The Apple Dolls

Apple Dolls

In the ripeness of their youth
they were green and delicious
fleshy, full of juice
some might even say tempting

They had once splashed
in the whitewash
of a deep blue Pacific,
their blonde hair
catching the wind
like scarves spun of sunlight

They had once gathered
by the river’s edge
swimming in the emerald pools
while peevish boys
spied, hidden in the trees
one hand on a fishing pole
the other clammy in a pocket

These clay sirens,
these riverine selkies and
half-shelled Venuses,
these copper-toned goddesses
basked in the last rays
of a setting sun,
having traded their voices
for the scaled tail of a fish

Now they sit poolside
stirring ice cubes
melting in the gin,
their leathery fingers adorned
with small asteroids

someone’s son
has married a business major
another has new granite counters
another is taking legal action
one has a new jawline−
words unmusical
even to their own ears
so they no longer listen

They don’t dare go near the water
where the Lady of the Lake
holds her hand mirror towards the gazers
and the narcissus has dropped
all its pale white petals

One of their party has gone missing
Gone, quite literally, to seed

Nobody speaks of her−
the wild woman
planting pocketfuls of beans
and brown-eyed Susans, broadcasting
bush lupines and poppies

She wears a pair of crow’s feet
about her eyes
a shaggy grey braid
trails down her spine
like a tail full of burrs,
foxtails and blow wives

She buries acorns
in the earth’s hard crust,
offers libations
to a small hole in the ground
once covered by an inland sea

The towhee is in her kitchen
a fox nurses cubs by the back porch
the paper wasps have chewed through
the walls of her shingled shack
in winter the roof leaks
odd things are growing in her toes
on her face a sort of
lichen creeps

One year the field cracks
from too little rain
she finds the shell
of an ancient animal
the wind whispers in its
its hollows, calling her home
towards a saline dream

The others, still haunted by
the starlit encounters
with boys in the sultry heat,
still wading in the sapphire shallows
in the emerald pools
where their reflections
told them Time was a
a bargain to strike−
They are the Apple Dolls.

Time has made wrinkled mockeries
of their maidenhood yet
they have not a single seed
saved in their pockets
left to offer

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