Apples

APPLES

If you ask a poem who starred in Ghostbusters II or who directed it or who wrote the screenplay, you won’t get a straight answer. It will sit quietly by itself on the far edge of the couch before leaning over to whisper something into the gutter. You’ll be tempted to move close to the poem, push aside whatever punctuation holds it in place, and shout, “What did you say? Do you know who directed Ghostbusters II or not?” The poem will retreat and plead with the other poems for assistance. You’ll end up taking its shoulders and shaking it as though one might a panicky character in the Poseidon Adventure. “Tell me, dammit. Tell me what I want to know! I want to know who directed the movie. I want to know how to install a U-joint in a drain. I want to know if this Kohler cast iron sink is the best product in its price range. I want to know where I can find the best Thai restaurant in Hartford. I want to know where I can find photos of women in red leather dropping feathers on men wearing seersucker suits. I want to know why a fourteen dollars service fee was charged to my account when my minimum balance was clearly within banking parameters.” You’ll be shouting, of course, pressing your thumbs against opposite margins, the paper crinkling under pressure. You’ll think, why am I even asking a poem? You’ll thump a confused finger against the page, saying, “You. Can’t. Tell. Me. What. I. Want. To. Know.” On the last word, your finger comes to rest on the word “apple.” You haven’t been thinking of apples, haven’t eaten an apple since—well, you can’t remember when you last ate an apple. The word apple glows on the page, perhaps catching a little afternoon sunlight coming through the Venetian blinds. And maybe it’s the light conjuring the image of your mother, not the word apple, not something rising from the poem, just the light encasing the apple in a fine bright pool. Your mother used to collect apples from the tree in the yard and simmer them on the stove. They were little and sour and hard and she added scoops of brown sugar from a round tin on the counter. A picture painted on the tin showed a smiling woman holding a pie. While your mother stirred the compote, you would trace the outline of the woman. It was just the three of you. Why do you remember this now? There are many more recent things you’d like to remember, but can’t. You are once again standing on the blue stool and pressing your belly into the counter as you trace a finger over and over the painted woman, back feet belly head, shoulder knee bosom neck, stopping only when your mother pulls the tin close, opens the lid, and pours in fresh brown sugar from a new bag. A clump the size of your thumb lies on top of the pile. What joy it is to let that shimmering nugget dissolve on your tongue. You look to your mother for permission, though you know she’ll say what she always says, “Go ahead sweetie, go ahead.”

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