THE FRUIT MEN WON
A black wreath collects flakes of snow for the fruit man.
A black wreath nailed to a door of old wood – while
snow decorates a wreath with white – as a soul of a
Spheres of crystal once frozen - cry from the upstairs
porch, dripping tears as the sun kisses morning –
releasing ice from night – allowing men now and
women to ascend the steps; dressed in black.
A footstep crushes a dead leaves, it’s November.
Women carry trays of food, their heads bent forward,
bowed in prayer, forward to hide emotions, or simply
bowed to step carefully and cursing winter. Women
with naked legs, rolled down stockings, and a black
over coat. A veil hides tears, only God knows.
“God, why have you taken John, a young man, a
husband, a father of three sons?”
A woman stares at the man who climbs stairs as
she listens to the words, shakes her head as if she
too is wondering about God.
“He wasn’t ready for the other side,” speaking to
a man, reaching the top of the stairway.
Men and women cross a sidewalk - see the wreath,
as specs of snow drip from under branches – crying
mourning too for John – the fruit man.
Men and women climb a narrow staircase - smell of
cedar clings to hand sewn drapes covering the top
of a stained glass window; visitors stare out to
Seneca Street then turn to climb four more steps to
the second floor – the mahogany door is open.
Here, others gather to pray, to stare at death, to
observe John sleeping between bow windows,
his parlor, his place to live, now still.
Flowers surround his casket – yet all you hear is
the dripping of water into a bucket, keeping his
Women gather in the kitchen - talk about those
three long days when Nancy hid her tears, her
head laying on a pillow where the words John
stitched with her hands – catches tears.
Her head on the pillow where her husband
was left alone to die – not knowing heaven was
so close – not knowing to stay by his side.
Women talk - pour a bit of espresso, slice hot
bread - Nancy will never know who took up space –
who drank – who ate, or cooked homemade bread?
She won’t recall who hugged her, wiped tears and
tasted salt on her cheeks – who felt her pain.
John – she thought – he never cared about one
gold tooth as it shined catching light when she
laughed, never noticed old worn dingy aprons,
or watched as she twisted clothes like twisting
her hair into a braid. John, never saw pin holes
in her dress where flowers were placed on their
God took her sunlight in the winter of her life,
three sons to raise alone, in a world where
immigrants were frowned upon.
She saw the undertaker drain John’s blood into
their tub on Monday morning – three days he
laid between bow windows, where plants grew
in daylight – his soul left long ago – through
She won't remember friends – how they
carried on, some gawking at the casket,
commenting on his youth, how peaceful he
appeared, asleep between hand sewn drapes
near pictures of his son’s.
She won’t remember friends who washed
dishes, after feeding the hungry, or cleaning
her kitchen – those who remained at her side
a day of two friends who whispered each other
“What will become of them, a mother
and her three sons?”
John, asleep beneath the earth for years -
Nancy walked those twenty blocks to his
resting place in all seasons of the year – to
place flowers from her garden at his headstone.
As age began to take a toll – her feet began
to swell, her hands shake as flowers were
placed at his grave; she never complained . . .
She talked with John, her gold tooth catching
sunlight. On her walk, slower now passing
strangers – nodding hello – still talking to her
husband, promising to meet at heavens gate.
Alone at his resting place is where her tears
fell onto marble, crouched on her knees, on
snow, moist grass, on leaves, on ice –
She prayed aloud - touched his photograph.
John’s friend Ralph – she told him,
"He tried to help – tried to tell why your
life ended - but the Fruit Men went to
Syracuse - Ralph died - so at the end the
Fruit Men won.
Nancy Duci Denofio