'of the fruit of the tree'

Did it (as she reported in that flap of a note

hanging on the fridge) taste good to her? 

What mystery was she trying to convey,

what was she looking for

in the gold mantle between skin and stone?

 

To eat an apple, leaving others behind

since one could hardly eat them all, seems

unremarkable, a gesture, hardly a sin.

 

To eat every plum was a fruition,

a challenge to the notion they were his to be taken.  

She said nothing.  He was none the wiser

judging by the lack of any answer.

 

He knows nothing of the way it whispers to her —

blackwash in the foliage

floating nightbuoy

where the branches are thickest

where all the stories converge

where the darkness at its centre speaks.

 

In our growing knowledge of where we were heading

we planted a tree that would always be early

into budbreak, early into leaf-fall

becoming a different shape while last year’s lingered

fretwork in the frost.

 

Anyway, he had no idea what was in the fridge,

never regretted what could be replaced through those snaplatch years.

But she was dismayed by how much could be taken

 

Somehow the way she holds the dimpled sphere

the tender token of its corona

seems to fit the fable better than the apple’s bitter seeds,

its spat success, strewn before strife, before war.

 

Sparks sprang from my mattock like a gangster’s matches.

Still, it grew: backweird limbs determined to cross

even as they carved into one another. Yet you mourned

every pruning: how could I not love a tree so dear to you?

 

so she leaves this note on the fridge, saying

she’s sorry she’s eaten all the plums et cetera…

thinking of another life they might have led,

she says sometimes,

testing him, testing them:

 

They don’t peer back, shoulder to shoulder, into the gold haze.

No celestial font, no blazing escutcheon

sees them off, their departure unproclaimed,

yet still the past seems to speak to them,

unbidden, from another room

in a silent house:

 

Heartstock.  Dark fruit amongst the darker leaves.

Summer ends with a thunderstorm, a gold and purple flourish

you angrily sorting detritus in the shed

me watching from the kitchen

the sparse and speckled savour

of antique words in my mouth:

 

forgive me

 

I have eaten

University of Canberra International Poetry Prize anthology 2019