424 Readings


 A man finds an apple in an empty field,
no tree for miles, only fescue, ankle-high,
yellowed with sun and drought. He holds
the green fruit to his face, smells its tart musk,
feels on his lips the skin’s fine grit,
the heat of evenings trapped in its meat.
He thinks of the quince trees he dreamed
under as a boy, stacking the pale fruit,
bulbous, splotched, hard as river rock,
into fragrant pyramids he could topple
with a finger, how he spent whole summers
calculating their paths as they spilled
like seed across the patchy ryegrass.
He remembers the first tooth he lost to one,
a quince, when he first tried for a bite,
remembers the small tearing sound,
the acid taste of blood and fruit, the shock
and then the cool relief as his gasp drew
wind across the wound. But there are no
children in the field, and this sun is nothing
good to dream under, so the man decides
to go on his way. At first he places the apple
like an egg back on its bed of grass,
but then he sees the peel’s faint freckles,
the stunning blackness of the shadow it casts
on the turf. He squats before the apple,
lays hands on its warm weight, head bowed,
imagines the bite he would take, feels it sour
in his cheeks. Handful after handful,
he tears the spiny grass from its roots,
parts the soil’s black jaws. He rolls the fruit
into the wrist-deep maw, presses sod
down over it, lies upon it bodily, his ear
to the ground, strains to hear it growing,
to hear the deep shade that will bloom
any moment, any moment, surely it will.
Posted 01/01/12
"Apple" was originally published in American Literary Review, vol. 22.2.
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