Monday, November 4, 2013

Ode to a Black Walnut

well, not an ode, really
just a paean of praise
to that uniquely american
taste – robust says wiki
that probably says it best

the experts say to husk
when green but we always
waited til the husks
blackened laid out
on newspapers in the 
garage where it was
cool and dark

picking up from the ground
sometimes we’d husk
them on the spot
and child me luxuriated
in the brown stain that
proved me a worker
for weeks and weeks
beyond the single trek
into the woods that
was walnut time

with peanut butter fudge
chocolate ice cream
chocolate chip cookies

the english walnuts
give texture but precious
little flavor

but oh the black walnut
how it bites on the tongue
like the best Scotch 
if Scotch came in a hard
shell encased in a soft husk
the sensation sharp and clear
they taste of fall

I miss Don
he took me to all the special
places here for nuts fresh-fallen
introducing me along the way
as we trespassed by invitation-only
for Don, who walked every 
square inch of this place he could
and shared with novices like me
the eager teacher in him finding
the eager student in me

but without Don’s entre 
and lacking the skill or tools
of a good cracker, I buy
mine now from the old
ladies – somehow they’re 
the best crackers – I wonder if
it’s to do with patience?

And they too become part of the 
fall-scape – along with the 
nuts on the ground so tempting
I want to pull my car over
and pick them up from the road

and the wallers made by bears
luxuriating in the early berries
long moved on now towards
winter leaving behind the
evidence of their joy

black bears and blackened leaves
and black walnuts, now that Don
is here no more, all bespeak
fall to me 
for although Don left us in summer
it is right somehow that his Gloria
left in the fall
for that is where he would be waiting
a few nuts in his pockets and a 
smile on his face