The Apple Tree

by David Carey

You told me once that growing
up was like walking up a downwards
escalator. I think I was too young
to understand back then: I thought of time
as a steadily growing tree
that I hadn’t yet started climbing.

I remember playing hide-and-seek; climbing
up thin branches, or crouching in the undergrowth.
Once, you saw my head peeking out from the apple tree.
You said that soon, I’d always be looking down
at you like that; that time
passed too quickly. I think I grew younger

as you spoke, worried that my youth
might fall from me as I climbed
back down to you; or that time
would wrest it from my shoulders as I grew.
You took a long time to convince me to come down:
I wanted to live there in the tree

forever. I’ve never stopped climbing trees.
I know now that youth
doesn’t leave: you told me that we grow down
while we grow up, always climbing
that little bit further from ourselves; you said growth
isn’t as linear as it looks. And nor is time.

I remember a time,
much later on, when we were at home, the trees
exchanging pleasantries in the wind, the air growing
steadily colder. The night was young,
and so we continued to climb
through conversations. We were standing down

by the pond, and the world was upside down
when we looked at it in there. It was some time
before we went inside: we talked of how I would climb
up the trunk of the apple tree
when I was young;
it was as though you thought I was now fully grown.

You were quiet down there, for a time,
While I told you that I was still young; that however much I grew
I’d always come back and climb the apple tree.