In his dishevelled garden my neighbour
Has fourteen varieties of apples,
Fourteen trees his wife put in as seedlings
Because, being sick, she wanted something
Different to do (different from being sick).
In winter she ordered catalogues, pored
Over subtleties of mouth-feel and touch:
Tart and sweet and crisp; waxy, smooth
And rough. Spring planted an orchard,
Spring projected summers
Of green and yellow-streaked, orange, red,
Rusty, round, worm-holed, lopsided;
Nothing supermarket flawless, nothing imperishable.
Gardens grow backwards and forwards
In the mind; in the driest season, flowers.
Of the original fourteen, five trees
Grow street-side, outside the hedge.
To their branches my neighbour, a retired
Statistician, has clothes-pegged
Slips of paper, white pocket handkerchiefs
Embroidered with the words:
The apples are not ripe, please don’t pick them.
Kids had an apple fight last week.
In September, when the apples ripen,
Neighbours are welcome to pick them, even
Those rare Arkansas Blacks that spill over
The hedge. Yes, I may gather the windfalls.
Mostly it’s squirrels that throw them down.
Squirrels are wasteful. Squirrels don’t read
Messages a widower posts in trees.
(The New Yorker, 22 April 2019)
The earth mother forms
Of this chalky shell
Belong to a sea snail
I pulled from debris
Upchucked by a tide
On my shoreline of memory:
Littered with logs storms
Rip from booms
Southering to sawmills
I touch the too-solid
Finger the elegant
The voluptuous interior
Of this empty house
A nudge will set rocking
(Times Literary Supplement, 29 May 2019)
Airstrike hits wedding party—breaking news
The empty laundry basket
fills with molecules of light.
She stands beside it, arms falling
into the aftermath of the task.
Gesture is a proto-language
researchers say: the same circuits
light the brain when a chimp
signals help me please (hand
outstretched, palm up) as when
human beings process speech.
In the cave the hunter figure
mirrors his spear’s trajectory
towards the deer it will never,
of course, attain. The woman
sees nothing untoward. Her body
bars the spattered something
in the middle distance, though all
of this is right up close: the shed
they’ll use to dress the meat, the plane
geometry of white sheets
on a line. The world is beautiful,
she thinks, or feels, as deer
sense something coming
and move out of range. Beautiful,
the woman thinks, and lifts
the laundry basket to her arms—
beautiful, and orderly.
(The Forward Book of Poetry 2013 and White Sheets, CB editions, 2012)