Today we had 12 participants from a variety of locations, many of whom had been with us for 4 or more sessions and one newcomer. We started out by having two people read through our text for close reading, the poem “The Woman Who Turned Down a Date with a Cherry Farmer” by Aimee Nezhukumatathil, posted below. We purposely left the title out of the text so as not to give away the intent of the narrative and to allow our participants to explore it through their own lens. The first respondent found the final paragraph confusing, wondering what the implication was of the statement “couldn’t hurt to try”? Did this relate to a potential future encounter – to “try” what exactly? Then another person was intrigued with what the author might find so regrettable; what was this “terrible mistake”? Then the discussion shifted to the possibilities. A flirtatious woman, who tried but was rejected and the man responding with sarcasm or perhaps the author was wishing she’d made a bigger effort to engage with him. So much of the language was sensual that the ideas of summer fruit, red and juicy made it clear there was a sexual tension underlying this simple walk through the cherry orchard. Cherries, as metaphor implying virginal ripeness. And it was also observed that the narrator was not stated to be a woman, even a man could have a ponytail. Was there an age or class difference that created a barrier to this encounter moving forward? The farmer is described with such detail – his pants and boots as well as his gestures expressed with close intimacy, “his hands thick but careful, nimble enough to pull fruit from his trees without tearing the thin skin; the cherry dust and fingerprints on his eyeglasses.” Perhaps she was too forward and he retreated to his “stacking of jars” in order to distance the emotional and physical energy. We concluded with a discussion of the recognition that Summer (with a capital S) is the time when things come to fruition and that the last word in the poem “jubilee” means a season of celebration.
The writing prompt – “Write about a time you gave it a try” – continued the theme of opportunities missed and opportunities taken. Love affairs, perhaps taken up in the moment, were written about. Also the passage of time was represented metaphorically by one’s jeans, and clothing as fear and anxiety to be taken off and hung up. One piece was about running a marathon in the heat and humidity of September after healing from a heart attack. This part ended with the thought of “what will we remember when we’re dying?” Perhaps it will be the chances we took as well as regrets for opportunities not taken.
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"The Woman Who Turned Down a Date with a Cherry Farmer" by Aimee Nezhukumatathil Fredonia, NY Of course I regret it. I mean there I was under umbrellas of fruit so red they had to be borne of Summer, and no other season. Flip-flops and fishhooks. Ice cubes made of lemonade and sprigs of mint to slip in blue glasses of tea. I was dusty, my ponytail all askew and the tips of my fingers ran, of course, red from the fruitwounds of cherries I plunked into my bucket and still—he must have seen some small bit of loveliness in walking his orchard with me. He pointed out which trees were sweetest, which ones bore double seeds—puffing out the flesh and oh the surprise on your tongue with two tiny stones (a twin spit), making a small gun of your mouth. Did I mention my favorite color is red? His jeans were worn and twisty around the tops of his boot; his hands thick but careful, nimble enough to pull fruit from his trees without tearing the thin skin; the cherry dust and fingerprints on his eyeglasses. I just know when he stuffed his hands in his pockets, said Okay. Couldn't hurt to try? and shuffled back to his roadside stand to arrange his jelly jars and stacks of buckets, I had made a terrible mistake. I just know my summer would've been full of pies, tartlets, turnovers—so much jubilee.