The white peaches announce themselves on the kitchen counter,
quick scent flinting alight the worm-eaten dawn,
the clean-edged note almost mineral, so unlike
the vague, pulpy yellow of girlhood:
the backyard peach tree bowed down with too much
sun-bruised fruit, wasped and sickly soft, until
the August before fifth grade a branch split
and had to be tied with a rope like a sling.
The girl next door, whose brothers hid dirty magazines
under her mattress, would sit swinging on the rope
even though my mother had said No.
I’d squint up through the rotting yellow glare
heavy with sugar ripening, heady with not telling.
Sometimes she kicked at me to Go away! or stayed there
past dinnertime, until her mother hollered across the fence.
When she skinned her knee coming down, we watched
together the blood bloom a hundred tiny points
like a hidden flower, like fire.
My family moved away that winter and she wrote to me
once, about her twelfth birthday party, and once more,
years later, to say that she was better.
And perhaps because I hadn’t known that she had
not been well, because all that time I’ d understood
nothing of her wounds, her reckless swearing and
untold absences, I cannot now stomach
the hot, close perfume of yellow peaches,
the yielding, honey-acrid core,
wishing as I do for her, too late,
something different, anything.