Picking Crabapples

Picking Crabapples

There was a day last September,
still warm and sunny,
when I walked the beach barefoot
and felt the sun romance my shoulders.
Later, my son and I climbed
our apple tree to pick the wild crabapples
and snack on the thumb-sized fruits.
Last year a bear broke off a bough,
but the tree is middle-aged and sturdy enough
to carry on with a large scar and a new shape.
My son dared me to climb higher.
I had one foot braced against the trunk
and the other in a crook,
my legs split and stretched
as I reached higher and further.
Just a few months before, the little nubs
were small, white blooms.
Then they were ripening,
flushed red-orange like rosehips.
It was too early, we knew,
for the little extra nectar maturity provides,
for the flaming red a good frost would bring.
But I was tempted by his playfulness,
and he by the sun.
When we couldn’t reach any higher,
we left the rest for the porcupines.
I didn’t know it then,
but those were his last days of youth.
I did not know that he’d cut his hair
and I would feel the lost weight
like a pressed bruise.
I did not know that the next summer
I’d climb the tree only once,
lonely and not so high,
that the apples from then on
would fall to the ground as
bright red globes in October.
I did not know any of this as we lowered
ourselves to the still green earth,
a bittersweet tartness drying my mouth.

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