Lessons in the Orchard

– Carol Ann Duffy

An apple’s soft thump on the grass, somewhen

in this place. What was it? Beauty of Bath.

What was it? Yellow, vermillion, round, big, splendid;

already escaping the edge of itself,

like the mantra of bees,

like the notes of rosemary, tarragon, thyme.

Poppies scumble their colour onto the air,

now and there, here, then and again.


the heart’s impulse to cherish; thus,

a woman petalling paint onto a plate –

cornflower blue –

as the years pressed out her own violet ghost;

that slow brush of vanishing cloud on the sky.

And the dragonfly’s talent for turquoise.

And the goldfish art of the pond.

And the open windows calling the garden in.

This bowl, life, that we fill and fill.


The Apple Orchard

– Rainer Maria Rilke

Come let us watch the sun go down

and walk in twilight through the orchard’s green.

Does it not seem as if we had for long

collected, saved and harbored within us

old memories? To find releases and seek

new hopes, remembering half-forgotten joys,

mingled with darkness coming from within,

as we randomly voice our thoughts aloud

wandering beneath these harvest-laden trees

reminiscent of Durer woodcuts, branches

which, bent under the fully ripened fruit,

wait patiently, trying to outlast, to

serve another season’s hundred days of toil,

straining, uncomplaining, by not breaking

but succeeding, even though the burden

should at times seem almost past endurance.

Not to falter! Not to be found wanting!

Thus must it be, when willingly you strive

throughout a long and uncomplaining life,

committed to one goal: to give yourself!

And silently to grow and to bear fruit.

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