“An apple a day keeps the doctors away.”
I taught you that, I with my basket full of radiant sweetness,
Sweetness I couldn’t share with you;
Sweetness only for Odin and the Aesir,
Njord and his kin.
How can I explain it?
My love gave me no children,
Not over all the long years,
And so the ardor I would have lavished on daughters and sons
Instead went to the gnarled trees and their shining fruit.
I wept over every wind-broken bough,
Every squirrel-gnawed orb,
Every leaf blighted with rust.
A mother raises up her sons and sends them off,
To a king’s hall to serve, and sometimes to die in battle;
Daughters she raises to serve another way,
And sometimes, they too die, bringing forth their own children
In bloody battle with themselves.
My children I carried close to my heart,
The basket I bore them in carved of ashwood–
Clean and smooth, holding no hidden taint within
To rot that precious treasure.
Each shining globe I take down from the branches that bear it
Only when its time has come, ripe and succulent and ready to fall
With the feather-kiss of the southern breeze.
I nurture the trees as best I can, bringing water and the fertilizer made by Odin’s mount,
And trimming away the branches of any other trees nearby
That would grow too broad and encroach upon their domain,
Shutting out Sunna’s brightness.
But no matter how much I love them,
How I tend them, how long I carry them,
Eventually the time comes
When I, too, must watch my children die;
Worse, I myself give them over to their murderers,
Pressing each smooth-skinned babe
Into the knotted hands of their killers,
And watching, unblinking, as they lift the apples to their mouths
And bite deep.
When the slaughter is finished,
I once again return to the orchard,
And with my own tears water the trees that will once again–
When next summer comes, bright and beautiful–
Entrust their children to me, their betrayer,
[Poet and novelist Jennifer Lawrence just released her first poetry collection, Listening For Their Voices, as well as two novels, Fire on the Mountain and Black Pinions. All three are available through Lulu.]