Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Apples and gifts from the sky

Years ago when I was studying Spanish, the teacher asked us to describe our favorite fruit.It was one of those typical language exercises.  A German girl praised apples - their crispness, the satisfying texture and their taste .  It struck me as pedestrian to talk about such a common fruit.  I went on about the sticky sweetness of mangos which at the time were the ultimate in exotic. 
Years later I agree with her.  Apples caused the fall from Eden; in the 15th century William Tell shot one off the head of his son.  Cliches and sayings about apples abound.  I started to appreciate them in Spain where the tasty ones were grown for export but the ones in the shops were mealy and dry.  Golden delicious were ubiquitous and Granny Smiths were just starting to be imported.
   Now, an apple is a welcome gift from my refugee students,possibly my favorite since an apple embodies appreciation and utility all at once.  In Varysburg, I stand among the gnarled neglected apple trees on the edge of our farmland and remember a line from a poem - "all flavors of red."  The trees still produce small imperfect specimans in abundance.  This is in return for nothing that I provide (well, I could function as a vehicle for transporting seeds but I have ignored this orchard for decades).  In this world there are still gifts that fall from the sky.


No strangers appear in that life
and we are the crazy Russians
on the hill,
enough to deliver us
from the rural town-
gas station, hotel, store in pairs.
Here in safety
golden fruit,
perfectly formed,
droops in bounty.
Blossoms brush my window,
daylight hypnotizes a hawk
hiding in the branches.
Apple trees provide
pink blush, green, all flavors of red.
And goldfish last
slumbering through long winters
in the pond,
where today
my uncle reflects sunlight,
imagining his cold gray sea.
The children of angels now,
my mother wears a dark blue suit,
instead of apron and headscarf.
We fly over the mountaintops of Crete
and lunch on city walkways
My father reappears as general
and still brings shivers.

There on the hill we tangoed
to the record player
after clearing fields of rocks.


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