The Origin of Cherries2 min read

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By Nancy Kang
Published in 16.4


The Origin of Cherries

The Bing cherry was named after Ah Bing, Chinese foreman in 1870s Oregon.

In the photograph he looks small, taut
like a dead magpie that lies on a cool stone walkway.
There is no scolding curse lodged, seed-like, at his throat
but the beaded eyes? They speak of visitors. Ah Bing
is more than six feet tall
stalk thin, pale in darkness
a mountain-root man, unearthed from wet soil,
secret as the moon, with spilled ink for hair, greasy.

His expression tells of a man who can see
the migration of spider mites,
each an ambulant bead of blood
meandering up a dewed stem
and pause, smiling at this
savagely tender order of things
before applying the death spray

Orchard mornings seem chilly, rheumatic
the brothers clap hands as if applauding themselves
before the hours drop down like ripe fruit
limbs turn mechanical, cotton tongued
and the face aches for hot steam
it is the curved light that resides at the bottom of every cup
like the bath before dinner which is most welcome, as numbing
as mint or camphor or the memory of lost women

Bing’s face is smooth, the jawbones
sloped obstetric like the cherries’ sweet bulge
he stands beside his horse Nettie
with its white blaze face, as if gunpowder or chalk-dust
blew suddenly into its eyes, gently frosting the lashes;
both man and horse champing on sticks,
sweating salt on a dark coat, a foamy stain
their god is movement, deferred rest, stillness

The men tend the rows, nourish with dung and water and crouching pats
watching for the stubble-rumble of moles’ hills,
the busy fury of ants, little legions of pin-leg aphids
that swarm the new-bound wounds of the twigs they grafted
the night-side of their palms, loosening and tightening.
Bing’s cherries are the blood which wells from a deep cut
That feeds an ocean that separates men from China
Clutching one fistful of soil from the land that left
And the land that leaves him, streaming through his fingers onto gentle clo
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