For My Brother,
Late in Apple Season
by Gail Braune Comorat

                               For I have had too much
                               Of apple-picking.
                                               —Robert Frost

In our house, there were no fairy tales.
Perhaps our mother misjudged their necessity,
   their capacity to teach, to provide myth.
Perhaps that was her only failure.
We fell asleep to her singing, her voice
   falling onto our eyelids, our shoulders,
   the back of her hand brushing foreheads.
Church bells will chime, you will be mine,
in apple, apple blossom time.

We never heard of Snow White or William Tell
   or even Johnny Appleseed.
This was our world; the apple tree,
   sentinel of our yard.
Cycles of leaves, fruit.
Something seasonal, something always falling.
Would you laugh to know I dressed our mother
   in pink, that blossoming color?

You and I hated that tree, its fruit,
hated the yellow jackets lying in wait,
half-hidden against brownish bruises,
half-drunk on sugars and juice.

They’d cut the air like saws with warning,
   sting us again and again,
   on the tender flesh of our palms,
   our ankles, behind our knees.
But we knew the jackets would die
   with the first frost.
Only the queen survived the winter.

All October, we collected the sinful yielding, fell
   asleep dreading the deliberate drop of bodies,
   their lopsided rolls, the monotonous hum that would come.
Dull as old pennies and just as worthless.
Newton’s fruit.  Dime a bucket, our father promised.
And after our buckets were full,
   he sat, shielded in the unreachable shadows,
   the light beyond, aquiver, so gold, so liquid
   we almost drowned in it.     
All the while, he sat swirling ice in his frosted glass,
   ignoring the constant song,
   and ignoring his wife, too, whose voice
   sang from the open kitchen window:
I’ll be with you in apple blossom time,
I’ll be with you when you change your name to mine. . . .

How loud was the buzzing that autumn—
   your car repossessed, your phone shut off,
   no friends offering work?
You never came to me for comfort
   as you had those once-upon-a-time-ago
   afternoons.
Didn’t ask me to soothe new wounds.
Neither did you sing them away like our mother,
   she who left early, in August
   before the swarming of the wasps.
Everyone else waited until late in apple season.
Even you: you sank your teeth right into that bitter fruit.




               ____________________________


Gail Braune Comorat’s short stories and poems have been
published in
Delaware Poetry Review, Delmarva Review, The
Broadkill Review
, and Delaware Beach Life.  She has been
chosen by the Delaware Division of the Arts to attend both poetry
and fiction retreats held at Cape Henlopen in Lewes, Delaware,
and she is a founding member of the Rehoboth Beach Writers’
Guild.


On “For My Brother, Late in Apple Season”:
I began this poem at a retreat last fall, using a discarded line
from another poet.  She’d written:
Every family has its fairy tales,
and I knew immediately that I wanted to write about my brother
whom I’d lost several years earlier.  And I also wanted to
include our mother, a singer who always had the radio playing.  
Breakfasts at our house were often burned while she jotted
down lyrics in her loopy shorthand for a song she wanted to
learn.  Our bedtime song was “Apple Blossom Time,” the lyrics
of which are italicized throughout this poem.  I originally wrote
it with the last line near the beginning, but realized it better
served the story at its end.


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Apple Valley Review:
A Journal of Contemporary
Literature
 

ISSN 1931-3888

Volume 4, Number 2
(Fall 2009)

Copyright © 2009
by Leah Browning, Editor.  

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Valley Review
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