Under the Mulberry Tree

By Sam Ambler



When I was seven,

I took the hand

of my boyfriend Bobby

and led him

under the mulberry tree.

I asked him there

to marry me

and when he said yes

I kissed him

on the lips,

shaking with joy

and delight

in the unspoken forbidden.

My first boy kiss.


When I was seventeen,

I was depressed.

I lay silently

one grey winter day

under the mulberry tree

gazing up

into nothingness

through bleak

empty branches.

I stayed there

when it began to rain,

stayed all night long

hoping to freeze

or to drown.


When I was thirty-seven,

I awoke

under the mulberry tree

from the long haze

that engulfed me

after I dove

into the bottle

when my mother passed

from this life

into the beyond.

Dried red juice

from the mulberries

stained my skin

in rivulets of tears.


When I was fifty-seven,

I turned inward

toward the voice

I could hear most clear

under the mulberry tree.

When I made myself

still,

I felt the boundaries

of my self grow

dancing to the colored

crystal song

of Spirit

leading me toward joy.

The quiet kiss of God.


When I am seventy-seven,

I will rejoice

under the mulberry tree

in half a life

spent with one man,

my heart-love,

my husband,

my trial and my reprieve,

my nonpareil,

my beloved Ed.

Together

we have walked

well-tended garden paths

and grimy city streets.


When I am eighty-seven

(or maybe some years more),

and my time comes

to join the host

on the other side,

take my body,

this vessel I have loved,

and burn it

down to ash,

crush the bones

into silky silt,

the human sand,

and scatter what’s left of me

under the mulberry tree.




Sam Ambler’s writing has been published in Christopher Street, The James White Review, City Lights Review Number 2, Nixes Mate Review, and Visitant, among others. He won the San Francisco Bay Guardian’s 6th Annual Poetry Contest.


He earned a BA in English, specializing in creative writing of poetry, from Stanford University. He delivered singing telegrams and sang with the Temescal Gay Men’s Chorus in Berkeley and the Pacific Chamber Singers in San Francisco. He has worked in nonprofit theater at Berkeley Rep, Geffen Playhouse, Actors’ Equity, and The Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts. Now retired, he lives in California with his husband, visual artist Edward L. Rubin.