“Apple Orchard,” oil on canvas, by George Inness, 1892.

by Benjamin Cutler

After the final harvest, the forecast
called for freezing temperatures
and the end of this winsome world.

We have never trusted doomsday
news, but this new winter had been born
a living, wet, and hungry thing. We could feel

its ice-watered tongues pushing through
the walls, searching for our mouths. Stand
here, I said, stand here and look. The silvered

sun still knew itself and breathed its yellow
name through the window glass. Wait. Listen,
I said. Doesn’t it sound like our last warm day

of picking? Yes: the apple orchard in fall,
the master’s cider-drunken sleep, our love-
making behind the hives. You loved

the colony’s scent: wax-ripened bread and apple-
blossom gold. The bees’ thrum made you horny,
you said, because it was a music more ancient

than love. Our bodies became themselves then—
all petal-bloom and honey-gleam—each spill
and blood-warm bud a blessing of skin and sun

on our tongues. The memory sung, we stepped
from the window’s dying glow into the stone-
blue shadow—the dark of a winter-dead hive,

the dark of an ice-shattered tree. The tired sun
grew hoarse and the frosted tongues licked
their teeth. When I reached for your hand, I found

a blackened apple frozen to its branch. The forecast
was right after all, I tried to say, but my tongue
was brittle with cold, the words ice in my throat.

omega man

Benjamin Cutler’s poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in Cold Mountain Review, Cumberland River Review, The Carolina Quarterly, Barren Magazine, and Longleaf Review, among others. He won the North Carolina Poetry Society (NCPS) Carol Bessent Hayman Poetry of Love Contest, the NCPS Poetry of Witness Contest, and was a finalist for the NCPS Poet Laureate Award. Benjamin is also a husband, a father of four, and an English and creative writing teacher at Swain County High School in the Southern Appalachian Mountains of Western North Carolina where he currently serves as the North Carolina Writers Network-West Swain County representative. His debut collection, The Geese Who Might be Gods, is available from Main Street Rag Publishing.