A Retired Statistician
by Beverley Bie Brahic
In his dishevelled garden my neighbor
Has fourteen varieties of apples,
Fourteen trees his wife put in as seedlings
Because, being sick, she wanted something
Different to do (different from being sick).
In winter she ordered catalogues, pored
Over subtleties of mouthfeel and touch:
Tart and sweet and crisp; waxy, smooth,
And rough. Spring planted an orchard,
Spring projected summers
Of green and yellow-streaked, orange, red,
Rusty, round, wormholed, lopsided;
Nothing supermarket flawless, nothing imperishable.
Gardens grow backward and forward
In the mind; in the driest season, flowers.
Of the original fourteen, five trees
Grow streetside, outside the hedge.
To their branches my neighbor, a retired
Statistician, has clothes-pegged
Slips of paper, white pocket handkerchiefs
Embroidered with the words:
The apples are not ripe, please don’t pick them.
Kids had an apple fight last week.
In September, when the apples ripen,
Neighbors are welcome to pick them, even
Those rare Arkansas Blacks that spill over
The hedge. Yes, I may gather the windfalls.
Mostly it’s squirrels that throw them down.
Squirrels are wasteful. Squirrels don’t read
Messages a widower posts in trees.
The poem above is from the April 22, 2019 issue of The New Yorker. If you click over to their web page, HERE, you can hear the poem read by the author.