Isaac and the Apple

by Rus Bowden
Third Place, August 2022
Judged by Doris Ferleger

Hi Isaac, can you hear me?
I know your name
because the elder human
in whom you received your pollination
called you that
from the doorway
of your habitual abode.

Her voice echoed off that hill
to your left
and the one straight ahead.
Did you notice the split second delay
between when your name
left her mouth
and when it bounced off my tree trunk
against which you sit this fine morning?
Isaac, I am right up here.

Listen to me.
If next time you come,
you could bring along a stopwatch
plus a quill and a pad
on which to record our measurements,
together we should
calculate the speed of sound.

No response? Leaving?
You can be so like fallen leaves,
drifting around the grounds
until blown against a perpendicular
or into a puddle.
Anyway, talk later.

Hi again Isaac, can I call you Bud?
Sorry, bad joke,
nothing to do but think,
but gotta laugh while out on a limb, right?

Listen, do you recall that rainstorm
we had a few days back?
The sun came out afterward
and its rays refracted into a rainbow.
Which means that white light
is actually comprised of a spectrum of colors.
Write that down.
What, no quill and pad?

Anyway, some time before that
our pink petals were falling in with a cool breeze.
It was like they should have plopped
straight down with gravity,
except the air particles
that ease their falls on still days
made them change directions
and ride the currents.
Like, see that fluttering leaf . . .
Okay, see you next time the wind blows, Bud.

Hi Isaac, since you have been away,
we in the tree have been decimated by squirrels
and a cat got stuck up here too.
All this activity though
beats hanging out
with my fellow potatoes of the sky, as I call them,
who think they are perfectly spherical
and believe the sun rises
and sets around them
mesmerized by their comely exocarps.

Anyway, you and I are both gaining weight,
and I surmise that we would
freefall to the ground with a thud
if not for the large lower limb
you have climbed onto this afternoon
and my supportive branch up here.
Like, to stay where we each are,
the force of the tree acts to hold us up
and that very force must
be equal and opposite
to our respective weights.

Otherwise we could not remain this still.
We would not be able to visit like we do.
How can I put this in human terms?
Look, that is why your bottom gets sore
and boy, I am getting a stiff stem.
Careful jumping down big fella!

Hey did you see what I just saw?
You accelerated as you dropped.
If only you had quill and pad
you could write down
that force equals mass times acceleration.
Could you just remember “F=ma” please?
It means the higher you are
the bigger the bruise from a fall.

Aah! now I am dropping to earth too!
The sudden release
of your downward sitting force
has caused my mother tree to shake me off.

Hmm, and while the moon is in orbit
I am about to land
what only appears
to be straight down
onto your crown.
Which means . . .
the moon is falling!
The moon
is falling!

Just as I predicted.
It is simple mechanics.
Let’s call it “deciduous physics,”
shall we Bud?
Did you get all that down?

Would you pick me up, please
and plant me somewhere with a good view?
Or just throw me over there.
I need to get away
and roll around.
Isaac, stop biting!

I found this to be a thoroughly fresh and playful persona poem, a monologue in an ironic “dialogue” form. I love the way the “deciduous physics expert” apple speaks in artless language and puns and heedless Isaac Newton will, as we know get all the credit for the discoveries the apple has made in the poem. I enjoyed thoroughly how, in the end, the apple’s wisdom can’t save him from being bitten into by Isaac who apparently stole the apple’s intellectual property. --Doris Ferleger