Peach Stand

by Karen Paul Holmes

The deep-rooted farmer sits

on a folding chair next

to his fruit stand;

Wolfpen Ridge peaks

through clouds behind him.

Peach slices slip

into a white enameled bowl

with chipped red rim.

Juice drips down wrists.

He beckons with knife,

holds out a generous wedge,

“Tell me if this ain’t the best

thing you ever et.” 

Yes. Wet, ripe,

like the honeyed sunset

blooming over Lake Chatuge.

He picks out

an unblemished dozen for me

moving speckled hands

from baskets to brown bag.

I pay inside and start to leave

but the farmer beckons again,

presents another piece.

In these Blue Ridge valleys,

peach stands dot summer highways.

But I only stop for his,

somehow consistent

through drought and rain.

When Atlanta calls me back

each August end,

I buy as many as I can use;

two weeks of pies, sorbet,

or cut fresh atop Greek yogurt.

I rely on the old man’s stand

for three summers.

Then one season, a

young man

sits in the folding chair, smiles

when I guess he’s the grandson.

The next year, the stand’s gone.

I test other peaches along GA 76

or from the back of a rusty truck

parked weekends at the hardware

but often bite into bland,

mealy disappointment.

When lucky, my tongue

swims in sweet juice

basks in that certain spice—

a peach equal

to the old man’s delight.  

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