The Scent of Apples

by William W. Runyeon

As one comes upon the last days of autumn,
after the long rain that brings down the old leaves,
the sky dark, and brooding, the harvest in,
and its moon, passed, All Hallow’s Eve, and the
holy day itself, long gone, the harshness
of the new season hangs in a slow,
declining hour, poised as the grip on the
ancient bow of the god of the wind and
the dead, a Celtic twilight across the land,
drawn back and released, darker at its unknown,
appointed hour, driving the howling, surging
wind; as the huntsman, hounds, and riders of
the storm, and darkness, are unleashed, thundering
through the night, so is a hope, still with us,
that we shall be free of them, their curses,
and their sins; that we shall not offend them,
and carry the curse to new generations;
but may, instead, receive a little meat
from the boar, or pieces of silver, or
good fortune. And the blessing of their
passing without unspeakable desecration,
or even a new death; arrows of an
arbitrary darkness, a dawn chill as
an open wound, sacrifice of unsettled
fears, day upon night, where the dream and the
waking life lose the meaning of any
distinction between them, and build clarity;
calm after first light, that deepens with the
new day, when we are reminded of other
forces, and may enjoy a reprieve of
expiation, calm for both the living
and the dead. As the angels of the four winds
bear a gift of fruit and sweetness, from the
reserve always somewhere surviving the
crowding darkness, the tortured souls
of the unholy huntsmen; as a relief
that lingers like a long summer day,
in the surprising scent of apples
overspreading the weary land,
in the light, like a moon of lost desires,
that follows the thunder of their passing.

— This poem appeared in the March 10, 2014, print issue of National Review.