How to Tell an Old Man He Can’t Climb a Tree – Brooke Schifano

In June, I fly across the country to the yellow house, the lemon
trees heavy with fruit just over the fence: fists of orange,

heads of grapefruit, and tangerine with their easy white
peels in spirals at my feet. The picker leaves splinters marooned

in my palms as I harpoon the handle and angle the iron
cage around the fruit, set the metal teeth to the new-green

stem, and pull. I climb farther up the tree, up its old wood
knobs and around its thorny arms, angling myself toward the citrus

hanging over the neighbor’s roof. Papa says he’ll get a ladder, steel
himself up, over the fence, jump onto the neighbor’s shiny

new gutters, and pick them all quick and easy, he says, bright-
eyed below me. He keeps catching, though, as I drop distracting shades

of orange and yellow into hands as sturdy and dirt-stained
as they’ve always been, as intact as instinct: let no ripe lemon

go to waste. He built the planters, planted the trees, watched them green
taller and fuller, watched them flower, fruit, branch full-yellowed

year after year over that big fence, but soon he’ll forget the ladder, blur
his steel resolve, and he’ll look at the sky again, up at me, thorn-scratched red

and stinging—his eyes reflecting a vast blue, blank space.

B SchifanoBrooke Schifano is a poetry MFA candidate at UMass Boston. Her poetry has appeared most recently in Mortar Magazine, and she’s served previously as a poetry editor for Breakwater Review and Fourteen Hills. She currently lives in Boston with her small cat and her human.