The First Apples
Published in 1977 by Shakespeare’s Sisters Press. Photographs by Mary Jane Fullam. 55 poems (Currently out-of-print) Written when the poet was a young mother in the 1970s, mostly living in the suburban town of Concord, these poems reflect her experiences with marriage and motherhood, but also her view of the wider world of Martin Luther King’s murder, Concord City Council machinations, and wars around the world.
ALAS I HAVE BECOME VERY MARRIED
The bay leaves we melded together
have nearly all drowned
in soups or stews,
and I forget which books were mine.
Long ago, I learned the burn scars
Your back carries,
The spaces in your ears,
The size of your hands.
At first I regularly planned
What I could do after this marriage;
Now I sleep on your side of the bed
When you’re away,
So I won’t have to look at it.
I can’t remember when it was
I stopped caring what my family thought of you,
And started thinking of you
As my family.
Sometimes, though, I wonder
If I should try to remember to want
AND THEIRS, THEM
We are the women of small histories/
diaries, journals, letters to our sisters/
whose mothers recited earlier accounts
while mixing turkey stuffing or brownies
in any coffee-flavored kitchen.
We are the keepers of lesser treasures/
relish recipes, songs our uncles sang,
steps to the old dances/
whose children are relentlessly photographed
and ride the years from sharp to fading
in masks of cellophane.
We are the bearers of background memories/
his last words, her first song,
Thanksgiving before the war/
whose grandchildren will grow
to remember us
and theirs, them.
Poems from THE FIRST APPLES recorded on April 15, 2015:
My husband, Stuart, is responsible for making this self-published book happen. He was the first to ever see my poems collected in a small black binder, and he gave me a typewriter for Christmas so I would “send some out.” I didn’t right away; it took a poetry class in UC Berkeley Extension School to give me the information about where and how to send things, as well as the nerve to do it. To my surprise (and the annoyance of some of my classmates), I seemed to have everything immediate accepted for publication in small poetry journals! In fact, “Alas I Have Become Very Married” was taken by FAMILY CIRCLE MAGAZINE and brought letters from around America. This led to Stuart’s next initiative: a book!
I had a wonderful time with this book. There were no book publishers in Concord, and I couldn’t see trekking back and forth to Berkeley, since I was also a new driver. So I marched around Concord and Walnut Creek and found a nearby printer who was willing to get involved in such a project, Industrial Graphic Arts. They had never done a book, but their young adult son, a new college graduate who had just joined the business, was especially interested; he was probably delighted to work on something that wasn’t a label or an inventory sheet. My sister’s good friend, Mary Jane Fullam, who was a newspaper photographer in Philadelphia, agreed to provide photos. I had no idea poetry books didn’t normally have photos, but I still love hers and think they do great things for my poetry. I went back and forth with copies of poems and pictures, approving the layout page by page, as the printer learned how to do everything. It took months, but we certainly had no deadlines, and I loved seeing a book emerge.
The young printer gave me the idea for putting the poem on the cover. “It’s a poetry book” was his rationale. The poem was written for the book but with Malvina Reynolds, the Berkeley singer –songwriter in mind. I had recently heard her sing her song, “Apple Tree” at a women’s lib get together: “If you love me, if you love, love, love me, plant a rose for me. But if you think you’ll love me a long, long time, plant an apple tree.”
When the book was done, I approached a new bookstore, the first in town to open. To my amazement, they were thrilled at the idea of a First Reading, did wonderful publicity, and even provided champagne for the event. Over a hundred people showed up, and we sold a hundred books that night. The CONTRA COSTA TIMES then jumped on the story, and printed a full-page feature. Everyone was excited to have a real bookstore with a real poet in Concord!
THE FIRST APPLES is out of print. If you would like to see more of the poems, want to use one, or have some other idea, please contact me.