Have we ever done anything else?
Mouse nest in the cooler:
you lifted the mother by her tail
with her babies clinging–
never mind the traps we always set–
and carried her safe to the long grass.
Boxes sorted, stacked on the wagon.
Our usual jokes: how many times?
Don’t count, you’ll be sorry.
Once more, the tractor smell.
Then apples again: Akane, HoneyCrisp,
Keepsake, Jonagold. No MacIntosh now.
No Empire, Cortland. Nothing common.
Those trees with their first bad crop
of scab: unpruned, unmowed,
their last year with roots, with leaves.
The backside of the orchard,
where the house will be.
The old ache across the shoulders,
tall ladder clanging every time
you lift it, every time you change.
Burst of goldfinches, first snowgeese,
sunlight on the raven’s wing.
I wrote this in 2004, the last year I worked at the orchard.