Friday, November 8, 2013

Michael Van Walleghen: "The Long Continuous Line"

When eating fruit, think of the person who planted the tree.

                                                      —Vietnamese Proverb 

When I was nine my grandpa gave me an apple tree
in his orchard   This one is yours   he said
It breathes the same air as you and me   Every time
you touch a tree you become part of the story of the earth
I didn’t know what it meant to own a tree
There was something overwhelming about a gift
that belonged to the earth   but I loved that tree
and the past into which it has gone   The nurturing
fragrance of apple blossoms   bees wild with delight
my touch-and-know of branches blessed by wind
and rain    moon and sun   My tree   My very own tree
giving its fruit without me even asking    Grandpa
and me sitting in the grass   leaning against my tree
listening to the rustling murmur of leaves   watching
a flock of geese measuring the sky   distant sounds
that could be words   I loved the quiet unfolding
between us    each of us taking a bite into the sweet
sacrament of an apple   its tight red skin
hugging a generous white heart   and tucked inside
a little star-house of seeds   The only smell better than
those first white blossoms was the autumn tumble
of windfalls    the warm smell of pie baking
in grandma’s oven and applesauce spiced with cinnamon
I knew that tree   the whole taste of it   and all of its
luminous gifts like seeds in my pocket   So much gets
lost in the echoes and loneliness of memory
our hunger for roots   our need for steadiness    the promise
of tomorrow   Even now when I hold the round red
universe of an apple in the palm of my hand   I can still
lean against that apple tree and the man who planted it

"The Long Continuous Line," by Michael Van Walleghen, from In the Black Window: New and Selected Poems. © University of Illinois Press, 2004.

Photography credit: Detail of a photo found at this link (originally color).


1 comment :

  1. One of my all-time favorite poets. I have all his books, and I treasure them.


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