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 Fairfax, VA