All night picking peaches.

I think this poem is about a dream. Do you think so? I wish a few of my dreams might have been transformed into such lush stories, thereby preserved as memories of the occasional nocturnal fantasies that are not best forgotten.

The Leaving

My father said I could not do it,
but all night I picked the peaches.
The orchard was still, the canals ran steadily.
I was a girl then, my chest its own walled garden.
How many ladders to gather an orchard?
I had only one and a long patience with lit hands
and the looking of the stars which moved right through me
the way the water moved through the canals with a voice
that seemed to speak of this moonless gathering
and those who had gathered before me.
I put the peaches in the pond’s cold water,
all night up the ladder and down, all night my hands
twisting fruit as if I were entering a thousand doors,
all night my back a straight road to the sky.
And then out of its own goodness, out
of the far fields of the stars, the morning came,
and inside me was the stillness a bell possesses
just after it has been rung, before the metal
begins to long again for the clapper’s stroke.
The light came over the orchard.
The canals were silver and then were not.
and the pond was–I could see as I laid
the last peach in the water–full of fish and eyes.

~Brigit Pegeen Kelly

Update: I love how M.K. responded by “thrashing” the poem on her blog.

8 thoughts on “All night picking peaches.

  1. That’s a beautiful poem. What a gift of imagery and metaphor she has! It doesn’t strike me as depicting a dream, although the language is certainly hypnotic and leaves the reader in a somewhat dream-like state. I feel the poem is a metaphor — the peach-picking stands for something else, but parts of it are quite real, like the challenging attitude she has toward her father, the exhaustion she feels at the task, the relief when morning comes, the reassessment she does afterward, the realization that she’s been watched each time she tries to place a peach in the pond for “safe-keeping.” I do not know what the girl is remembering doing all night, but IMO it’s not peach picking. I find the poem just faintly disturbing.

    Perhaps I should say — it feels like a cross between Goblin Market and After Apple-Picking (Rossetti and Frost).

    …the title must be quite significant, since it seems to have no obvious connection to the poem’s content. What or who is leaving? Who is being left? It seems the girl is leaving her father — that is the challenge? Perhaps each peach that’s plucked is like the cutting of one of a thousands strings that still connects her to him before she leaves? Speculation, I know.

    Each peach removed is like walking through a door — a leaving.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Oh my! I tend to take poems literally so I think she really did pick peaches all night although I must admit that putting them in the pond is strange.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. It seemed to me that it must be a metaphor for something, but I don’t know what; I really enjoyed the poem. On the other hand, I hope she gathered up those peaches and didn’t leave them to the fish – peaches are straight from Heaven!
    🍑

    Liked by 1 person

  4. But — she says this is a moonless night. She only has the stars’ light.

    And … here are a couple of thoughts just to throw a spanner in the works, as the Brits say. I wondered at the lines about “a long patience” and “lit hands.” A long patience could also be a long game of solitaire. And “light hands” are something in playing bridge. And there’s even such a thing as a “ladder deck” in cards too. Seems unlikely, but why have so many card-related words clustered right there? How is her peach-picking activity like playing cards all night?

    Liked by 1 person

  5. What I thought, as I read this poem, was that her father said she couldn’t do it. My father said that, too, and, of course, it made me do whatever it was he said I could not. And in doing it I became myself: separate in my new experience, separate from the father who did not know me deeply enough to believe I could. But the poem’s imagery strikes me as biblical–the Garden, the Father’s forbidding “I could not do it”, the picking of fruit, the ladders (Jacob’s ladder and wrestling with the angel?), the water running steadily (river of life?), the doors, the bell, the stars (Abraham’s decendents?), the Morning star (which came “out of its own goodness”). The last line about fish and eyes eludes me, though. I can’t grasp its meaning, although there is much about fishing in the Gospels.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I agree with Granny and 1lunalashbrook. I like to read for literal meaning first.

    I found an account of grape-picking at night during hot weather
     http://www.laetitiawine.com/blog/2014/09/why-we-harvest-fruit-at-night
    Maybe it could apply to peaches too. Might even explain the pond:

    “There are many advantages to harvesting at night, . . . we have repeatedly found processes are completed more efficiently when we avoid the heat of the day.

    “But the benefits don’t end there, . . When picked during the 50 degree temperatures, grapes are firmer, making them easier to work with, particularly facilitating de-stemming. . . . If we were to bring in grapes harvested during the heat of the day, much more energy would need to be expended to get them to the optimal temperature to be cold soaked. ”

    * * *

    As for the dream-like quality of the images, all the comments present interesting ideas. I focused on the part of the poem about the stars, the canal water, and “those who had gathered before me.” She felt transported there alone at night, participating in the ancient ritual of harvesting, one with nature and her ancestors. All of our ancestors.

    I don’t know what to make of the last five words, however; nor of the title.

    Liked by 1 person

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