My Mother's Pears
Plump, green-gold, Worcester's pride,
transported through autumn skies,
in a box marked HANDLE WITH CARE
sleep eighteen Bartlett pears,
hand-picked and polished and packed
for deposit at my door,
each in its crinkled nest
with a stub of stem attached
and a single bright leaf like a flag.
A smaller than usual crop,
but still enough to share with me,
as always at harvest time.
Those strangers are my friends
whose kindness blessed the house
my mother built at the edge of town
beyond the last trolley-stop
when the century was young, and she
proposed, for her children's sake,
to marry again, not knowing how soon
the windows would grow dark,
and the velvet drapes come down.
Rubble accumulates in the yard,
workmen are hammering on the roof,
I am standing knee-deep in dirt
with a shovel in my hand.
Mother has wrapped a kerchief round her head,
her glasses glint in the sun.
When my sisters appear on the scene,
gangly and softly tittering,
she waves them back into the house
to fetch us pails of water,
and they skip out of our sight
in their matching middy blouses.
I summon up all my strength
to set the pear tree in the ground,
unwinding its burlap shroud.
It is taller than I. "Make room
for the roots!" my mother cries,
"Dig, the hole deeper."
There is something about this poem. I always want to cry.
It is the mastery of Stanley Kunitz and the poignancy of those pears.