Ellen Elder

About Place Journal, Volume II Issue I
Trees

 
Early Death in the Orchard
 
In the ballroom
of that old house
near the tree rings
the Irish held as sacred,
fruit falls from ceiling plasterwork.
 
As children, we ran
to catch the brittle bits
as if it were some game:
 
Look! Grapes are falling from the ceiling!
 
Outside, in the true orchard
beneath an umbrella of mist,
the gardener clears
nettles and bamboo
with his scythe, the oak
handle soft with age,
the blade heavy with rust.
 
The russet apples
ripen in fall
when the Irish damp
runs off walls like kelp,
and everything tastes
like bananas.
 
But in the early summer
the trees are gregarious,
their gentle arms taught with muscle
and the apples—
             small, ear-thumbed jewelry—
seduce us with gossip:
 
Widow’s Friend
Kerry Pippin
Ard Cairn Russet
Keegan’s Crab

 
We don’t repeat
what we hear, plus we are
far away at school
when they are ready to pick.
But we watch the gardener
every summer
as he tarries neatly up
and down rows,
his gnarly hands a genesis
of sores and stings,
the scythe chopping and choking
the green weeds
to their early death.
 
 
 
Ellen Elder has degrees from The University of Chicago, Miami University and The University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. She spent her summers growing up in Ireland. Her poetry can be found in The Cento: A Collection of Collage Poems (Red Hen Press), etc. and online at Exquisite Corpse and Disquieting Muses Quarterly (DMQ) Review, etc. and is forthcoming in Mayday, Prick of the Spindle and Descant. She was a runner-up in the Poetry Center of Chicago’s 2009 Annual Juried Reading Awards. She teaches at University of Cincinnati-Clermont College.
 
 

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