I have eaten
the plums
that were in
the icebox

and which
you were probably
saving
for breakfast

Forgive me
they were delicious
so sweet
and so cold

Copyright © 1962 by William Carlos Williams. Used with permission of New Directions Publishing Corporation. All rights reserved. No part of this poem may be reproduced in any form without the written consent of the publisher.

They’re Santa Rosas, crimson, touched by blue,
with slightly mottled skin and amber flesh,
transparently proposing by their hue
the splendor of an August morning, fresh

but ruddy, ripening toward fall.—“So sweet,
so cold,” the poet said; but this one’s tart,
its sunny glow perfected in deceit,
as emulation of a cunning heart.

I eat it anyway, until the pit
alone remains, with scattered drops of juice,
such sour trophies proving nature’s wit:
appearances and real in fragile truce.

Reprinted by permission of Louisiana State University Press from Range of Light by Catharine Savage Brosman. Copyright © 2007 by Catharine Savage Brosman.

I’d make a plum cake when she died,
a lamentation grief-bake, Kaddish through blood-recipe,
all of its colors shrieking at me; a sweet take on her love.
I gaze at the street. Tree branches out front are tangled,
my floor is slanted, my house-cage is so small and dark
for all the summits, slopes, and swamps of feeling.

I am not to be purple-plum-decided in any still-life of grief
or reminiscence, no waferlike religious feeling, never—
she will never be human again. I knew I wouldn’t make it.

Italian plums are sweetest. I should find them in a market
when days are longer; fruit-of-aging, gift-of-goodness.
A friend who lost a friend and made the cake said plum
six times in one paragraph, so full of yearning are our phrases.
Snow-bright is her hair on the bed, knobby knuckle-skin
folded on her chest. She’d be delighted to celebrate her death.

I love that, she’d say happily about the plum-cake wake.
Plums pooled around the cake-slab in the photograph,
bloody and marvellous. Skylight took her in. I couldn’t make it.

Copyright © 2021 by Diane Mehta. This poem originally appeared in The New Yorker (July 5, 2021). Used with the permission of the author.

the ears lie but claim
the eyes lie or perhaps the body
either way the world is a ship
I call it “vestibular unease”
as I glance smartly over my glasses
motionsick in my stationary body
the fancy word just means
I live on a yellow submarine
not quite as glamorous as it sounds

you should be able to sink
your heels pleasurably into the floor
enjoy the solidity of the world
reality is not supposed to have give
like an overripe plum
I prefer wooden floors to marble
but even plastic laminate is okay
it keeps you upright and springy
I refuse to live on a ship/plum
I have no navigatory skills
and I don’t want to be the stone
inside gooey fruitflesh
straight horizons should be
mandated by law
don’t make the world turn wrinkly
like my fingers after bathing
I crave stability but
refuse to be the stone

Copyright © 2023 by Maija Haavisto. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on July 17, 2023, by the Academy of American Poets. 

Boyfriend snoring 
On the yoga mat

Who are you smooching
In the underworld?

*

He says you eat batshit
I say I love plums   plums    plums

*

No, I am not
Lonely
Denial is a river in Egypt

*

The bell rings
    Buddha
Wagging his tail

*

Hair flowing past my ass
White roots
Tincture of Autumn

*

Revolutions are bloody
Young militants
Sipping Frappuccino

*

Stone by stone
Democracy crumbling into
A race war

*

I am not exceptional
I am green

*

Two red ants
Licking up my calf
Not now, little sisters

*

Don’t say we are nothing
Year after year
The pear tree blossoms

From “Lock Down Impromptku” by Marilyn Chin. Copyright © 2021 by Marilyn Chin. Used with the permission of the poet.

Nahr al-Bared, 2007

After a night of mortar fire,
in the first light, her father drags

a hose across his yard, to water
the plum saplings he planted

last month. Half a world away,
crepe myrtles outside her home

blaze, impotent red blooms.
When she phones, he will talk

only about the plums, how
sweet they will taste, sliced

and salted, on his favorite plate. 

“Revolution” from Showtime at the Ministry of Lost Causes by Cheryl Dumesnil, © 2016. Reprinted by permission of the University of Pittsburgh Press. 

That bastard sun rises again, dissolving
the only good dream I’ve had all year.

My waking mind feels for hope, blind
reach for eyeglasses on the nightstand

or an oxygen regulator fallen
from my mouth to the ocean floor.

Across town, my friend can’t lift her head
off her pillow, the chemo eating her

platelets and maybe the tumor, while
in my kitchen, the coffee timer clicks on,

French Roast draining into the carafe.
On the news, a Somali mother searches

tree bark for emaciated insects: You see,
even the bugs are starving. Dear world,

what good can you offer? The finches’ 
red-breasted tune, these strawberries

grown fat around dimpled gold seeds?
My son, she brushes dust from his lips,

he keeps asking for a donut. Just a nibble
of a donut. I don’t know what to say.

“Good Morning Heartache” from Showtime at the Ministry of Lost Causes by Cheryl Dumesnil, © 2016. Reprinted by permission of the University of Pittsburgh Press. 

If light pours like water
into the kitchen where I sway
with my tired children,

if the rug beneath us
is woven with tough flowers,
and the yellow bowl on the table

rests with the sweet heft 
of fruit, the sun-warmed plums, 
if my body curves over the babies, 

and if I am singing,
then loneliness has lost its shape,
and this quiet is only quiet.

From Haywire by Rachel Contreni Flynn. Copyright © 2009 by Rachel Contreni Flynn. Used by permission of Bright Hill Press. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

   What thoughts I have of you tonight, Walt Whitman, for I
walked down the sidestreets under the trees with a headache self-
conscious looking at the full moon.
   In my hungry fatigue, and shopping for images, I went into the
neon fruit supermarket, dreaming of your enumerations!
   What peaches and what penumbras! Whole families shopping
at night! Aisles full of husbands! Wives in the avocados, babies in
the tomatoes!—and you, García Lorca, what were you doing
down by the watermelons?

   I saw you, Walt Whitman, childless, lonely old grubber, poking
among the meats in the refrigerator and eyeing the grocery boys.
   I heard you asking questions of each: Who killed the pork
chops? What price bananas? Are you my Angel?
   I wandered in and out of the brilliant stacks of cans following
you, and followed in my imagination by the store detective.
   We strode down the open corridors together in our solitary
fancy tasting artichokes, possessing every frozen delicacy, and
never passing the cashier.

   Where are we going, Walt Whitman? The doors close in a hour.
Which way does your beard point tonight?
    (I touch your book and dream of our odyssey in the 
supermarket and feel absurd.)
   Will we walk all night through solitary streets? The trees add
shade to shade, lights out in the houses, we’ll both be lonely.
   Will we stroll dreaming of the lost America of love past blue
automobiles in driveways, home to our silent cottage?
   Ah, dear father, graybeard, lonely old courage-teacher, what
America did you have when Charon quit poling his ferry and you
got out on a smoking bank and stood watching the boat disappear
on the black waters of Lethe?

—Berkeley, 1955

From Collected Poems 1947–1980 by Allen Ginsberg, published by Harper & Row. Copyright © 1984 by Allen Ginsberg. Used with permission.

A wine crate for a nightstand, and on it, a rose
gone bad in a cup. Its water

a swallow of shadow, murk of rot
and sugar. Clothes sloughed, bodiless, and half-

eaten on a plate,
a plum in its juice. At the center

of the scene: a woman on a mattress
on the floor. Her arms cast out

as if preparing to fly
or as if pinned, savior

or specimen. Still asleep.
Day breaking through the window

a warm leak.
The woman in its spotlight

like a halo. As if something holy,
or at least chosen.

From Deluge (Copper Canyon Press, 2020). Copyright © 2020 by Leila Chatti. Reprinted with the permission of The Permissions Company, Inc., on behalf of Copper Canyon Press.