The night I ate that peach
was thick with summer rainstorm.
If anyone was out in the street
under my window
they had cat-feet and no breath.

The peach was the only prize fruit
in a basket of organic castoffs—
all weedy with stems and bug-bit skins,
leaves covering their prettiest sides.
I snuck it from the kitchen,
and half-drank its sweetness down.
The bared pit, like a skeletal beech-leaf,
gleamed brown as a nut,
not a bed of arsenic.

I cleaned it off in the bathroom sink,
with a fresh toothbrush.
Put it on a saucer on my desk,
under the windowsill,
where it sat for some time.
I oiled it, sometimes, when it grew dry.
As I wrestled with college papers,
I taught it to curse with me.

On a supply of nothing but baby oil
and a window view,
the pit cracked open and sprouted—
a child with black eyes
taking up too much of its head.

I was very drunk when I came home
and found him.
The baby looked at me without blinking,
greenish arms curled in against him,
like the twin leaves of a peach.
“Damn!” he repeated
when I threw up beside him,
in my wastepaper bin.

The next morning,
the pit was still cracked open,
(his tiny arms couldn’t do that
—did his head butt it apart?)
I spent too long hunting
in the corners of my room, in my underwear,
for what I’d seen in the street-lamp dark.

“Taro,” I told the gone peach-baby,
“You’re a better man than me,
leaving home like this.”

The halves still lie apart, on their saucer,
like the crudest Fabergé carving.
They stay dead under the window,
and I forget to leave them oiled,
dried to nothing but the pit of a peach.

image015Bethany Powell imagines this poem happens in Tokyo, which makes it gritty and exciting, as opposed to her country hometown Yonezawa. She has mangled the story of Momotarou for her own purposes. Other poetry inspired by nostalgia for Japan or her confinement to darkest Oklahoma can be found via bethanypowell.com.

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