Late Harvest

Tomorrow I will collect the apples
where the tree gave up on them,
let them go for being too pretty
for a crow to ignore, for growing too heavy
for the stems of a young tree to hold.

The landlord warned they’re no good
to eat without cupfuls of sugar in pies
or jams to swallow the bitterness.
Once I plucked one from the tree,
halved its small body with a pocket knife,
and ate it, core and all, in two bites
to measure the sweetness of its flesh.
It was sour but crisp and full of juice,
not nearly as bad as he’d described,
but I’ve never wanted another.

They could rot there for all I care,
but at night my dogs eat apples
in the darkness of that corner
of the yard I cannot see from
where I stand in the quiet light
on the back porch as I listen, try to
decide if I should stop them or not.
I know so little of the bellies of dogs,
but death is a small thing.
They say even apples can kill you,
a drop of poison hides in every seed.

Eating fallen fruit brings moments
of  such joy to their lives spent  within
walls within fences within days,
sometimes I let them have what they find.
Other times anxiety swells up in me
as they choke down as many as they can
until I call out their names and stalk
after them to gently pry broken apples,
slick with spit, from their mouths.
In their eyes it is great and senseless
betrayal they immediately forgive
to search for one last piece beyond
my reach as we head in for the night.

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