three from The Spindle Tree

David Appelbaum

The Holly Bush

I wait—by the window
if near, if not, by an open field.
Ever green, a prick of hope,
wakens the lower soul—as you do.

Star light, snow bright, opulence of pearl.
The dark has valence,
beauty as void as a dream—
nothing consoles in your stead.

You never withhold—do I know—
watching for the other
in the black mirror of ice.
This is my single despair, not yours,
never unique but many
lives in every quarter.

If I were Moses, I would bear
with probity where I am remiss
placing my desire before yours.
Held in the briar of promises
I serve, imagining it is you
while the earth dearly wants
my step to press it and leave a mark
you could then read and praise.



For a long time I could only feel shame.

I could not walk under the trees, bare of leaves.
They did not hide me.
The stars above were uncovered.

There was a thin skin of snow.
The ice had become a silver wire where the brook fell
crimped in place by the rock.

When you looked across at the field,
you saw the wounded beauty
that called to your witness,
to avoid the fester beneath, where roots split
and dead wood would mark your violent withholding.

The old bridge that once crossed over
falls off a rotted abutment
where the water still roils.

Do you too mourn what can not be fixed,
the disproportion of ardor
between the broken heart and your heaven?

Do you suffer so I might know my pain
is all that keeps us apart?


The Oak Gall

Remember a green chiffon ball
that lay at the foot of the stone walk,
then the dry brown for reparations.

When you touched my shoulder, I turned
to find nothing, no trace
but the deceit of gravel fertile
in purslane and pepperweed,
Dorn would pull it with a steel gaff
prodigal in his praise of you.

When you touched my shoulder
with your heel, I remembered
the browning ash under it, still crisp
as our twin faces held the universe
crushed inside the narrow sphere,
brother and brother, two cords
enchained, a difficult birth,
wintered together with once-green leaves.

As we gathered, the dust in little mounds
scattered the wind with it,
I remembered it lifted a feather
whose silence floats to the ground.

If you still listen, remind me
to adore such gifts—
brothers when we touched
forehead to forehead, shank to shank,
before dry earth undid the flush.

three from The Spindle Tree