Tuesday, February 28, 2017

February Poetry Challenge Winners - Fruit Poems

Still Life with Apples and a Pomegranate by Gustave Courbet (1871-72)
Compliments of the National Gallery of Art, London

The February challenge was to write a poem featuring fruit. Susan Holm, Here is the second place poem:

Ode to the Apple
                                                 after Lorca

You were Newton’s clue,
red rose of fruit, freckled
with stars, you grew high

from the Tree of Science
swinging with the comets—
until you fell on his head

that night of the pockmarked
full moon, unlike your satin
face, produce of the sun.

You fell as the moon rose.
Skinny young Newton dozed,
about to upset the Earth

and throw it out
of the center of the universe
where fell all dreck and mud,

according to the alchemists.
You are best when held up
high on the branch—

but do you feel a slight pull
from this massive magnet, Earth?
How did Newton figure gravity

as the arc of falling, you perfection
of fruit—crimson skin, crisp insides,
not white, not yellow—dropping

while the moon stays hooked
in the sky, stuck, wheeling
in imperfect ellipse?

Did he taste you
as did Eve when she took
a bite of you from the other

Tree of Knowledge?
As the serpent god advised
before Adam’s bruised ribs

healed or her wounding
began: the birth of others.
A small price to pay,

the bigger price yet to come.
With one taste Adam knew
the love he would have

though he had to leave.
Ah, apple of Paradise, of summer,
I get no sudden revelation

of knowledge or love
from you, just the taste
of science as I nibble down

to your poison core and arc
you through the air so that you fall
into the trash can, an equation

between eye and hand and fruit.
I still wonder how gravity adds up
though I observe it every day,

including the moon in orbit,
and you still attached to your stem,
ghost of an apple.

~ Robin Scofield

About this poem, the judge said in part, “I find it an interesting intellectual play on a triangular equation (Newton, the moon, the apple; Adam, Eve, the apple; Eve, the tree of knowledge, the serpent; the poet, the apple, the trash can or eye/hand/fruit), and I liked that the poet composed it in 3 line stanzas to match that triangular equation.” She found the poem more compelling intellectually than emotionally, saying it is well done as “an intellectual puzzle.”

The winning poem creates a very different atmosphere:

The Apples Are Ripe

The wind knows a secret;
It calls through the trees
And rattles the branches
Like brittle old keys.
For locked in protection
Of leaves and brown limbs
Are treasures more precious
Than gold, oil, or gems.

The apples are ripe!
Oh, I’ll yell it again –
The apples are ready!
And you’ll know it when
You reach up and pluck one
And take that first bite
Of sweet juicy crispness;
You’ll yell with delight –
The apples are ripe!
Green, yellow, and red,
So lets drag the baskets
From out of the shed.

Climb the old ladder
And isn’t it grand
To feel how each fruit
Lies cupped in your hand.
Shine them up gently
And see each one glow
In dappled fall sunlight:
And always you know
That the first bite will sound
Like a crackle of fire.
Oh the apples are ripe,
And I never tire
Of gazing at trees
In those old orchards where
I can breathe the sweet smells
Of ripe-apple air.

~ Cindy Guentherman
“The Apples Are Ripe” was first published in 1990 by Ideals.

About this poem, the judge said, “I loved the emotion/enthusiasm communicated in this poem. I loved the meter which was an excellent vehicle for the spirit of the poem, and I liked the rhyme, which, even though not 100% consistent, was never ‘stretched’ or constrained. The poem hit all the senses:  aural: (the rhythm; ‘calls through the trees,’ ‘brittle old keys,’ ‘crackle of fire’); visual: (‘Green, yellow. and red,’ ‘dappled fall sunlight’); tactile: (I especially liked ‘lies cupped in your hand’); olfactory (I especially liked ‘breathe the sweet smells/of ripe-apple air’); and, of course, taste (‘sweet juicy crispness’). I love human experience of the poem, and the fact that the poem is about a human experience, and I loved the enthusiasm of that experience! It makes you want to drop everything and run out into the orchard with the speaker.

Congratulations to the two winners of the February Poetry Challenge. And thanks to all who submitted poems. A new challenge will be posted on March 1.


Cindy Guentherman's book of poems titled Through My Fingers was published in 2014 by RWG Press. She has been published in a number of journals and has been a winner in a number of poetry contests.

Robin Scofield, author of And the Ass Saw the Angel and Sunflower Cantos (Mouthfeel Press), has poems appearing in The Texas Weather Anthology, The San Pedro River Review, and Pilgrimage. She is poetry editor for BorderSenses and writes with the Tumblewords Project in El Paso, where she lives with her husband and her Belgian Shepherd dog. Her next full-length collection, Flow, will be published in 2016 by Street of Trees Projects.

Susan Holm is a poet who lived and taught in Turkey for a number of years. She recently retired from the faculty of Monmouth College in Illinois where she taught languages.