"We drop apples down our bellies"
The wrong dirt road.
A delicious dark surrounds our second-hand van.
We’re stuck sucking in star-filled air. Silent, thinking
about a block of gray sky and harvesting fruit in the mist.
We’re picking apples all day. The only instructions: pick them all.
Braeburns in the mud—bruised, but good for juice.
Pink ladies on the ground, goldens in the treetops, bright baubles in the branches —
standing on tip toes on ladders’ top rungs, metal and slick with rain.
The German couple smiles through the trees.
The orchard owner, Daryl, they say, “He’s not so bad.”
The smudgy sky, jagged from treetops and the emptiness between the rows,
finally gives way to full electric blue.
Blue like springtime somewhere
with kites pinned overhead.
The smell of sweat and a rhythm emerge: start at the top.
Reach and drop. Step down; lean into the rungs. Reach and drop.
There’s a technique:
cup the fruit from underneath and break at an angle.
We drop apples down our bellies
into canvas hampers that hook over our shoulders.
Then, when it’s heavy, undo the bottom and let the fruit tumble out
into a crate halfway down the aisle of Granny Smiths.
Backs to each other, but I twist around to record our efforts. I say your name.
In the picture: elbow deep, reaching into a tree and
you’re grimacing. Fatigued by the sour candy blues and greens of the day.
Nighttime is absolution.
Donnie Secreast grew up in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Southwest Virginia and currently lives in Texas. Her work has appeared in Studies in the Novel and Interdisciplinary Studies in Literature and Environment. She is literary co-editor for Artemis Journal.