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‘Apple picking’

Into the midnight of an apple tree,
Arms aching over a crackle of ribs,
I lift my son. He twists the fruit gently

And breaks the stalk, shaking the withered twigs;
I stoop as a rain of ripe shadows come down
And the apple drops from his opened fist.

It rolls among others on the wet ground,
Settling half-in, half-out of the cloudlight.
My mother inspects it with a wry frown,

She stares at him; then takes a wicked bite.
Their feet pound down the hazel avenue,
His gleeful fury putting her to flight.

The tunnel’s other end is blocked from view
My father, arms akimbo, leaps and roars
They shriek and scatter, chase and are pursued.

She’s left the gleaming apple on the floor.
I raise it to my lips; it’s skin still warm
From theirs, wreathed in the scent of windfall.

The first bite is sharp and bitter as thorns,
Then over the tongue flows the needlessly
Sweet flood, the rainbow ploughed into the storm.



Mark Asquith grew up in Moscow and Kiev and currently lives and work in London.

“I wrote this poem on Helen Mort’s Poetry and the Brain online course. One assignment asked us to describe a particular type of movement. I thought this form would be best at reflecting the chain of actions involved and the family linkages. A friend had been going on about the Russian toast ‘Sladka and Gorka!’ (bitter and sweet) and this found its way in alongside some perhaps inevitable (given the subject) allegory of fall, flood and redemption. These patterns seem as true to me of everyday moods as they do of anything larger.

I walked past the tree the next day and was surprised by how charged the space had become. It didn’t feel like there was a disconnect between the poem and the place as there is in so many of my failed poems. Which was great.”


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