A peach tree in the orchard at Beit Ayoub in Kayfoun, Lebanon. Summer, 2003


There is fruit on the tree outside
and a growing excitement
as I wait to taste
its ripe cherries and apricots,
peaches warm and heavy
in the hands of my father’s father,
their fragrance sweet on the air.
I wait

until Jido, with his golden cane,
presses his way in
slippers over crumbs of dirt.
His goal: the bent branches,
the life half buried
in dry earth
we will water next Tuesday.

Not yet, not yet
maybe one more week

he squints into the sun
nods — certain
he knows this land,
its claim on me
also ripening slowly.
This dirt grew his children.

But I am impatient.
I look at the peaches
red and firm
in some spots beginning
to soften.
The cherries are bright.
The apricots – yellow and fragrant.
I don’t understand
how to wait.

I was raised on fruit plucked
fresh from grocery bins
hard but round
and colorful
and waxed.

To my hungry eyes,
the cherries are perfection
even if they were watered
by the blood of war
their roots mingling
with the bodies
of my ancestors.

When no one is looking
I break the crimson drops
from pliant branches
I hush the whispering
palming my prizes.
I eat the cherries
without washing first.

They burst with sour juices
spotting my lips red
Jido waves frantic arms
curving air to shape words
across our language barrier

I chew the fruits
knowing there is danger in it.
If there is death,
it is my legacy.
I want to carry it inside me
back to my other country
along with the cries
I will suppress for home.


This poem was contributed by Shawna Ayoub Ainslie. Shawna is a writer, writing instructor and coach in Bloomington, IN. She writes on issues of race, place and survivorship. She also edits this blog with her cousin, Shareen. You can find more of her work on her website, The Honeyed Quill.