Poem Hunter
Armistice Sunday 1997
AF (1964 / Newcastle under Lyme, Staffordshire, UK)

Armistice Sunday 1997

I am the junior god of transformation
(you do not need to know me)
I work the scratter lever.

I, (my masters know)
watch you in
stir & drive
stir and drive
into the spinning mouth
of the rhythm machine

its roar and throb
gives us a beat
its iron drum smiles
Bare teeth against the wood

to spit you out.

Time less it is
(or seems to me) .
Dusty (webs over the
part shredded) are the tools we wield

Rotten by worm and age
A paddle with splintered lip
I use to push & shovel

Over my shoulder I steal a glance
Try to see what is done there
What goes on
Of the secrets inside this world
The learning of the new craft,
Counting the hidden skills of the art

The wrapping press
The spit sweet smell of the spilt juice
Split seams of fruit skin
They catch
As I learn.

We three gods of apples are:

I am a junior god
I believe in the purity of the essence
The essential process
The endless glory of the transformation.

All that morning in preparation we man-handled the engines
The destroying machines
Shredder and trough
Beams and screws of the press
Obsolete but effective
Tried and tested
Fit for purpose
Used to work.

Into position we dragged the frames, back and forth
We carried that necessary weight
Lifted and balanced
Strained and hammered
Wedge of iron and of wood
Driven secure against
The force of the beam
Against the coming press of the afternoon.

Great black cast jesters’ caps
Forged of curling leaf
Spurred antlers
Hanging overhead
Smothered and greased
Spin and slide
At our command

Hard by the wall we hauled
Dragging the weight
Over cobblestone and brick
Its awful antique splendour
Assembled at last
With our hands and eyes.

All that afternoon in the cold and dust we toiled
Fading sunlight brought in the cold.

My companions
Masters of the transformation
Helped me to work tirelessly.

Watching the belt
Trying not to force the lever
(working best at a steady pace
Only so much desiccation in a single pass)

We too were surprised by the volume (smashed and partly smashed)
Before the mechanism needed a rest.
Before the readjustment
And we were ready to recommence.

One time I saw pictures in a crowded room,
They told of those who battles did not kill
Whose faces remained endured in rotten wounds
Curled inwards over purple caves
Openings covering
Bone as flesh:

One dozen Dix
and my companion fainted away
(the room was close as hell)

Over on the press
The skilled hands loaded
The weight of pulp into the sacks mounting.
Levelled to a capacity
I experienced judgement
To a nicety.

The sun drew lower filtering through the cracks in the barn
Brickwork and rafter
Walls and floor above
Breathing with the engine and the sweetness of the juice
And us, slaking thirst on last year’s nectar.

Each full bag heaved with practised ease
Filled the hopper
Bouncing down like school children on a picnic
Every sack a slightly different story
Round and clear
Bright green uniformity
Those with a touch of russet or red
All sizes and
Every variety we could lay our hands on
Gathered together from orchard and field
Transported here to wait

I paddled
Worked the lever
Watched the belt

I saw the rotten and the good go together through the iron teeth of the scratter.

At last there were no more left.
We stopped the motor
The wheels ground slow
Then not at all.

Still pieces and parts of apple lay around
All about our feet
Overall studded with
Stained where I had wiped my hands

& I,
(the junior god of transformation)
began to feel the cold
In my place
I waited
Knowing only there was more to come -
Not what.

And so we came to turn
About the crowns.

Hard down we twisted
Forcing the mashed pulp through the mesh
Squeezing the last juice from the flesh
Running in golden streams
Over the old oak.

Catching each wave
Now folding,
Now gushing
Through the funnel.

Buckets and more
A drip caught
A surreptitious sip.

Soaked and stored
In an old
Barrel of rum
We saved
Preserved, the glory of the day.

We repatriated the remains:
They fed Whitney’s pigs
(A rare breed)

We hoped in time to feed on them.

The comfort of the memory of that which was to come kept us through the winter.

Washed down and greased, for the next harvest
Stored for seasons
The machines await the masters’ call.

We who have no use for them
Almost all the year.

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Pablo Neruda

If You Forget Me

Comments (1)

This was a nice read, Andrew. I never realized making apple cider was such a physical job. This is a very physical poem. Nice job.