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.