Talk about pitch.  The ground shines with it, the air is thick with sweetness.  You loved this at six, hard to remember.  Now you long to be back in your apartment reading Rilke and eating toast, maple syrup sitting harmless Aunt Jemima in your fridge.

But here you are, grey sky above you, Heidi the German Shepherd your only company in the trees.  Dad’s rubber boots (too old for yellow Dickies, now) chafe the soles of your feet.  You step closer to the tree and hold the blue bucket out, watch as sticky ooze slides down and collects like an offering, Jesus, Mary, Buddha, anyone who cares.  Your nails scrape the bucket – they are long now, only because you’ve been too busy to gnaw them away.  This is, as you told your husband, a different kind of worry.

Seventy-six trees in this orchard, only it’s not an orchard, not really, because you’ve come to collect blood instead of gifts.  Another memory:  December, maple syrup drizzled on snow.   Swinging your legs over the side of the back porch with Davy Gillens on your left, the both of you taking turns with the ladle, syrup hot and then cooling on the drift, taste like crunchy sugar.

Davy Gillens has been dead now for almost twenty years.  A hit-and-run, that, his torso in one ditch and legs in another.  Closed casket funeral and a church filled with grieving seventeen-year olds, for once shocked into silence and respectable clothing.  You had pride-of-place with Davy’s mother and aunt, so no one said anything about your outfit.  Dress red red red and the flowers in your hair white like paper, clothing that even you, truthfully, didn’t understand.


Tonight, you will make candy for your father.  Maple candy, mashed potatoes, creamed


corn and pasta in sauce, smooth pulp sliding from tongue to throat to esophagus, another kind of


offering.  You will feed him spoonfuls of syrup and catch the dribbles on his chin with the brisk


air of a nurse.  When you talk, you will tell him about Davy, about playing doctor behind the


barn when you were ten.  His eyebrows will go up but he will smile, and when you tell him again


about the flowers in your hair he will pat your hand like you are Heidi.  Good girl, the only


words left to either of you.



-- Amanda Leduc