The trees had stopped fruiting years ago,
the orchard reduced, home by home.
My tree was the third one in back, husked
to this patch of land that shouldered
the island’s reach into the lake below.
I’d found it at age seven. A running start
to grab the lowest branch with both hands,
swing, then hoist myself up. An easy scramble
to the highest niche. I’d unwrap a sandwich,
pull out my notebook. From there, I could watch
the sailboats kite across the lake, spy
on the neighbors as they barbecued, disappear
into the leaves. Leave my sisters to wonder
if I’d run away with the ice cream man.
I can’t tell you
how the lies have piled up
like driftwood after a winter storm,
how I clamber over each log, steady
myself with an outstretched arm
before slipping onto the beach,
how the clear water magnifies
bleached clamshells splayed and split,
how they look like half moons, reflected over
and over until the seabed’s a horizon on Jupiter,
how I long to fill my pockets with shells,
as when we were children, to sell on
our drive’s end for pennies,
how our pockets emptied sand, spilled
across the bathroom floor, wet with toe prints.
We buried it deep this time. Deeper
than the babysitter’s bra, our brother’s
Matchbox cars, the ugly photo of me
in glasses and flood pants taken at Long Beach.
We boxed it up last night, the whole
messy story written in disappearing ink
on papyrus, folded into quarters, shoved
into an envelope, stamped with red sealing wax.
We dug all the way to China, with our bare hands.
Dirt under our nails, the tell tale.