This poem is part of CavanKerry’s series for National Poetry Month. Every day in April, we post a poem from our community of writers.
More Than the Weight of its Laden Branches
by Sarah Sousa
The cottage has an apple tree and textbooks
in the attic, a couch slashed by bars of sun
where I lay tragic as a wine spill.
Because I fear discovery by the man
who mows the lawn, I keep my routine
simple: wake early with the birds,
wash in the stream, harvest water and apples.
Keep out of sight, conserve energy.
Three apples a day times twenty years equals…
When I stand too quickly the room goes
dim. In autumn I pick the tree
clean, store the apples in a pillowcase
for winter. I move like a ghost
behind faded curtains, ration my reading,
ration the apples, and make lists
in a black address book: embolism, sharp
cheddar, rhizome, cell division, linguini and clams.
I write: I know I will die of starvation
and should leave here. I stay.
I write: God is sending a husband
and wishes me to wait for Christmas.
Three apples a day times three months
equals…I wait. Christmas comes,
the new year, clumps of hair in the bed.
I believe the remedy to be profuse
sunshine and love. I believe I will
die of starvation. Thirty days ago
I ate the last apple. It’s cold
but the chickadees will sing me
(nobody-nobody-nobody) through winter.
I stop reading. I follow, on hands and knees,
the sun as it moves through the rooms,
lie down in its patches. The heater’s breath
grows shallower every day.
I know I should leave but don’t.
For one: I can no longer stand,
two: it’s so peaceful here. I have everything
I ever wanted—an apple tree equals
more than the weight of its laden branches.
When my husband arrives we’ll add
a garden and a smokehouse. My heart-
beat slows to an icicle’s thin drip. I write:
whomever finds my body should know
this was a case of domestic violence.
Sarah Sousa’s poems have appeared in The Massachusetts Review, Fugue, Passages North, Barn Owl Review, and Fourteen Hills, among others. She has been nominated twice for the Pushcart Prize, is the 2015 recipient of the Anne Halley Poetry Prize from The Massachusetts Review and a 2016 Massachusetts Cultural Council Fellow.
CavanKerry is publishing Sarah’s next collection in 2018. To learn more about Sarah visit sarahasousa.com