by Lynn Hardaker
i only took one bite of the apple
the rest of it, the part that keeps the seeds,
was tossed out the window
left forgotten where it fell in the dirt
by the side of the cottage.
in the years—decades—since,
it dried up,
drew into itself
like a pair of old lips.
the players in that drama
moved on to new lives
while the apple’s core
slowly gave up its seeds
to the hungry earth.
after a dance of many summers
a tree grew
and after many more
apples swelled on its branches
voluptuous as new blood.
one day an old woman appeared at my window.
a different window.
at first i thought it was déjà vu,
then i thought i was seeing my reflection.
(i keep no mirrors in the house.)
i caught her whisper something
about an old poison worming its
way deep into my core
when my husband left me for a younger, more beautiful wife,
but then, my ears aren’t what they used to be.
what i am certain of, is what she told me of the tree.
she thought I might have use for its magic,
she told me it would not be easy
i would have to want its gifts very, very badly.
my belly wormed with promise.
how, i wondered, did this old Hexe know?
now, i make my slow and painful way to the old place.
it seems so different.
i peer through the overgrowth
the cottage should be in there somewhere
silent, empty, choked with weeds and webs.
i’ve brought a girl
she’s young and—of course—beautiful.
she believed the story i told her to make her come along.
who would question the words
of an old woman?
all i need to do, so said the hag,
is give her one apple to eat
then she’ll sleep an earth-deep sleep
while the roots of the tree
drink their way into her beauty.
and after one round of the moon
new apples will swell on the tree’s branches
and they will give me back
that which was so coveted, so hated, that which sent me into exile
that which ultimately i, too, have lost.
i will pluck one of these new apples
with skin as red as my lips,
pits as black as my hair,
flesh as white as my flesh
and i will eat it, this time core and all.
Lynn Hardaker is a Canadian writer and artist currently living in Regensburg, Germany. Her poems and short stories have appeared in journals including Mythic Delirium, Not One of Us, and Goblin Fruit. She is currently working on a middle grade cozy mystery set in a small English village in 1924.