We are about six weeks away from publishing issue #5 of Dark Matter. To wet your appetite, please enjoy this story from Verity Sayles!
They didn’t ask for an apple tree, it just came with the house they bought thirty years ago. The branches still grow in crooked tangles, shading the front yard and quiet road, threatening the power lines. I thought nothing of age back when I climbed the knotted limbs and scratched my name in the bark, but apparently, most fruit trees only live until about 35. They tend to rot from the inside, grow black cankers on their branches, and the their leaves yellow and shrink. Last year, our neighbor, the arborist who gets stoned and removes stumps for a living, pulled his truck to the side of the road and hopped our stonewall to offer an unsolicited inspection. He patted the trunk, twisted a gloved finger in the knot, and tipped his head to survey the branches. “Eighty, maybe ninety years old,” he said.“ It’s pretty amazing. One of the oldest in town, I bet.”
We don’t prune or pick. The apples grow unreasonably high, and each September they drop with a force causing them to split open and leak sticky juice on the pavement, or turn soft in the long grass, or be smashed to a paste by passing cars. Our front yard is filled with the swampy, sweet smell of cider, of compost, of pulp. Lazy bees circle the fallen fruit, and ants tunnel through their splitting sides.
Years ago, my ever-hopeful father would engage in some pruning or spray the tree with organic pesticides. A hapless pseudo-farmer, he delighted in the meager handful of semi-edible apples harvested from the tree each fall. He whistled as he diced up the apples in the kitchen, removing the bug marks, the brown spots, cutting around the bruises to salvage a tablespoon of fruit. It would take the dissection of three or four apples to have enough unblemished fruit to top his granola. He declared it delicious. He showed us how to delicately pluck blackberries from the tangle of thorns by the woods. He planted blueberry bushes by the white fence, and when he picked the shriveled blue dimples he said they showed promise. He patted rich mulch around two new apricot saplings in the backyard, but they never grew fruit. The small trees withered and died the same year he did. We used to plant gardens, till the soil, and hold our breath watching the burgeoning crop. By summer’s end, the centerpieces of our dinners were a pitiful bowl of cherry tomatoes, or the one or two bitter and bumpy cucumbers survivors. He delighted in our nascent, bumbling way of living off the land. He would sweep his broad hand over the small heap of vegetables and champion them the fruits of our labor. When I think of him now, I picture his hands—broad and soft and pink, soil persistently packed in the grooves of his fingernails.
Now, the apples have started to drop again. Each morning my mother puts on her work gloves and gathers the fallen apples. She stoops low over the lawn and fills a large plastic bucket that she hauls across the road and dumps down a wooded hill. Several hours later, she returns to the yard, sighs at the fresh fallen crop, and does it again. I want her to see the pastoral charm of apples dotting the lawn, not to mention the futile nature of her work. But the tree is an invited nuisance in her life, a distraction by means of physical toil. Our property is filled these opportunities: fallen tree limbs must be dragged from the woods, stonewalls need rebuilding, the lawn needs mowing, and there is wood to stack before the winter. She hauls rocks from the garden and insists that the broken wheelbarrow is fine, and she too, is fine. On her sinewy and strong forearms, I’ll notice a bruise purpling against the thin, suntanned skin. I think of the phrase, “worked to the bone.” I tell her we can hire people to do the yard work, but I know that is not the point.
She went to visit her sister and somehow her list of instructions only consisted of two chores:
1.) Check mail
2.) Everyday: use work gloves, bucket and broom in basement, sweep leaves from the driveway and dispose of apples.
She has been gone for two weeks, the house feels even emptier than before, and I have yet to remove any apples. But this September, unlike any autumns before it, the apples are huge. For five years nobody has cared to spray the tree, or try to prune the intransigent branches. Perhaps it was the rain, or the cool summer. Whatever the reason, and despite my mother’s insistence the apples are only good for throwing away, I take a basket to the yard and turn over the smooth, flushed fruit. Often an apple is too small, split too deep, or chipmunks have already gnawed a quarter of the fruit to yellow. Many apples have bruises, small soft thumbprints where they hit the earth, but they can easily be eaten around and I gather a small, passable collection. Positioning my mouth to avoid a slight discoloration, I bite into the firm crispness of clean, white fruit and taste autumn.
This unexpected, plump goodness makes me uneasy . . . but I suppose I’ve been conditioned to think healthy is an imprecise appearance. Conditioned to worry this is a last ditch effort, a final shuddering breath. I fear I won’t know how much I loved this tree until it rots from the inside, grows unseen tumors, develops cankers on the branches and the leaves yellow and shrink. Searching for a warning, I cross from my basket to the tree, the low September sun streaks through the branches and dapples patterns on my skin. I press my hands to the cool, strong trunk, hoping to feel the insides and sense the core, but the knotted bark just flecks against my palms.
Verity Sayles is a freelance writer from Massachusetts who enjoys airplane food and the ocean in winter. She graduated from Trinity College (CT) in 2011 and is currently reading all the Pulitzer Prize Fiction winners and writing about them at pushandpulitzer.com
We are proud to announce the release of Issue #4 of Dark Matter Journal!
Right click here to download an EPUB version.
Click here to open a PDF version. Right click to download a PDF copy.
We are currently in the process of putting together issue #3 of Dark Matter. It should be available by the middle of July.
We will no longer be able to consider new submissions for issue #3 as of today, June 20th. We will continue to accept submissions for issue #4, to be published in early 2014, however.
To get everyone excited for issue #3, here is a sample poem from Lori Lamothe -
Dance of the Unsquared Circles
To lure the taste of chocolate
out of chocolate, add salt.
It’s not the old equation,
only a recipe for sensibility.
Opposites don’t attract, just end up
like the couple that set fire to civility
and chalked a faultline down the center
of possession. Or it’s the other way around—
two people wearing their anger inside out
for twenty years—all that electricity
trapped behind a flickering of false lives.
Call it cold fusion, or misery, or lightning
minus light. Call it whatever you like.
The trick is to find out what charges what—
to know the differences that revolve
in imaginary spaces—
Andromeda and The Milky Way
caught in a waltz of mutual gravity.
Let cardinals bring out the snow in snow.
Let the tree behind bullet-proof glass,
its leaves spindling toward sun,
make you crave an infinity of ocean.
If you want me to love you
write a graffitti of rain-slick roads
across the Sahara of my distance,
tattoo a dusting of particles
onto the terra incognita of my fear.
There are currently some problems with the server that keeps our archived issues of Dark Matter. While we are working to repair or replace it, we have provided a direct link below. We will have the issue with the server fixed before the second issue of DM comes out next month. Thanks for being patient with us.
Here is one more new poem before we start to prepare for issue number 2 of Dark Matter which will be out in December. This poem, and the previous poems and story published on this blog since the first issue will be included in issue #2. It's not too late to submit new work, however.
Thanks to Janet Butler for this poem which was originally published in Blinking Cursor Anthology, Spring, 2012.
Why I Love the Moon
I love her best when I catch her
dreaming her private dreams
aloof, a distant Buddha
far enough to tempt to fancy
near enough to cast her anchor
hard in our hearts.
We adore her, poised against endless night
magnet to immensities beyond us.
Janet Butler relocated to the Bay Area in 2005 after many years in central Italy. She teaches ESL in San Francisco and lives in Alameda with Fulmi, a lovely Spaniel mix she rescued in Italy and brought back with her. Some current or forthcoming publications are The Blue Bear Review, The Chaffey Review, Miller's Pond, Town Creek Poetry, and Red Ochre Lit. Her most recent chapbook is "Searching for Eden" from Finishing Line Press.
We are gearing up for our big Fall season. Our ad will appear in the Nov./Dec. issue of Poets & Writers, and we're expecting a lot of great submissions. We accepted a few over the summer too, and we've been showcasing some of them here. Our latest featured poem is Vacuity by Steve Broidy. Enjoy -
Most of an atom is
Ether. Through space
The tangible is tenuous
And so we seem
To see that if we
Speed on, heedless,
We may dodge through
Walls and galaxies, without
Truth, like the wind,
Finds form in
What is moved.
There is so much
That is nothing, we can
That we may