Ripe Cherries

Judy Belsky

First Earrings

When they grow two-on-a-stem
I dangle them on my ears


My brother puts a stem in his mouth
And knots it with his tongue
No hands

First Fruit

Mr. Bannister
The retired King County Sherriff who looks like Einstein
Lets his cherries rot

Everyday we spy out that tree
No pickers
No takers
No porch lights in the evening.

After dark
Seven boys scale the tree and shake
Little pickers
Scavenge the grass
Fill brown bags

His lights come on
And flood the yard
We fan out fast

We rendezvous in the dark park
And stealth
Flavor those cherries

The next day
On my way home from school
He stops me
Did you raid the tree?
I dare him to find the lie
Hidden between elongated vowels

He peers at me:
You look so innocent
His keys chink
As they turn the lock

He nabs me.
Whenever a phrase perches on a poem
Ripe as Bannister’s cherries
So easy to pilfer
I could pop it in my mouth
Spit it out
Into my line
Who would know?
Bannister scores over it in red
Caught you


I wrap myself in an apron
the one with deep pockets
I secure the ladder
Test it
Climb slowly
On steady feet

In guarded rhythm
Balance, Reach, Pick
Balance, Reach, Pick

I descend
Spill out the cherries
On the white canvas
Discard stones and stems
Hand the cherries
To my aunt
Who washes and pits them
And turns them into preserves.

I cannot eat cherry jam
Those glistening blood-red cherries
Trapped in glass
Drowning in their own syrup.

Second Chance

I take the rake
Pull down the lowest branch
And shake
I stand in red rain
Withstand multiple shocks to my head.
In my mouth
The sweet and sour world bursts open
For the first time
Again and again

Judy Belsky’s memoir Thread of Blue was published by Targum Press in 2002. Chapters from a recently completed memoir, The Passover Scarf, won first place in the 2011 Writers’ Digest Competition. Her poem entitled “Breathing Light” won first place in the 2010 Reuben Rose Competition. She is a psychologist and a visual artist (

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