Lucia Cherciu

Prayer for an Apricot Tree

The apricot tree deliberates whether to come back to life
or not. A dormant tree shipped across the country in June.

In Romanian, apricots are feminine, grapes masculine,
and apples neuter. Gender is a matter of language.

Every morning when I water the apricot tree, I check to see
if a green leaf has broken. Abiding respect for trees that return.

Even the roots were trimmed down, bare. The chance journey
of trees that travel from a nursery across the country.

Does the tree learn the name of the person who planted it?
Recognize my voice? The warning of things that burn.

The floorboards in the living room. My chair, the window sill.
Are they still alive? Do they still remember?

The triumph of an apricot tree that takes. I ordered it online,
and it has a one-year warranty, but I would have to ship it back

if it dies and I don’t see myself going to the post office
with a packed dead stick. Shipping back a dead tree.

He’s not dead, and I’m not sending him back. I remember
all the trees my father planted. He picked apricots,

laid them out on the table in the good room and saved them for us
when we went home. The longest it’s been since I didn’t go home

is three years. Last year my daughter didn’t want to go to Romania.
This year is Covid and the whole world is learning to pray.

In two months, since we moved to this new house,
we have planted eleven fruit trees, including two figs.

Slowly, our garden is coming alive. Slowly, I learn to open
the gifts passed down to me. Slowly, I learn to share the fruit.

Socially-Distanced June

Rain in the garden: paradise. I have placed
enough chairs in the love garden
so welcome spirits can linger and lounge,
relax and listen, maybe try the sweet peas.

Think of someone you should have slept with
when you were young. But you didn’t.
Rain is like that. Keep the phone away
in another room. Sadness seeps in

through the charger: if you tiptoe around the house
and unplug every device, rain will wash away
the malaise. Rain is like eating eclairs
without the eclairs. Like news without the farce.

Rain is like having enough food in the house
on a Saturday afternoon, socially distanced
from the rest of the world, none of us
zonked out in front of Netflix. Tablets

abandoned. Yesterday, instead of mulch,
I laid down last week’s newspaper around the tomatoes.
As I covered the front page with old maple leaves,
I spotted another story about a sixteen-year old
murdered downtown, body cameras off.

My Sister and I Bought the First Books in Our House

What if our destiny was decided by how many books
we had in our house when we started to read?

When I was twelve and my sister fourteen, we each
bought the same book: Barefoot by Zaharia Stancu,

which cost twenty lei. With that money each of us
could have bought ten bags of caramele

or eight eclairs, but we wanted to own
our own books. When we went away to college

neither of us took those books. Now my mom
could read Barefoot by Zaharia Stancu

to her heart’s content: she could underline in one
and keep the other copy clean. Well, nobody

read Barefoot because it turned out the author
sold out to communists, even though

that novel was not half bad. I remember
the episode in the wheat field

where a woman gave birth to twins
and her mother-in-law cut the umbilical cord with a scythe

in the scorching July heat. Growing up,
we bought the first books in our house,

spent more money on books than on dresses.
Maybe I should have bought some sandals

instead of some of those stilted,
stultifying communist books.

Lucia Cherciu is the author of five books of poetry, including Train Ride to Bucharest (Sheep Meadow Press, 2017), which was the winner of the Eugene Paul Nassar Poetry Prize. Her work was nominated three times for a Pushcart Prize and twice for Best of the Net. Her web page is https://luciacherciu.webs.com. Currently, she is looking for an agent for her novel.