August in the Apple Orchard


From the Archive

Charles-François Daubigny, Orchard, 1865–69.

George Bradley’s poem “August in the Apple Orchard” appeared in our Summer 1980 issue. Bradley’s most recent collection is 2011’s A Few of Her Secrets.

It seems someone else was interested in order, too—
The squat trees edging away down the slope
In wavy lines like rivulets—but wasn’t very good at it,
And left you to make the best of the result.
But you can’t very well tear up Uncle Jack’s half-acre
On a whim, and besides, the view isn’t unattractive,
Just arbitrary.

So you are sleepy and looking through branches at the sky
When a few birds fly in from the next field
And start singing a sad old song you have heard before,
Like the woman’s voice out of a second story window
Singing, “Am I Blue?” Things are no better off next door.
The sun is setting now behind a hill, and if you could squint
Enough, maybe it would look, red and round,
Like another apple.

You wonder which person you think of first, seeing apples:
Newton, or your dumpy Sunday-school teacher, who said
It wasn’t necessarily an apple, probably a fig.
Now the crisis is coming again, the ripeness-gravity vectors
Are about to intersect. Any day, several men in shirtsleeves
Will climb little ladders and take pride in turning
All the bruised fruit into mush.

If you could just let well enough alone, it would all get by
In its own haphazard manner, each apple making its own
Thud, and the birds pecking at the soft, sticky stuff.
If you could leave it alone, the trees would stump around
The hillside, waving at each other and shrugging
The gnarled growth of their limbs—moving casually
In the twilight, under a pale sky.