I was talking earlier about walking and being healthy and biscuits and I suddenly realised that I’d seen plenty of pine, birch, larch and spruce trees but no fruit trees. No orchards. No cherry or pear trees in people’s gardens. No damson trees seeded in the verges by the road. No apple trees on allotments. I suppose the climate must just be too wet or maybe there isn’t enough sunshine for fruit to ripen.

But I can offer a poem with an apple in it instead. So, if you’re trying to be good and follow government recommendations, you now only need another four portions of fruit and vegetables to have reached your five-a-day target.

The fat man

Let me have men about me that are fat
Shakespeare, Julius Caesar Act I scene 2


It’s so welcome, this chance encounter
on a bench by a shimmering, summer-blue lake
we both suspect isn’t natural.
I’m glad of your jam jar glasses,
the pink rolls of flesh at your baritone throat,
your sweaty excess of bonhomie; West Riding vowels
squeezed through metaphorical hoops
into tales of Atlantis and how it looks
as if this heat wave will last all week.

You must be the archangel Michael
to squander such riches
on a stranger, not
become tongue tied with a young woman
whose face is wet and swollen,
who has chewed her thin lips to blood.
My hands roll as if to lather
soap, won’t wash clean.
A bitterns booms from the reeds. 

You handkerchief is a white sail,
freshly ironed, an alter cloth
for Emmental and a small, bruised orange pippin
that you halve with a bone handled knife.
You wait until my mouth is full,
then you make me laugh.

Sue Butler


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