This poem is taken from Stand 218, 16(2) May - June 2018.

Maggie Freeman The Mulberry Tree
Underneath the mulberry tree, the fruit has fallen. Dark red, and rotting, some fruits split open and spattered by the black beaks of crows. Smell the sweetness, the decay as you walk by on the pavement.

Up through the tree’s spreading branches grow the strong stems of a climbing rose, hooked with thorns. September now, so no blossoms on it, but in the early summer it weighed heavy with cups of clear pink petals. The last of them are now long since fallen.

Marie carried a bouquet of those roses at her June wedding. Megan wrapped the stalks around with foil and white ribbon, but still a thorn pricked Marie’s thumb. ‘Oh, look,’ she said to David at her side. ‘Blood.’ A round drop of it, welling to the surface of her skin. She hated it, that blot on the day’s perfection, and in her haste to be rid of it she wiped it on her skirt. You can see the mark of it in the photos, there, see, that dark spot there on the white lace of her gown.

In this photo on Megan’s mantelpiece you can see how the stain spread.

As the thing within David did. Marie cradled his head on her lap, she sang to him. They drew the curtains against the ticking by of each day and lay together on the sofa in the half-dark, her couched against his belly, the two of them hiccupping with laughter as they watched old films.
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