“Gardens grow backward and forward in the mind”: Beverley Bie Brahic’s poem on mortality and apples


There are sometimes unexpected benefits for going to the gym. I discovered one yesterday, when I encountered friend, poet, and translator, Beverley Bie Brahic, en route to renew a few books at Green Library before I headed for the elliptical. We discussed her recent poem in The New Yorker, which I very much admired, and she gave me permission to republish it, with the proviso that I include a link back to the original New Yorker publication, which also includes Beverley reading her poem. (Check it out.)


Apple Thieves

In his dishevelled garden my neighbor
Has fourteen varieties of apples,
Fourteen trees his wife put in as seedlings
Because, being sick, she wanted something
Different to do (different from being sick).

In winter she ordered catalogues, pored
Over subtleties of mouthfeel and touch:
Tart and sweet and crisp; waxysmooth,
And rough. Spring planted an orchard,
Spring projected summers

Of green and yellow-streaked, orange, red,
Rusty, round, wormholed, lopsided;
Nothing supermarket flawless, nothing imperishable.
Gardens grow backward and forward
In the mind; in the driest season, flowers.

Of the original fourteen, five trees
Grow streetside, outside the hedge.
To their branches my neighbor, a retired
Statistician, has clothes-pegged
Slips of paper, white pocket handkerchiefs

Embroidered with the words:
The apples are not ripe, please don’t pick them.
Kids had an apple fight last week.
In September, when the apples ripen,
Neighbors are welcome to pick them, even

Those rare Arkansas Blacks that spill over
The hedge. Yes, I may gather the windfalls.
Mostly it’s squirrels that throw them down.
Squirrels are wasteful. Squirrels don’t read
Messages a widower posts in trees.


2 Responses to ““Gardens grow backward and forward in the mind”: Beverley Bie Brahic’s poem on mortality and apples”

  1. marilyn yalom Says:

    I love this poem, and even know the trees it was based on.

  2. Cynthia Haven Says:

    I assumed it was fictional. I’d love to know more.