A Thousand Apples

There is some strange magic
in this neighborhood, as though it
grew from the hollow of God’s pocket.

The veteran marches on year after year,
catching colds and stoically predicting
the day he’ll be over it entirely, even as
comrades and classmates pass away.

He pretends the house on the corner
is Pork Chop Hill, retelling the story
of a letter that reached him in Korea
from his kid brother who lit a candle
at St. Cecilia’s that saved his life,
as the mortar fire whistled narrowly
past him.

He pauses, trying to remember
the word “design”, and then retreats
to his living room to exercise his mind
with a game show, sandwiched
between naps.

From his couch, he remembers
that summer fifty years ago in this
neighborhood, when his children
were small and he decided to grow
a bit of sweet corn, which was so
plentiful, he had to return to the store
for more butter, so they could keep
eating and eating it, like a late
summer’s day that never ends,
stretching lazily across an expanse
vacated by sad autumn and austere
winter, last seen hand in hand,
heading for the coast.

This is the land of a thousand apples,
where a damaging storm is transmuted
into a windfall of pies. Everyone seems
to have a stunt double, and life is lived
with some suburban degree of abandon.

It is December now, though you would
never guess it, and the children ride
their bicycles endlessly in the street,
occasionally spying stubborn dandelions
popping out of the evergreen grass.

In this land, dogs never die, merely
reverting to puppyhood to begin again
under the guise of their predecessors,
chasing errant dry oak leaves that swirl
across the street in the cool air.

Seasons pass, with more dogs
becoming puppies becoming dogs,
and more walks for the veteran
down the back trail with his eternal dog,
the twosome making their usual silhouette
against the dawn’s early light. He salutes
a neighbor’s car as it passes, as though
he were pledging allegiance to life itself,
with liberty and justice for all, forevermore,
without end, amen.

Claire Juno, © 2015

…dedicated to the veterans who have served our country, who have risked their lives to defend and protect, and specifically to one veteran who is a neighbor of mine.