I need two different varieties, if I want plums. The tags on the saplings are clear. They need sunlight, and daily watering until roots are established, and variety. It warns against buying trees alone. Fruit trees, it would seem, are not solitary creatures. Without companions, they will not bear fruit. Without companions, their roots won’t whisper through the soil or send messages through fungi, long scientific words for what we always should have known. The plums need to be different. The apple trees need to be different. An heirloom variety, skin deep black and flesh crisp, and a newer breed, cheaper, faster growing. Two types of pears. One Asian, round and crisp; one European, softer. They grow stronger together. There’s a metaphor there, but it seems too obvious to point out. I plant peach trees. Pits saved from the best fruit last summer. The basket came from a farmer by the roadside. The juice dripped down our chins and arms, stained our sweaty t-shirts. What we didn’t eat before reaching home, we baked in cobbler so buttery it melted on our tongues. The seeds spent winter in our fridge, pushed behind almond milk cartons and cabbages, overwintering, they call it, hardening, feeling just enough cold to know to grow when we plant in early spring, reimagining our suburban yard into an orchard, season by season.
Keri Withington is an educator, vegan, and pandemic gardener. Her poems have appeared in numerous journals and anthologies, including The Wild Word and Blue Fifth Review. She has published two chapbooks: Constellations of Freckles (Dancing Girl Press) and Beckoning from the Waves (Plan B Press). Withington lives with her husband, three children, and four fur babies in the Appalachian foothills. You can find her in Zoom classes for Pellissippi State Community College, trying to turn her yard into an orchard, or on FB (@KeriWithingtonWriter).