“Neglect” by R. T. Smith
Poetry 180: A Poem a Day for American High Schools, Hosted by Billy Collins, U.S. Poet Laureate, 2001-2003
Is the scent of apple boughs smoking in the woodstove what I will remember of the Red Delicious I brought down, ashamed that I could not convince its limbs to render fruit? Too much neglect will do that, skew the sap's passage, blacken leaves, dry the bark and heart. I should have lopped the dead limbs early and watched each branch with a goshawk's eye, patching with medicinal pitch, offering water, compost and mulch, but I was too enchanted by pear saplings, flowers and the pasture, too callow to believe that death's inevitable for any living being unloved, untended. What remains is this armload of applewood now feeding the stove's smolder. Splendor ripens a final time in the firebox, a scarlet harvest headed, by dawn, to embers. Two decades of shade and blossoms - tarts and cider, bees dazzled by the pollen, spare elegance in ice - but what goes is gone. Smoke is all, through this lesson in winter regret, I've been given to remember. Smoke, and Red Delicious apples redder than a passing cardinal's crest or cinders.
—R. T. Smith
From Poetry, Oct-Nov, 2002
Copyright 2002 by R. T. Smith.
All rights reserved.
Reprinted by permissions of R. T. Smith. Copyright 2002 by R. T. Smith. For further permissions information, contact R. T. Smith, PO Box 195, Fairfield, VA 24435.
About the Poet
R.T. (Rod) Smith (1947- ) was born in Washington, DC, and grew up in Georgia and North Carolina. Smith is the author of eight poetry collections, including Outlaw Style: Poems (University of Arkansas Press, 2007).
Learn more about R. T. Smith at The Poetry Foundation.