You knew about the apple tree.
You saw its fruit, poignant on the branches.
You had walked the teeming carpet
of the fallen on the way to get your laundry. You had seen
where the worms had had a field day. You had shaken
the knobby limbs for your young nephew, watched his delight
as a shower of gold fell to the earth. You had bent down to eat
with him. You had imagined a pie, bubbling in the oven.
You had purchased a sachet of cinnamon. You had remembered
the dozen autumns you’d spent in New England, the apple trees there
prophesying the inevitable coming of cold, the stillness of snow,
your necessary hibernation. You had pointed to the solid trunk,
reclining in your deck chair, exclaimed over your luck –
a fruit-bearing tree in your own backyard! In the city, to boot! –
and let the thought slide over you at night, the reign of this tree
like another kind of safe harbor, the comfort of this
prosperous landscape rustling just outside your windows.
You were so enamored with the very idea of that tree,
it became the only thing you saw, and felt, and understood,
it was what you turned to when you pictured the prized
green lot that was your backyard. It was what you said
when someone asked you about the house -
“And there’s an apple tree!” you’d exclaim with the same
pink-cheeked wonderment you’d once given the treasure
found under your pillow the next morning after a tooth
was reclaimed by fairy hands. Your heart became filled
with that tree, your body aligned with its stature,
its wide reach skyward, its delicate balance of
flesh and wood – you saw yourself in all of it.
How you missed the plums is beyond you.
Perhaps you thought them rooted elsewhere,
a neighboring garden, the lucky stranger adjacent.
Perhaps you didn’t know them as plums,
distinguished only a blur of red from the camouflage of branches,
an afterimage following the bright clutch of apples
in your foreground. Maybe you couldn’t hold the possibility
they might have been gifted to you, too, having learned the art
of not wanting too much.
So it was only yesterday, looking for a friend’s lost cat,
slinking into the further reaches of your garden and mewling
into the advancing evening, that you saw that other tree.
Your eyes were cocked earthward for a flicker of tail, a quick dart
of flank, and your gaze landed instead on a perfect circle of plums,
tiny, unblemished, ripe as a kiss, and all at once the view changed.
You looked up, and suddenly,