'Apples'

Grace Schulman was born in 1935. She lives in New York.

Grace Schulman was born in 1935. She lives in New York. Nancy Crampton hide caption

itoggle caption Nancy Crampton

Grace Schulman's poem, "Apples," is from her book The Broken String. The eminent literary critic Harold Bloom calls Schulman "an elegiac, highly original religious lyricist"and says that The Broken String "surpasses her distinguished previous work."

To mark National Poetry Month, NPR.org is featuring a series of newly published works selected by the Academy of American Poets. Learn more about this and other titles at the academy's New Spring Books list.

Apples

Grace Schulman

 

Rain hazes a street cart's green umbrella

but not its apples, heaped in paper cartons,

dry under cling film. The apple man,

 

who shirrs his mouth as though eating tart fruit,

exhibits four like racehorses at auction:

Blacktwig, Holland, Crimson King, Salome.

 

I tried one and its cold grain jolted memory:

a hill where meager apples fell so bruised

that locals wondered why we scooped them up,

 

my friend and I, in matching navy blazers.

One bite and I heard her laughter toll,

free as school's out, her face flushed in late sun.

 

I asked the apple merchant for another,

jaunty as Cezanne's still-life reds and yellows,

having more life than stillness, telling us,

 

uncut, unpeeled, they are not for the feast

but for themselves, and building strength to fly

at any moment, leap from a skewed bowl,

 

whirl in the air, and roll off a tilted table.

Fruit-stand vendor, master of Northern Spies,

let a loose apple teach me how to spin

 

at random, burn in light and rave in shadows.

Bring me a Winesap like the one Eve tasted,

savored and shared, and asked for more.

 

No fool, she knew that beauty strikes just once,

hard, never in comfort. For that bitter fruit,

tasting of earth and song, I'd risk exile.

 

The air is bland here. I would forfeit mist

for hail, put on a robe of dandelions,

and run out, broken, to weep and curse — for joy.

Books Featured In This Story

The Broken String

by Grace Schulman

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