Bitter Fruit

a response to Grant Caldwell

Here come the first buds of quince again,
random swellings in the thicket of twigs
she didn't prune midwinter. It's too late now.
She's smoking again, outside in the cold
with her arthritis and broken wrist.
She's thinking of Blake and his priests in the garden,
his invisible worm and how even now,
under quince bark that loosens and wrinkles like skin,
codling moth worms – sperm-like micro-dragons –
sleep 'til blossom fall, then wake, unerring,
to pierce the green beginnings with decay.

This year will she spray the tree with poison,
try to save the fruit? Or will the season pass
like all the other seasons when she sat and brooded
and didn't get round to it? Bees are already there
at the fruity sage, whose deep-throated blooms
shout hot pink early, a jump ahead of the spring
competition, when every flower's doing it.

She thinks: how the open beaks of hatchlings
reveal a pattern that parent birds can't resist;
how last night's new chanteuse took the prize,
who'd sung her verses to the judges (men,
dreaming in their fifties); how nature uses youth
so why shouldn't youth use nature and
if only she'd been wise to this before
she lost the trick of the flower.