Half butterflies flutter beside the zinnias. Snipped by songbirds,
they flex their last wing beats. Their slow bodies ready to dissolve
in the next strong summer rain.
One girl contemplates ending their pain with a quick stomp.
Her cousin crouches and sickens.
They are perfect halves. The girls.
The insects. The two zinnia blossoms on one stalk.
Apples sawed apart by grandfather’s pocket knife.
The twin blades akimbo.
Bruised apples ring a front yard tree and a smell of vinegar
has the same shape. Oh, you have to at least try
a sliver of the knotted fruit. One pocket-knifed sliver
to know how grainy and sweet dry is the ground
around low mountains, packed tightly
among roots of trees and weed flowers
and tall pasture grasses that hide and halve
dark snakes. Only a slim head pierces the ring
of mown broom straw, fools girls into thinking
they have seen something terrible and alluring–
A divided body looking at one pine forever.
But they see the rest of the snake buried
and s-ing under bent grasses, poke
a twig in that direction and run away
laughing until it pains their breath
and wets their shirts with sweat. Metallic odors
of dish soap and grease and newborn cats
blow from Grandmother’s back door.
It isn’t time to stop laughing or running but they do.
They hear television far away and wonder
what will happen to this place.
About “Three Moments and a Piece of Apple from the Oldest Tree”: This poem comes from my attempt at absorbing and processing the richness of the family home place. It is an environment that pulls at my blood, and I’m constantly amazed at the way it satisfies and surprises my senses. I suppose at heart this poem is a love poem.
Jessica Fordham Kidd lives and writes in Coker, Alabama with her husband, children, and dog. She is the associate director of first-year writing at the University of Alabama, and her poems have appeared in Mirror Dance, Drafthorse, and The Paris Review among others. She has work forthcoming in Goblin Fruit and Ideomancer. You can find Jessica on the web at jessicafordhamkidd.com and on twitter (@jessicafkidd).