For eighty years it stood
At the far end of our garden,
Three dead arms and one good one
Knuckles thick and joints gnarled,
Bark-hard touch like working palms.
Doing what it did
With all it had:
One branch of blossom,
One string of buds.
And the little apples
When we bit.
DAVID MANDERSON | Apple | Giffnock, Glasgow
Or should we ask – what was it before it became one?
Our old apple was the kindest thing, a spirit who kept watch, made us things, showed us how to fix things, coax them back to life. Always it stood above us, shielding, protecting. Giving and loving because that was what it did, what gave it its life.
So what will we make of it now that it’s old? Now that it’s gone to seed. Now that it needs cut down.
A thousand things. All given at once, without stint. The bark, the fruit and the wood hand themselves over. Offer themselves.
Say, use me.
Bowls polished on a lathe, smoothed and rubbed clean. A shine in the grain like mirrors. Trays, polished rounds, boards for chopping, soft carvings.
Light wooden finger-rings. Hard shapes like fruit. Clock cases, chests of drawers, cabinets. Picture frames, kitchens, flooring, plywood, crates.
It offers every bit of itself: the outer bark for fevers, the inner for stomach pains. Pulped leaves for poultices to draw out nettlerash, inflammations, wasps’ stings. A wash swirled in the mouth for bleeding gums. A dark tea for diarrhea. Sap brushed lightly on the eyelids to make new mornings clear.
Oils for smoothing and creaming, soap that coats the skin. Shampoo with an apple tang. Vinegar that thins the blood, lightens arthritis, cures hoarseness, laryngitis, voices caught in our throats.
Wood chips that smoke and flavour, seep and soak through meat, juice in the bacon, tang in the fat, the sticky mouthful. Scent that spreads, cloaks, clings: slow sweet drift in the air.
And the fruit: stewed with sugar for treats, soured at night for constipation. Applesauce for baby food, with cinnamon, potato pancakes, toast, roast pork. Cider that trickles slow, fills the throat, swells the chest, fills with cheers, drowns out the heat.
Apple bark and leaves crumbled in tobacco, for the scent, the richness: with a pinch of chamomile and crushed clove. Blow it out and suck it back. Eat the smoke.
Apple chips trod to mulch, squelching moistly under feet.
The apple between Eve’s thighs, stuck in Adam’s throat. The snake that slithers, the skin that shrinks. Knowledge we lust for, thirst for.
Then run from, crimson, ashamed.