this rotten apple
on the windowsill
why keep it here at all?
did you steal it from the garden
stealthy as the serpent
out of your mother’s womb
where is the juice
the promised red glow
did it slip through your fingers
while you contemplated and wondered
whether you could weather the fall
-sitting there forlorn
all jouissance lost-
did you wish away your life
contemplating a bite
and the days just drifted by
throw it away
go wash your old hands
if you are a coward
who cannot take a plunge
good apples are not for you.
Why did I write this poem? I don’t know.
But I can tell you who this poem reminds me of.
It reminds me of myself and all the ways I’ve watched opportunities/moments go — hesitation, fear, and all that. Maybe even discernment.
It also reminded me of the old Czech photographer Josef Sudek, so I named the poem Josef’s Apple (the other option was to name it Adam’s apple because Tima’s apple would sound too self-involved).
In my Photography 101 class at university, we had a project to emulate the work of a photography hero and that’s how I got to know Josef.
He made many black and white photographs of still objects (including apples, obviously) against windowsills some 70 years ago. They appealed directly to my poet’s heart. Check out the intimate world of Josef Sudek if you feel like it.
What makes his images special, for me, is the fact that he decided those moments were worth capturing. Still things and things that move, every moment can be made into a photograph or a poem. They are worth it.
“Everything around us, dead or alive, in the eyes of a crazy photographer mysteriously takes on many variations . . . so that a seemingly dead object comes to life through light or by its surroundings.”
— Josef Sudek
Being a lonely nineteen-year-old with time to kill back then, I put several objects against the window of the room I rented and made black and white photographs with an analog camera that I borrowed from school.
I could not wait to go back to the darkroom on the next class day, bathe them in solutions, and see what comes up. No instant gratification was allowed. I had to wait for a whole week to pass!
I felt a sense of pride when the instructor decided to showcase my photography on the display reserved for art students, in the hallway where art people roamed.
I was only a science student, who believed that creativity was beyond her, fearfully dipping my toes into art.
Poems? I now release them into the information superhighway and hope that someone might connect with them before they forever disappear into the void.
Coming back to apples and art, the current worth of a Josef Sudek photo of an apple against the window is about USD 17,000.
But, what is the real worth of a moment fully inhabited and captured? Does it change depending on the person who experiences it? Does it depend on whether other people deem it worthy, or relatable?
I think I’ll get my own apples, set them against the windowsill, and watch raindrops fall on my own dark window.
Let me sit here for ever with bare things, this coffee cup, this knife, this fork, things in themselves, myself being myself.” ― Virginia Woolf, The Waves.
Maybe write a poem about it. Call it a life well-lived.