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Words As Wild Apples
by
Timothy Walsh


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Beneath thin red skin
is soft white flesh, both tart and sweet.
Locked within sleep tomorrow’s trees.
Round like worlds, clustered like galaxies­
cut them sideways to see stars within.
 
They hang in thousands through this thicket,
this old abandoned orchard
some forgotten homesteader dreamed
into life and left to run rampant
across this sloping ridge.
 
A dozen storm-bent parent trees still live­
Gravenstein or Spitzenberg, perhaps­
their apples dwarfing the small and twisted fruit
of the countless wild crabs that have sprung
from the orchard apples’ seeds.
 
That is the way of apples, always reverting
to wilder strains, no two entirely alike,
since apples are, like us, not true to seed.
 
Down the road, the neat and grafted groves
proclaim the sure profit of convention.
A sunburnt orchard man scythes back
the creeping progress of the thicket
against his trim and measured rows.
 
If you listen, he’ll explain the virtues
of grafting, of removing all sky-bound limbs,
warning that it is far easier to make a thicket
of a grove than a grove of a thicket.
But somewhere in his bones, he knows
the unknown in apples sleeps
within a few black kernels,
while from grafting nothing new can come.
 
If this alphabet were a clutch of seeds,
this page a new-turned soil, imagine
what might burst wild as spring seedlings
upon some fallow slope of the mind,
words budding in upland hollows
to bear strange new fruit and fill
our cups with strange dark ciders. . . .
 
Wild apples hang high above our heads.
In them, hear echoes of thunder, resonance
of rain. After sunset, come wander
through the night, and together we shall know
         words as wild apples,
         poems as flowering crabs.
 

From Wild Apples (Parallel Press, 2004).
Used with the author’s permission.

Purchase a framed print of this poem.

Timothy Walsh grew up in New Jersey, but has lived for the past twenty-five years in Wisconsin. His poems and short stories have appeared widely and his awards include the Grand Prize in the Atlanta Review International Poetry Competition, the Kurt Vonnegut Fiction Prize from North American Review, and the Wisconsin Academy Fiction Prize. He has been featured on Garrison Keillor’s The Writer’s Almanac and has been nominated three times for a Pushcart Prize. He is the author of a book of literary criticism, The Dark Matter of Words: Absence, Unknowing, and Emptiness in Literature (Southern Illinois University Press) and two poetry collections, Wild Apples (Parallel Press), and Blue Lace Colander (Marsh River Editions). Currently an assistant dean at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Timothy’s inspiration comes from always walking, whenever he can, and being on or near the water whenever possible-­canoeing, kayaking, sailing, or sitting by the shore. He also enjoys tending a garden of roses, climbing vines, and fruit trees while the garden tends to him. Learn more about Timothy at http://timothyawalsh.com/.

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New comments are closed for now.
ghctenmile@earthlink.net:
Not only do I like the poem--thanks for it--because it's filled with interest and "strange dark ciders." All the more I like it, too, because it is so true to what we see in our small apple orchard and the cider we press.
Posted 10/19/2011 02:36 PM
patricia sawyer:
this took my breath away...every line was joy. never wanted the poem to end. i will always think of this poem each time i see the "stars" in my apples.
Posted 10/19/2011 10:02 AM
Anne Harding Woodworth:
Beautiful. Just perfect.
Posted 10/19/2011 09:44 AM
updownup:
Wonderful, amazing poem. Thank you.
Posted 10/19/2011 08:49 AM
mimi:
beautiful poem, Timothy...i can almost smell the apples... ~Sharon Auberle
Posted 10/19/2011 07:59 AM
Janet Leahy:
To hear the "echoes of thunder and resonance of rain," that's what I'll listen for the next time I walk through an orchard, wonderful poem, thanks for the drink of "strange dark ciders."
Posted 10/19/2011 07:58 AM
ed werstein:
Excellent poem.
Posted 10/19/2011 07:51 AM


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