Winter 2006-7

Fredrick Zydek


Dear Uncle Stanley: I looked for that little dirt road that once led
to the orchard next to the hillside pasture surprised when I found it
blacktopped and named. The old house was still there but so
thoroughly pushed into the twenty-first century it looked newly built.

To my amazement, five deer were feasting on fallen apples just
the way we caught them the summer you came home from college
to help out on the farm. (Dad pulled a rifle out from behind the seat
and shot one right between the eyes without so much as slowing down.

We used venison in our sausage that year.) Most of the trees were
still intact but the old split-log fence was gone as well as the wooden
steps that led up and o them. Blackberry bushes had taken out
a few of the trees, slowed them up and strangled them the way

snakes deal with field mice, but in the main and except for the fact
that no one manicured the lawn between them, the trees of the orchard
looked much the same. The granvenstiens were spindly as old women
and that Macintosh tree you loved so much didn't have an apple on it

that wasn't full of worm holes, but the Italian plum tree, the one
which Grandma used to make stewed prunes, plum preserves and
plum pudding, held morsels of fruit as perfect as youth itself. I was
just about to bite into one, to allow its juices to remind me of old times,

when a man in a pickup pulled up and yelled at me for being on his land.
When I told him my name and how often I had picked these trees when
I was a boy, he told me he had never heard of my clan and that if I didn't
get off his land, he would call the police and see to it that I was removed.

Fredrick Zydek, poetry editor of Lone Willow Press, taught creative writing and theology for many years at UNO and College of Saint Mary in Nebraska. He's had five collections of poetry published, including Songs from the  Quinault Valley, which won the Sarah Foley O'Loughlen Literary Award. His work has appeared in Antioch Review, Cimmaron Review, New England Review, Nimrod, Poetry, Prairie Schooner, Yankee and others




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