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Is the scent of apple boughs smoking
in the woodstove what I will remember
of the Red Delicious I brought down, ashamed

that I could not convince its limbs to render fruit?
Too much neglect will do that, skew the sap's
passage, blacken leaves, dry the bark and heart.

I should have lopped the dead limbs early
and watched each branch with a goshawk's eye,
patching with medicinal pitch, offering water,

compost and mulch, but I was too enchanted
by pear saplings, flowers and the pasture,
too callow to believe that death's inevitable

for any living being unloved, untended.
What remains is this armload of applewood
now feeding the stove's smolder. Splendor

ripens a final time in the firebox, a scarlet
harvest headed, by dawn, to embers.
Two decades of shade and blossoms - tarts

and cider, bees dazzled by the pollen,
spare elegance in ice - but what goes is gone.
Smoke is all, through this lesson in winter

regret, I've been given to remember.
Smoke, and Red Delicious apples redder
than a passing cardinal's crest or cinders. 

—R. T. Smith

From Poetry, Oct-Nov, 2002

Copyright 2002 by R. T. Smith.
All rights reserved.

Reprinted by permissions of R. T. Smith. Copyright 2002 by R. T. Smith. For further permissions information, contact R. T. Smith, PO Box 195, Fairfield, VA 24435.

Poetry 180

About the Poet

R.T. (Rod) Smith (1947- ) was born in Washington, DC, and grew up in Georgia and North Carolina. Smith is the author of eight poetry collections, including Outlaw Style: Poems (University of Arkansas Press, 2007).

Learn more about R. T. Smith at The Poetry Foundation.