The Pear Cellar


My favorite part of grandfather’s house
was when the canning cellar smelled like pear;
no room for mustiness upon the shelves

of mason jars, just balm of dirt and juice.
Outside, he’d swat me if I plucked a piece
of low-hanging fruit too soon, but lift me,

basket in hand, to knock on higher limbs
beyond our grasp. His paring knife in hand,
he sliced one thin with the same motion used

to brush his thumb across my hair, steady.
Brittle and brown, its earthy skin snapping
with juice that ran under my nails, mixing

its sweetness with bark dirt and flakes of sun —
the only thanks I ever offered was
hanging empty pie tins in the garden

to frighten crows. Inside, we’d skin and can,
pouring juice, embalming flesh for spring.
Grandpa died wrapped in white linens, milky

and shriveled like moldy fruit. I saw him
last and whispered thanks at his side, like a
prayer, and thought of his tree surrounded by

his garden. I wonder, why did Jesus
turn to Zacchaeus, perched high atop his
fig tree, yet so vulnerable, bruised, and

low-hanging? He had an eye for ripeness.
When I left, the air was cool and crisp like
rows of carefully preserved jars of pears.