Natalie Diaz, Valentine

February 14, 2013   •   By Sarah Vap

SO MANY of our “love poems” are just brief moments of objectification of a maybe-sorta- loved-one. But Natalie Diaz’s poem “I Watch Her Eat the Apple” goes back to one of our oldest stories of a couple, Adam and Eve, and she makes it right. Here, the old story of the apple, the garden, and that forbidden knowledge terribly released into the world by Eve — is told with tender and great difference. Diaz infuses the story with so much love, so much awed nuance, so much trust, that I leave the poem wanting to reside with those eating women there, in that contemporary garden. I want to stay and love knowledge along with them. The old story doesn’t trust women, and the old story isn’t in love. In


Diaz’s version, the poem rests in knowledge, the poem deeply trusts women, and the poem is in (devouring) love. These are the right places to start a Valentine.


— Sarah Vap


 


Natalie Diaz, “I Watch Her Eat the Apple”


 


She twirls it in her left hand,


a small red merry-go-round.


 


According to the white oval sticker,


she holds apple #4016.


I’ve read in some book or other


of four thousand fifteen fruits she held


before this one, each equally dizzied


by the heat in the tips of her fingers.


 


She twists the stem, pulls it


like the pin of a grenade, and I just know


somewhere someone is sitting alone on a porch,


bruised, opened up to their wet white ribs,


riddled by her teeth —


lucky.


 


With her right hand, she lifts the sticker


from the skin. Now,


the apple is more naked than any apple has been


since two bodies first touched the leaves


of ache in the garden.


 


Maybe her apple is McIntosh, maybe Red Delicious.


I only know it is the color of something I dreamt,


something I gave to her after being away


for ten thousand nights.


 


The apple pulses like a red bird in her hand —


she is setting the red bird free,


but the red bird will not go,


so she pulls it to her face as if to tell it a secret.


 


She bites, cleaving away a red wing.


The red bird sings. Yes,


she bites the apple and there is music —


a branch breaking, a ship undone by the shore,


a knife making love to a wound, the sweet scrape


of a match lighting the lamp of her mouth.


 


This blue world has never needed a woman


to eat an apple so badly, to destroy an apple,


to make the apple bone —


and she does it.


 


I watch her eat the apple,


carve it to the core and set it, wobbling,


on the table —


a broken bell I beg to wrap my red skin around


until there is no apple,


there is only this woman


who is a city of apples,


there is only me licking the juice


from the streets of her palm.


 


If there is a god of fruit or things devoured,


and this is all it takes to be beautiful,


then God, please


let her


eat another apple


tomorrow.


[more Valentine’s Day poems]