We bought it in the supermarket,
that flap-ended flexing limb of wood,
believing ourselves its liberators,
like blacked-up intruders who release
laboratory rats, setting off for home,
the thing stretched over the back seat
a tree in name alone, a patient
in the ambulance the car had become,
the city we passed through a landscape now
of concrete and steel, towers of glass
blankly watching as we blazed past.
At home we unwrapped and washed it slowly,
put it in a tub the kids packed
with compost, twigs and sympathetic magic —
a plastic soldier, some candies, small stones —
stroking the few wan leaves. Inside a week
new shoots appeared, a lifeless knot
puckered, stuck its tongue out, broke
into white flower. We laughed at our luck:
the dream of fruit, so far from Eden.
And when that first apple at last appeared
from behind a leaf — the first and last
as it transpired, like an only child —
it was as though the sun had singled out
our small back yard, that one dull tub
and sickly tree for special favour,
a starring role in the experiment of life.
From The Next Life (Dedalus Press, 2012).
Used with the author’s permission.