The White Orchard

Imag­ine Isaac New­ton wandering
In the long orchard grass, and over him
Branch­es and the white apple of the moon,
A dream of afternoon’s blue branch, with sun—
Hes­perides-apple for­ev­er gilt
And burn­ing, twin­kling in the apple leaves
Like the stone of the philosophers
That makes the basest met­als shift to gold.
Then plunk! a Flower-of-Kent plunges to ground,
And Isaac New­ton won­ders why an orb
Should not sail up or fly slantdicular;
He pon­ders how the mat­ter-world is rich
With coax­ing pow­er, that the Earth is strong
To call the apple toward its seed­less core,
Just as the apple like­wise yearns and draws
(Like a tiny mag­net) immensities.
And dwelling on the image of the moon,
He mus­es that a cap­ti­vat­ing tide
Might splash as far as tree, fruit, and Isaac
Jug­gling num­bers and plan­e­tary orbits,
Reflect­ing (long and long) until the sky
Is stocked with stars, until the Milky Way
Appears, a path for Newton’s reverie,
A del­i­cate and spi­ral peel of lights
That might have cauled the gleam­ing flesh of moon.
Half sleep­ing, he sees the Albe­do Queen
Unclasp her sil­ver knife and cut the peel,
Flick­ing rib­bons over her left shoulder
To mark the shapes they fling against the night.
Escaped from Newton’s notes on alchemy,
She is the White Queen of the rose and dove
Who ram­bles under leafy canopies
That glow with stars and moon inside his head.
He sleeps and dreams his swan, his Christ, his clean
Bap­tismal drops, his sil­ver-apple bride,
Her face all lur­ing and all gravity,
Her moon­beam fin­gers flick­er­ing in leaves,
Restor­ing Eden’s apple to the bough.

Marly Youmans is the award-win­ing author of thir­teen books of poet­ry and fic­tion. Forth­com­ing books are: a col­lec­tion of poems, The Book of the Red King, cen­tered on a Fool, the Red King, and their sundry friends; and Charis in the World of Won­ders, a nov­el about a young Puri­tan woman set in the 1690’s Mass­a­chu­setts Bay Colony.