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Sport 8: Autumn 1992

♣ John Dickson — the apple on my writing desk

page 149

John Dickson

the apple on my writing desk

for Sanchia

tomorrow, I'll start something new.
Like a lonesome theorist of signs
who earns enough to own no self,
I'll lose my bearings on language,
and in my book lined study,
I'll finish this poem by writing
the first part last. Nothing to it.
Using my mother's pen, I learned
to write before I could speak.
Tomorrow will come soon enough:
today, I've other work; I've placed
an apple on my writing desk.
The apple is red and green

on my desk, there's a red and
green apple, there's a green and red
apple on my desk, on my desk,
there's a red and green apple.
Until the day I'm cleansed by earth,
I'll never forget that on my desk,
there's a red and green apple
which is also green and red

a commodity like the other items
in the supermarket, the apple cost
page 150 fifteen cents (including GST). Its skin
is a yellowy green flecked with red,
while near the stem, there's a mark
neither yellow nor green nor red;
ripe with summer, it's been bruised
by a squeeze too firm, or a fall.
Whatever the cause, the apple won't stay:
though it retains a scent like frost
and winter sleep, in sunlight, it shines
with a subtle brown shade, its flesh
beginning a slow decay into mulch for pips.
New life, perhaps. Or more precisely,
because my words would have it so

because there are words, you have a
perfect flower (male and female
both), and a bee following the
scent of blossom. You have pollen
and ovary, you have sperm and
egg. As for the parent trees, you
have their genes; and likewise, you have
pip and branch and peel. Because there
are words, you have a noun, apple.
Come as close as you can and read
its many secret faces, and like
the apple lying on my desk, it will
have no interest in who you are

some people claim that depending
on the language you speak, the same
apple will have a different taste:
with each mouthful, you consume
truckloads of culture; if French,
page 151 web feet and plastic bombs; if
German, long legs and obedience.
Eve's talking snake knew better,
and besides, I couldn't care less.
Whatever the word—Hebrew,
Hopi, or Cantonese—when I eat
the apple lying on my desk,
it will taste as it will taste

trust me. My apples are the best.
Eat one, and you will lose your thoughts
and feelings (those meaningless mis-
understandings that always try
for the long trip); intimacy, distance,
your drop of bile, your grief, your bliss,
the family secrets you've held
so hopefully against your heart,
will all fade to a taste your tongue
can never name. If that provokes,
if not knowing makes you sob with rage,
if fact and reason buzz like flies,
try something else, rolling a smoke, say,
and unbidden, you will reclaim
the apple's crisp unbroken skin
before you began to eat

a product I picked from a stall,
the apple's not red and poisonous
like the one bewitching Snow White;
but just the same, it's magic.
If you eat it, I'll personally guarantee
that like the shampoo we use
the apple will be apple fresh

page 152

like me, the apple's not in the poem.
I'm not sure what I'm doing: possibly,
I'm still breathing; if I'm lucky,
I'm floating in the sea with Jennie.
As for the apple, for all I know
it's still on the tree, up there
amongst the branches and twigs and leaves.
There wouldn't be blossom, but
who knows? Paradise is never a dream.
Perhaps, god has gone to sleep
and the apple is eating a blackbird.
Perhaps, the blackbird baked the pie
which so occupied Newton's head.
Perhaps, Newton's head has gone to surf.
Who knows? I don't. Read as you will,
the apple and I are not in the poem

with shrivelled petals and a stem
pointed to a wooden roof, the apple's
got promise: its tiny black pips
could grow trees that thrived year round
with blossom and fruit; or, one by one,
wither to dust. But if, without dying,
a swallowed god is bread in stomachs,
in mine, the apple shall gain new life:
glucose, faeces, and a few words,
the after host of once living cells

though we never say 'I apple',
'you apple', 'he apples', my teeth
are German philosophers, and
apple is thus a verb, a process
page 153 of coming-to-eat. Listen.
My teeth are grinding to silence.
Before long, they'll crack a pip,
all that's left before the apple
deconstructs. The epitaph will read:
Here lies a Cox's Orange Pippin.
It was munched by thirty-two nouns

as far as I know, it's easy
to eat an apple; you pick one up
and holding it to your mouth
you bite and chew and swallow
until it's gone. But when you watch,
there's as many ways as people.
Some show two front teeth
and gnaw everything to the core;
others tease their tastebuds
and nibble the skin from the flesh.
The greedy guzzle and gulp
(in our stomachs spot the change
between pear and peach); and if
the mean grind to a pulp,
the thoughtful chew it over,
one by one spitting out pips.
Latin lovers always masticate,
and a few do everything at once.
As for me (politely romantic
to the end), when I celebrate
the cloudy coolness of an apple,
while I eat I take good care
to never speak with a full mouth

page 154

on my desk, there was a green and
red apple, there was a red and green
apple on my desk, on my desk,
there was a green and red apple.
Until the day I buy the next
I'll never forget that on my desk
there was a red and green apple
which was also green and red

held in your hand, no trace of
peel or core or pips, no sign of life,
neither pollen nor scent, not the
slightest remains of blossom, or of
a stem pointed to a wooden roof,
no juice, no taste, no colour, nothing
but a number of words, which late
in a sentence provide a place for