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Laura Madeline Wiseman

The Tree

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They've begun to bloom, those summer gardens,
branching after every corner, like an English maze
of o: cracked flagstone or walled-in
or where the young die, golden and haloed. Now
the paths twist, arms overbear and splinter,
soft, green, and damp as one route closes
(prairie wind, lightning, late snow) and others remain
dark, scarred, and older. But that first garden
holds up fecund and ancient, original structure
anchored in the bedrock, against the gravity of reason,
some limb where temptation warms: in the sun
long petals, pale bud, an open mouth pulsing.

The Apple: Lilith Remembers

Niagara Falls, Canada-United States Border

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Yellow and speckled, like a red sunrise
swept with clouds, the fruit hidden in a stowaway
on the car floor between our seats

held the warmth of the summer air but also American
as the train that rocked it, a border crossing thing—
sold at a grocery, not a fig or a pomegranate, but an apple,

like corn on the cobb and burgers, only this, being singular,
orb of knowledge and sin, was sweet and crisp
to the core and juicy, the perfect balance.

As if content to return to its home country—
where it had been grown and collected by immigrants—
it slept in the folds, comforted by the thrum

of train wheel on tracks, aware, thoughtful
with what it now knew of abroad, resting
in the zippered pocket between crackers

and peanut butter, innocuous. The train slowed
after it crossed the country line, backed up
onto the border patrol tracks and shut down.

From the rear of the car, they entered
with guns, scanners, and badges,
what mesmerized you, Adam,
was the way they surrounded each passenger
with questions as they moved seat to seat.

We played cards. I nudged you.
You studied your hand, discarded, lifted your head
to watch the declarations and passports,
the questions on produce and seeds, traveling
how long, where, and with whom.

No one spoke. We listened. A few watched.
I tallied the hand, dealt, nudged you. You lifted your head.
They removed a man and his bags behind us
and confiscated a woman's apple from her purse.
How could I tell you to keep your head down
and train your gaze to the game in our hands?

I nudged you, tried to mouth my knowledge
of the apple in my bag. You looked away
to the men and women in black uniform.
You shuffled. I was silent. You didn't know.
We played to five hundred on the stowaway trays.

We were young, married, middle class, and white.
They asked us few questions. You answered them.
They moved on. We played cards. You lifted your head.
The smuggled apple waited undeclared in my bag
for two hours on the border patrol's tracks.

In America, when the apple is eaten,
the blushing skin of the fruit
opens to the wet flesh of the inside,
the sweetness sliding down my fingers,
my tongue lapping the juice—
stomach, blood sugar, and brain
hit with fructose, the first morning light.

The fruit eaten slowly by the mouthful
wet in my hand—warm, skin firm and taut—

as we waited for the connecting train to take us
across the states and whatever else we didn't share

crisp and sweet, enjoyed singularly as we sat
in the station awaiting the midnight sleeper car

rocking, speeding along uneven tracks.
I could've given the apple to you

or to the armed guards at the border—
this sweet, yielding and tainted flesh

—but some temptations, some sins,
are secrets better left for others to tell.

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