From perfect tart pink-striped green crisp ripe
to red-orange candle-wax sweet grainy mush
in the time it takes to count one hundred yellow-boxed bushels.
Warming October windrush pushes drops
from the tops in a dither of yellow coin leaf,
soft squash plop sounding low below the rustle swish.
And all along the yellow-brown whispering orchard grass
a windfall river for scavenging mice,
bland-eyed rabbits, furrowing bowing deer.
By the fire-crackle applewood orange red flame
sitting still in the cider barrel applefull house
we hear them under the half-moon gleam, gleaning.
In caves and museums she’s pregnant,
or sitting with a baby hanging from her breast.
Or she’s a giant on a throne,
piles of fruit stacked on her huge thighs.
In shops, among crystals and beads, she’s young:
long-hair, small waist, bare feet.
She wears flowing gowns, flowers in her hair.
By her side a wolf, or a lioness,
over her shoulder a crescent moon.
Even if she’s old, her gray hair flows like water,
she’s slim as a broom, the hands that hold
the cornstalk are smooth and elegant.
She’s always clean.
She doesn’t look like Meg or me.
We wore old sneakers,
baggy jeans that had seen better days,
our sons’ outgrown t-shirts,
baseball caps over our graying hair.
While Rob drove the tractor through the orchard
digging holes in the clay with his long screw,
we followed, planting the slips of trees,
their orange roots wet and coiled, their little buds
ready to break open green.
We kicked dirt into the holes, stamped out
air bubbles, hoed, stamped again.
Our rough hands in their grubby gloves
braced the purple sticks, unlikely babies,
while we circled them, stamping,
in the light spring rain.
~Written in 1999 when I was working in an orchard.