The Apple Tree
by Alan Sleater, with image by Steev Burgess
Early in Autumn, our first crop of apples,
Plentiful, but small and bitter to eat
Emerged from the oval-shaped posies of leaves.
Our apple tree bore fruit. We marked the date.
It was an old misshapen tree that looked
As though a push would knock it to the ground.
Dad wedged a plank beneath a knotted junction,
Tested its resilience, and declared it sound.
In Spring, the small, white, rose-like petals
Were profuse and pink-veined; the fruit never came.
“We’ll cut it back,” said dad, “encourage growth.”
We laid the heavy branches in a line.
The next year’s little miracle of bloom
Promised new life and fruitfulness to come.
But dad, hard pruner to the core, told us
The tree was cankerous, and chopped it down;
Still digging it out in the evening, late,
That year when Thatcher brought to Downing Street
The principle of cutting, branch and root,
Those unproductive trees that never fruit.