Cider and Salt

This is sticky business, picking up drops,
the windfall apples that would not hold on
until harvest. Here they lie in summer
heat: bruised and split open on the rocks,
the unripe seeds translucent white.

I sort as I pick: battered brown ones
in the basket for cider: those with
flesh still white, for applesauce.
Those unharmed, I devour on the spot,
tart juice prickling around my teeth,
slicing cracked lips and fingertips.
The sour taste clings to my tongue
while the sweetness glides down, down,
coolly dissolving the stone in my throat.

Around my feet, the investigative hum
of bees, buzzing from purple fluff-head
clover to sticky-sweet cracks in fallen
fruit, inserting needles, testing,
clinical and businesslike.

I pick my way to the pasture
where the waiting bull turns from the
thin white cusp of his depleted
salt block. Wide-faced and small-
eyed, he trots to the fence and
lowers his head. My fingers scratch
the curly clump of Hereford hair
between his horns, and the head comes
up, the nose bobbing along my arm
from pit to wrist, discovering me:
I am wet, streaked with sweat and
dust and apple juice. His tongue
comes out, curves under my arm,
and draws me toward him in a rasping lick.
Rhythmically the flat wet muscle
encurls forearm, elbow, wrist, in
the smooth upward curve that pulls
flecks of straw from his nostril
into his mouth. White eyelashes
float like an awning over his vacant
gaze. He dreams I grow taller,
whiter than Lot's wife as she stands
looking over her shoulder.

©Beth George

Background on poem: Beth George's 'Cider and Salt' first appeared in Poet Lore magazine and won the Lefcowitz Award in 1991.


Click on title to hear a reading of the poem.

(Real Media required)

All photos by Tom Burkett