It is, after all, the flesh that matters:
The crisp juicy flesh in your mouth,
Sweet nectar in your throat. Not
The fruit growing on the tree,
Not the serpent talking about the fruit,
Not Eve fingering its smooth skin,
Nor even her plucking it from the tree—
But the eating of it.
And the offering of the fruit to Adam
And his eating it.
Of course, Genesis does not say it was an apple.
(Do apples even grow in Mesopotamia?)
But we don’t need to know if the garden was indeed
In the cradle of the Tigris-Euphrates
Or whether the climate was right for apples
To know: it was truly an apple
That hung temptingly in the center of that triangle
Of serpent and tree and God.
And when we bite into the flesh of the apple,
It is more than the apple that we consume.
We eat pistils and stamens, pink petals of blossoms,
Gnarled bark, and green rasping leaves—
The skin a globe around the soil and sun, insects and sap.
When we eat, we eat the pie, and the flag, bytes, Snow White,
And the Chevy truck, too.
We eat the apples arranged in piles in the bins at Save-A-Lot,
Green Granny Smith spinning on the record label,
Apple polished and centered neatly on the third grade teacher’s desk.
And even when we eat the apple down to its papery core
And toss away the skeletal remains,
The apple still tumbles down the hillside; still teeters
On the pale blond head of the boy who prays, eyes clenched,
For his father’s steady hand; still travels downward, falling,
Ever falling toward the head of the scientist
Who sits beneath the apple tree; still trembles, skin vibrating,
In the hand of the woman in the garden.
And at the very moment teeth penetrate into flesh
Begins the longest fall.
And though we tumble,
Head over bent legs, slowly downward,
Tumble through generations and epochs,
Through fairy tales and legends—
Still the apples are pared and baked, strudeled and sauced,
Are carried by hand to the doorsteps of stepdaughters,
Are gathered and counted, bobbed for and tossed.
Still the seeds jostle in the buckskin bag of the man who plants orchards.
Apples are yet polished and carameled, sliced and fermented.
Still they bloom cloud-like each spring,
Swell to the hard green berries of June,
And hang heavy and red ripe in the autumn orchards.
Still one apple dangles from a branch of a tree in every garden,
Waiting again for the hand that will pluck it,
For the mouth that will partake.