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This poem is taken from PN Review 236, Volume 43 Number 6, July - August 2017.

Pomace (trans. James Womack) Alejandro Fernandez-Osorio
Today the orchard called for me.

I took the train without pausing to think. I travelled alone because that’s how they taught me to travel, needing to make it back alive, strong enough to bend and pick up the fruit, to screw down the platen with all my ancestral strength; to arouse, somehow, what has been till now dormant.


I guess it’s worth noting that I know what a PlayStation is. And an iPad. And David Foster Wallace. I know there’s a famous strip club in Mieres, and that people in Oviedo and Gijón don’t go out in their slippers to buy bread; but I’m back here to help, to catch the smell of my father (go on, call me bucolic, but I have a father), and to stand looking at this farm that no longer has its orchard but only four useless trees around a dirty swimming pool.

What are they waiting for?

I’m here for that eternal instant: forcing my memory and holding tight to the chill that comes through the door where the dog with the pricked-up ears stands watch.

Look, he’s like Cerberus, I say. My father stares at me in silence and I know, right, I’m not here to give lectures: I’m here to make sweet cider; I’m here for guesswork.


We set to work, and the first demand of our work is that we crouch down. I see him forcing himself, as though he still had energy, still had a reason to be working. He puts the apples down on the sack. I bend down too, embarrassed, and gather as many as will fit in my hand. I look at how he works. Do I take these ones as well? I ask. Of course, he says. I like to touch the grass with my knuckles; it is still wet from the night-frost, the night-frost that frightens the animals away and makes this place a northern desert, the kind that fits over life from above instead of lying beneath its feet.


Once the barrow is full you have to lift it. (Go ahead, laugh, you don’t know what I’m talking about. That’s fine.) We arrive with the apples and I pour them in without thinking. The ones on top fall first and mix with the older fruit, bounding and crashing against one another and leaving a crushed, bruised pulp, which will be of no use to us if we want to do things well.

Involuntarily, they all look at me as though I were an idiot child.


We take a stick, and on one end fix a Coke bottle cut in half (the same method that you use to catch sticklebacks; no reason to do it, and you just throw them back afterwards): it works to help us get the highest apples. The stick’s seven feet long and if you stand on tiptoe you can reach thirty or forty apples, and you can shake the empty bird nests down to the ground while you’re at it.

They don’t like me going up the tree with him: they say I could kill myself or break a leg and I’ve got to go away on Sunday; they’re not paying me to make the sweet cider.

But it’s a child who climbs the trees without them seeing him, and warily keeps on up until he gets scared; a child who climbs down when his conscience gets to him:

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