Benjamin Scott Grossberg
I remember eating an apple when I was young
like most people remember their first kiss.
Red Delicious. Wine red. Red
before my eyes into slices, splayed like a flower,
as if the apple itself—the thickened petals
of a certain rose—
opened on the plate
to a flesh bloom. I remember the taste
of the first slice in my mouth, the living
cinnamon, my small hand lifting
to my lips, and then lifting another crescent,
then another. Upstairs, by the banister, the rails
before my face like prison bars,
not one apple but two. Or three. More. Not
a flower but a mound, the pile of petals at the foot
of a fallen rose: not a five-petalled
but the roses we have bred to be monstrous
with petals, a child born with eight or ten
fingers on each hand, waving them
in the crib. I ate till I was sick and the three
brothers behind me burst into laughter. Then
they began to fall out over who'd clean it up.
I went fifteen years without eating an apple.
Who else can say that but Eve?
Fifteen years without the hard crunch that now
I prefer above all things, the hardest of apples,
the lifted flesh that leaves a wound
glazed with juice. Even thinking about it now
I feel longing—a chilled Granny Smith,
the tartness to the highest pitch of pleasure
before pleasure turns: the belted note
that would be a scream in any context
other than song. It's been too long
now, when it's been about three days.
And yet once it was fifteen years.
I think of Eve among the crabs and wild
species, after she'd been kicked out-
after we had been. How all fruits
must have been a pleasure to her, a privilege
back then before pesticides, before
supermarkets. Unthinkable: to have to wait
for the fall to enjoy apples. But even then,
in the world's first falls, in the autumnal wealth
of squashes, now big with Abel and holding
the hand of jittery Cain, she must have
looked suspiciously at apple trees, their fruits
clustered with a mysterious tightness
to the branch. Knowledge merely of
how this or that apple tasted she must have
told herself, ignoring the mother's intuition
that if her womb could deliver a body of good,
she already held the hand of evil.
So maybe she went fifteen years like me,
interim informed by both good and evil,
before she stretched her middle-aged bones
to a laden limb, bough bright with half a dozen
apples, and plucked one, and ate.
Would the voice of God boom again
from the heavens, the earth groan deep
in its cavernous womb? Or maybe hers
was another fear: that this was somehow
that other tree, that she'd stumbled unawares
back to the Garden, and so now, after so much life,
would be constrained to live
A man was involved. Tall, thin, English,
late twenties, with long black hair in a pony tail.
He gave me the fruit; I was hungry, so I ate.
I had just met him on Vorhees Lawn
under a row of hundred-year-old oaks,
the manicured lawn with three rows
of oaks, columns in a Greek temple
with a canopy of springtime green.
I was just taking a walk. Tiana dazzled
among the oaks: tall, Nordic, cheekbones
like shields on either side of her face, she
was the Goddess Nike, white victory,
nineteen with round hips and azure eyes.
Tiana saw him and whispered, "I think
he's cute; do you think he's cute?" then
walked up to where he sat against a tree
reading a small book, a moment later
motioning me over with her hand.
I didn't go until she called me, and then
there was no way to politely refuse.
Tiana flirted so easily that soon they were
both flirting, and I was, too. Just
laughing with them. I am not a flirt.
He invited us back to his dorm room,
the three of us on the edge of his bed
for hours: I sat quiet, listening to their chatter
until it was evening, until it was nearly
midnight. And then he asked with his graduate
student boldness if I wanted to spend the night.
He looked directly at me, full eye contact
and a half grin. I don't recall ever saying yes.
Tiana shrugged and lifted herself off the bed.
She collected her things while I was stuttering
to reply. And soon she was gone, passing
soundlessly out of the room, white Goddess
drifting away from mortals, leaving
in silence the three of us: him, me,
and the bright Granny Smith on his desk.
I did see it there, but I would not
have asked for it. It was then that he offered,
picked it up and held it out to me.
And how could I refuse it from his hand?
The next morning, I recall walking home
through the oaks of Vorhees, light filtering
through the canopy, a tiny human dwarfed
in a temple of Gods. I still didn't know
what I had done, or why I had done it,
or why it was that I hadn't done it before.