Apple Picking - Poem by Herbert Nehrlich
The ladder was still there.
Leaning, as if worn
and ready to retire now,
after those decades
of school and work,
and being just another
robot like all the others.
I had abandoned it,
that oaken ladder,
the work was done
by grandpa and
his eager little helper.
Impatiently I had suggested
we nail the rungs
with sturdy galvanised
and made in Germany
ten penny nails
but to my great chagrin
the saw was needed
to cut an individual spot
for each damn piece
whose only task in life
would be to keep
the likes of me and
other climbers safe.
We'd picked the apples,
and the pears, the plums,
escaped from bees
and wasps and hornets
we learned reluctantly
about a feeling at day's end
that would not come for
many months to little minds.
We looked at woven baskets
made from the willow tree
down by the river's bend
and smiled a shallow smile
at those that were on top
with their red cheeks
and sturdy little stems
and it did seem as if,
there was a deeper purpose
in this life, it smacked,
and reeked of work,
an effort only some of us
were destined to perform.
Grandma would then decide
which had been dropped,
she had an eagle eye,
they went for cider, 'Mosht'
and what the press could not
in early evening hours squeeze
would make the most delicious,
all- consuming, cream apple pie.
There soon developed skill,
and good logistics, among us boys,
we learned that just a bit of wit
could make a sheer determination
about the cider bottles needed
and how gigantic that great pie
would be, perhaps the size of
the great big table of the harvest kitchen.
I felt a whisp of melancholy mist,
it must have drifted in from near the river,
just looking at the lonely ladder,
still standing by the tree, the one with apples,
the day did flash just like a life
past those old gooseberries
right near the rusted gate,
and I could clearly see those years,
condensed as if the cider press
had done its sweaty deed,
there was a time, and it was now
for just a touch of vertigo, and pallor,
I found the birchwood garden chair
from nineteen-forty-nine, still there
and gladly sank my aching limbs
into the chair. It was like visiting a friend.
But it had been too long, those years
of poppycock and useless bark
that fell without assistance before the harvest,
this was the road I saw but did not take,
and here I was, all smiles, expecting what?
The chair rejected me, fell into a pathetic heap
the frosty grass found naked flesh
and burned its own identity into my knee,
I saw the sun at once, and then the wind,
it came with a ferocity, from the big range
and winter had arrived, with its first blizzard
the moon a witness to the howling of
the only wolfe I ever recognised.
There was the ladder, still erect,
it seemed to point toward the moon
past two or maybe three forgotten apples,
there had been little thought about them
and now there was no time to do
what I had learned so long ago,
but life had taken from me, with permission,
an honest, hard and satisfying day
of apple picking, there at grandpa's.
But now my night was here, reflecting
with its own stars, and my long day
had truly ended. It was cold out there
Before I closed them I briefly wondered
about the apples in the tree, and how they felt.
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