Apples From a Very Old Orchard

When fall comes, I sometimes walk a long ways
to gather apples in the old orchard by the fort.
Windfall apples from that orchard
taste different somehow.

Older varieties, sure, but there is something else.
They taste of days when everyone drank fermented cider
from a barrel by the door
and swung the wagon wide around boulders in the trail
they called “bosses” or worse, “niggerheads.”

They taste of Esther and Tillie
and homespun and blackstrap molasses
and winter nights when dried apples
were brought up from the cellar
and soaked to make pan dowdy and Christmas pudding.

Dangling in trees pruned so many times
they look like old men
in lumpy sweaters nursing hangovers,
those apples have something quiet to say.
It is something we may need again someday.

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