The galvanized bucket shifts,
half-full of Winesap and Mutsu
and the heat is golden. Sweat prickles.
Just out of reach of the ladder
a breeze plays through crossed branches,
stirs the sweetest fruit. And below,
the children stomp rotting apples
and scream their joy,
faces flecked with pulp and peel, red-fleshed.
Wear tennis shoes, I’d told them,
there are wasps in the windfalls.
But the youngest—a child known
to plunge grimy hands into cake batter—
craves the muck between his toes.
Needs to feel.
Little stinker. I spot his sandals,
cast off, scant and tumbled in the rows
two skinny red flags warning:
there are tears ahead
And now he’s laughing
great gasping belly laughs,
toes burrowing into the sticky pomace,
heels grinding seeds into the rich earth,
the tart and tang of vinegar rising,
his feet a blur in the slant sunshine.
Even the wasps shoot away like sparks
to mind their business elsewhere
and I place one foot on a step that reads,
Do not stand on or above this rung.
(This poem previously appeared in Shadow Road Quarterly, Summer 2012)