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The Parable of the Pear Tree

by Mary Frances King

The old pear tree died last winter
After a half century of productive years,
Four generations of laughter and tears
Harvested and preserved.

For years after the farm was deserted
For fortunes sought in the city,
We, the heirs, returned to share the pears
With the cows and birds.

Standing on hickory block steps
Once my grandmother stood,
Apron wrapped round her toil-strengthened arms,
Devouring the beauty of the pear tree in blossom.
It was the first thing
In the spring to bloom,
The last thing in the fall to relinquish its fruit.

Its strength endured for generations.
In my mother's day
Beauty was scarce
Those hard, lean years,
And many were the fears
Then of flood and drought
That could and often did completely wipe out
A whole year of toil.

But the old pear tree persevered,
Dropping its fruit without fail
Most times in abundance,
Sometimes scarce, but always there.

It is now spring as I walk
On the soft new grass
And gaze at the old gnarled trunk for the last time.
No new shoots reach heavenward,
Bearing sweet snow blossoms.
No bees swarm round;
Only one lone jaybird perches on a rotting limb
And gives life.

The tree is gone,
Gone with my grandparents, my parents.
Now my grandson and I stand hand in hand
And gaze across the land
That has endured
Long before my grandparents,
Before my parents, before me,
Even before the old pear tree!

But within the earth beneath our feet,
I can feel life surge.
I know it's there.
Other pear trees will grow,
Just as sturdy
Just as fair!

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