By Alan Berecka

Ken Hada’s place sits squarely
in the middle of nowhere, so
he wonders how it is an older couple
knew to climb his fence and find
the tree and its dark orange fruit.
He writes the question into a poem,
one of my favorites, and leaves
the reader without an answer.

Today I listened to Ken read the poem
on his podcast, and the answer came
easily as the aroma of persimmon pie
wafting through an autumn aired kitchen.
For the couple and the tree were old
and Ken was new to that piece of land.
Memories of the autumn days of my youth
spent with my father drift towards me as we
hunted on the lands of unknown farmers
hunted with wicker baskets and paring knives,
hunted for the scent of death, the smell of moss
and decaying pine that pointed out mushrooms
the kind our women folk washed and boiled
to fold into stews and garnish T-bones with.

We never gave a thought to ownership
as we crossed barbed wire fence after
barb wire fence, in the middle of nowhere,
feeling no danger, except that time
a Holstein bull appeared in a meadow
and began to paw the ground and snort.
We abandoned the mushrooms
and sprinted toward a fence, laughing
like idiots once we rolled to safety.
We burnt the best foraging spots
deep into our brains, spots unmapped
uncharted years before a GPS
could help us return to those mother
lodes of mushrooms year after year.

Alan Berecka resides in Sinton, Texas. He earns his keep as a librarian at Del Mar College in Corpus Christi. His work has appeared in such places as American Literary Review, Texas Review and The Christian Century. He has authored three chapbooks, and four full collections. In 2017, he was named the first poet laureate of Corpus Christi, and served in the post until 2019.

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