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  • Jørn Earl Otte

"The Season's First Fruits"




The season’s first fruits

When I think of an apple,

I think of the way the Canadian

geese would land by the dozens

in my grandparents’ yard,

and of the flock's bravery in withstanding the charging knight.

My grandfather astride his noble, rumbling,

smoke-bellowing dragon, giant straw hat atop his brown bald head,

his waving arm a spear, his battle cry, "Git."

The apple tree in the center of my grandparents' expansive field

stood like a sentinel over its own sour green droppings.

The geese, like archers, flung their large beaks

at the unsuspecting worms,

whose village was the rotted cores and softened skins

of these pungent fruits, gifts from the god of the warped and scraggly old tree.

That tree still stands -- ancient, ugly, unapologetic, unafraid.

The large and lovely pear tree, which guarded my grandparents' house,

once gave forth its glossy, yellow, bell-shaped fruit in abundance

for Grannie’s cakes and the jars filling the cupboard,

until the day lightning struck.

Sitting in my grandparents' living room,

we felt it, like an ancient Israelite terrified at the voice of the Almighty.

My brother and I rushed to the dining room

window, just in time to see and hear

the crack, long and loud and painful,

like our own bones were being broken

by God, slowly and deliberately for unknown sins.

It fell, split in two, as arms open in pleading prayer.

My brother stared at the tree, and wept.

Three days later,

my grandfather used a backhoe to hoist

the trunk and roots and remnants from the ground.

I will never forget the many days my brother and I climbed that tree,

nor the singular day when,

at last,

all you could see in its place was brown grass.

In my own yard now, I eat large ripe red apples,

pears in abundance, but none of either come from where they used to.


Tomorrow, I plan to visit gravesites, and lay apple seeds in a row:

my grannie, my gramps, my brother, my dad, and my mom,

and I will say a silent prayer -- for the birds to eat my offerings.


My grandparents left me an inheritance

of patience and respect,

that I often forget belong to me,

and fail to use.


Today, I use them.

I sit, eat, and think

to myself, as I bite down on this apple in my hand,

how really lucky I am

to be enjoying this fruit

while remembering anything at all.


The juice dribbles down

my chin. I write a list of things

I hope to buy soon at the farmer’s market.

Pears, apples, cucumbers, wild onions.

Seeds for trees I may never see mature.

Seeds for a garden I hope to plant.

Baskets of possibilities.

Baskets and baskets of memories.



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