Reading a poem about bowls of fruit, my mind keeps veering into memories. Resisting them fails. I stop rereading the poem and attend to my thoughts. Thoughts of a friend whose life ended a dozen years ago. The many letters we exchanged. Helping him, on death row, plan his funeral. The knowledge of what led him there. The bewildering futility of trying to reconcile this man with that violent act. Testifying at his final hearing watched by a woman who once loved him. Cringing at her raw and complicated pain. The brutal details of how her mother died. His last words to me an hour before the execution. Standing outside the prison on that cold February night with his mother, his sister, his nine-year-old daughter around whose shoulders I wrapped a blanket as he was quietly killed inside. What does any of this have to do with these lines?—"The strawberries in the wooden bowls / are half-covered with curdled milk."
*Arthur Sze’s poem “Strawberries in Wooden Bowls”