Two Apples

 

1.


I remember eating an apple when I was young

like most people remember their first kiss.

Red Delicious. Wine red. Red

                                                       and cut

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

                                                           the crescent

to my lips, and then lifting another crescent,

then another. Upstairs, by the banister, the rails

before my face like prison bars,

                                                          I ate

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

                                                              apple flower

but the roses we have bred to be monstrous

with petals, a child born with eight or ten

fingers on each hand, waving them

                                                                  nervously

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.

 

2.

 

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

                                                    even longer.

3.

 

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.


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