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Noughts and Crosses


And once again it's Apple Time. We gather apples and crush them into juice. But I peel a few carefully to make slices for a pie, which reminds me of childhood. I'm still intrigued by those long uncertain skin snakes appearing as the apple is rotated against the blade...

Noughts and Crosses


She peels them with her usual skill

against her thumb. The apple turns.

In the bucket windfalls wait

which we gathered where they fell.

I watch the freed peel fall away

still tethered – for how long

I wonder.  Gravity is light.

I hear another apple fall.

You can tell the future

she says quietly to herself

although I do not want to know.

I select a strip of skin

bend it round into an O

in which the future might be held.


I peel them with my usual skill

against my thumb. The apple turns.

The years have passed. As they grow old

apples fall into the grass.

Time itself descends, is pulled

by gravity, no longer light.

This time I pick two strips of skin

and drop them on the floor.

You can tell the future

I say quietly to myself.

But now there’s no one else to hear

or to see the cross I’ve made

while I am peeling apples here

feeling the weight of what was said.

It's fairly predictable that I can't help thinking about gravity when dealing with apples, but they seem to have a relationship with time as well. As I mentioned, childhood memories bob up with the peeling of those strips of skin. Time being thus compressed, I'm reminded of me as a child watching an unexpected and rather impressive action – almost that of a conjuror.

And now, here I am, performing that very same trick, just as she used to – perhaps even is, it feels like, as I watch my hands.

So in an attempt to reflect the fact that apples can influence time, I find myself using the present tense, as I recreate my own childhood memory of this – which for me now is automatic – action.

In an interesting way then apples have progressed beyond the Master of Gravity Newton, to Einstein, who involved Time in the equation. The old superstition I hear her reminding herself of – that letters can be formed, enabling the future to be foretold – blends into my crushed juice.

Of course, under that peeled skin, deep in the core, the apple holds the future.

I hope that all this about being reminded of the power of gravity and Old Wives' Tales, and musings on the mesmerising of a child by a simple skill, along with the circularity and immediacy of Time isn't all a bit too, well, heavy.

As far as the future's concerned right now, I'm just looking forward to sipping the juice we've crushed, enjoying those skinned slices in an apple pie later on, or simply crunching through the skin of a freshly fallen apple.


My good friend Val Organ has just sent me a photo of a painting by her husband Bob, titled 'Peeled', which  was exhibited in 2000.  He used this idea in many a still life, and Val reminded me of its frequent appearance in seventeenth century Dutch paintings, adding that the peeling(s) may well have represented various aspects of life...

                                                            'Peeled' by Robert Organ 1999


  1. Mark Haworth-Booth5 October 2023 at 13:33

    Very elegant and timely - thank you!


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