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This poem is taken from PN Review 232, Volume 43 Number 2, November - December 2016.

Apple Quartet Lisa Kelly

Repeat If you love me, pop and fly. If you hate me,
burn and die, and think of your amour as you cast
a pip in the fire. At my ripe age, I look on wildings

with a jaundiced eye. Once skin was golden
like the future. Fortune is a liar. He the scion
of a rich family, I from strong stock. Such notions

of choice; in the hearth, a pip scorched desire. No ladders
to reach an apple hanging like a heart in hock. I grafted,
kept close to the earth, was nothing to birdsong,

good breeding in every branch to which pickers
would flock. My crown not high enough for sheep
to graze beneath, among village gossip, wisdom of

soil and season, gatherings to celebrate harvest
with cider and song. Old apple tree we wassail thee
superseded by reason. Longing for lanterns, ribbons

to tie around limbs betrayed by the aphid’s
white ruff of treason. What auguries in peel
can the earth descry? If you hate me, burn and die.


Where worms, roots and fingers
mesh, the future is buried in an apple
machine: Redlove sliced

for ruddy flesh. No dwarfing rootstock
helped the queen control the apple
that blessed the bough. A poisoned mind

finds time to dream. Dwarfs mined mountains
for rubies – now Malling 9 is paradise
preserved. We scatter before we plough,

discard the fruit that isn’t curved
to mimic the perfect orb of the sun; 
a diamond bite cosmetically preferred

by queens, kings, everyone. A tooth
puller in a souk in Marrakesh wields
pliers to pluck what fireblight

has undone. Like a princess we sleep
in the machine’s crèche where worms,
roots and fingers mesh.


Here, branches are stark against white
sky, their bronchial diagram a lesson in
breath. A snared plastic bag puffs with

effort to fly free of some small death,
empty of exotic fruit carried
from shelves, the carrier holds its own

trashed shibboleth. Here, custom rots slower
than our apple selves, rosy at the
buffet, all you can eat for the price of burst

buttons, girdles, belts loosening
at the heart’s abnormal beat to a defibrillation
rhythm, a wassail haunting the wind

in clamour for retreat from acres
of sterilised soil. Half-recalled, If you hate
me burn and die, blown fireblight,

an orange sun’s broil. On the outbreath,
If you love me, pop and fly. Here,
branches are white against stark sky.


Abbot’s Early, Ashmead’s Kernel, Autumn Pearmain
Barchard’s Seedling, Billy Down Pippin, Bloody Butcher
Cap of Liberty, Carswell’s Honeydew, Cummy Norman

Doctor Clifford, Dog’s Snout, Duke of Devonshire
Early Bower, Easter Orange, Eccleston Pippin
Fair Maid of Taunton, Falstaff, Forest Styre

George Carpenter, Gillyflower of Gloucester, Gin
Hall Door, Hangydown, Hope Cottage Seedling
Improved Woodbine, Irish Peach, Iron Pin

Jackets and Waistcoats, Jo Jo’s Delight, Jordan’s Weeping
Keed’s Cottage, Kernel Underleaf, Kingston Black
Leathercoat Russet, Lemon Queen, Lucombe’s Seedling

Macfree, Marston Scarlett Wonder, Merton Prolific
Nancy Jackson, Netherton Late Blower, Neverblight
Oaken Pippin, Old Cornish Cooker, Onion Redstreak

Painted Summer Pippin, Palmer’s Rosey, Pam’s Delight
Quarren Dow, Quarry, Queen Caroline

Racky Down, Radford Beauty, Rathe Ripe
Slack-ma-Girdle, Snell’s Glass Apple, Sops-in-Wine
The Rattler, Tinsely Quince, Tower of Glamis

Underwood Pippin, Upright French, Upton Pyne
Vagnon Archer, Valentine, Vallis
Wardington Seedling, Warrior, Wealthy

Excel Jonagold, Excelsior, Exeter Cross
Yarlington Mill, Ye Old Peasgood, Yellow Ingestrie
Yeovil Sour, Yorkshire Aromatic, Zari.

This poem is taken from PN Review 232, Volume 43 Number 2, November - December 2016.

Readers are asked to send a note of any misprints or mistakes that they spot in this poem to
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