Wednesday, January 4, 2012

How D'You Like THEM Apples?


It is deep midwinter at Woolsthorpe,
and the widow Hannah Ayscough is feeling all askew.
The baby isn’t due but is anxious to be born
so that he may get to work —
and there is so very much to do.

Not on the farm, like his dead father,
but in the classroom, something for which
his laboring mother has no particular regard.
She knows she will have to marry again,
but cannot find a new husband with a child

pulling at her hem. She will give it to her parents,
a remnant of her past they will not be ashamed to raise.
When he arrives, he’s so small he’d fit into a quart jar,
but he thrives. She names him after his father, Isaac Newton,
this boy who should have been the apple of his parent’s eyes.

But apples don’t come true — only grafts make sweet fruit
unless some miracle of God’s handiwork makes it so —
at least, that’s how the thinking goes,
before Watson and Crick undo all His seams and see
that the art of apples lies in the perfect marriage of genes.

Young Isaac will never be a father to anything
other than Calculus, the gravity of which
he is too raw a fresh-born pip to appreciate
on January 4, 1643, as he comes steaming into the world
with his eyes wide open and a snarl curling his lip.

Grafts of Newton’s apple tree can be purchased from Brogdale Farm.

A Plain Cookery Book for the Working Classes, Charles Elmé Francatelli, 1852
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