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“The Giftie” by John W. Sexton

The Giftie

On the front step are three fruit:
an acorn, an apple, a sloe.
The autumn sun gutters
in the grey sky.
I take the apple, but throw
the sloe and the acorn to the hedge.

As I eat the apple I look into the sun.
Dark filaments, like cancers,
pass through its bright face.

Next day, on the front step are three fruit:
a physalis, a medlar, a damson.
This day the sun is grey
and it’s the sky that’s bright.
I take the physalis but throw
the medlar and the damson to the hedge.

As I open the papery husk I look at the sun.
The tiny orange globe of the physalis
would make a new sun, if I could place it
up there in the sky.
But instead I place the physalis in my mouth;
it is both bitter and sweet.

That night I am troubled.
Under moonlight I step out
to the hedge.

Outside are four trees, three of which are on fire.
An oak, a medlar, and a damson are flaring
into the night. Only one tree is sound:
from the sloe a blackthorn
has grown into the sky.
I begin to climb,
but I am cut to ribbons on the thorns
and make little headway.

I wake up, fallen at the foot of the blackthorn.
The sky is full of indigo suns,
blazing sloes.
The world is darker.
Daylight is no longer, and will never be.

On the front step were three fruit:
an acorn, an apple, a sloe.
One of these was damnation.

On the front step were three fruit:
a physalis, a medlar, a damson.
One of these was salvation.

Choices are usually clear
only when it is far too late.
And the best riddles are often
the most wickedly conceived.

John W. Sexton
John W. Sexton was born in 1958 and lives in the Republic of Ireland. His fifth poetry collection, The Offspring of the Moon, was published by Salmon Poetry in 2013. His poem The Green Owl was awarded the Listowel Poetry Prize 2007 for best single poem, and in that same year he was awarded a Patrick and Katherine Kavanagh Fellowship in Poetry. His speculative poems are widely published and some have appeared in Apex, The Irish Times, Liminality, The Pedestal Magazine, Rose Red Review and Strange Horizons.