The deep sanguineous red of the neighbor’s Japanese maple
always reminded me of beets.
Not the kind that are formed in the earth and taste of winter
but the tinny ones from a can
their oozing liquid that stained our kitchen counter
and sat on my plate, slowly pushed back and forth with a fork.
Those red leaves were our cradle, under it we learned to
pick marigolds, hide in the Pachysandra terminalis, and sweat while we wrote our names
in the dew of hens and chicks in the stifling heat.
Soft in the breeze those scarlet leaves lasted all summer
from the time we played and counted grass stains on our shorts to when our own
red appeared when we became women.
She would shed the color of beets in late September
when we shed our long lazy days shucking corn, eating ice pops, and drying
on the hot summer pavement
and replace them with the color of bright embers in the fall.
Defiant. Beautiful. Proud.
I can’t tell the age of that beet tree, but each Spring she sprouts her red foliage anew
standing out, making a mark, cut from a different cloth, outshining, extraordinary–
Among the ubiquitous (and stifling) larger and thicker green-leafed trees.