Pommes that Built America

Braeburn Heart Eat Fruit Red Yellow Apple
Braeburn Heart Eat Fruit Red Yellow Apple

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In French, you have the pommes,
Apples that sit on a picnic basket or on the morning
Breakfast table, even inside a brown paper bag
You carry to work. There’s a lot of sunshine in an apple.
How it will always be an archetype
Of perfect beauty, when placed before the eye.
A beholder’s dream. Still, did you know
That the fleshy wrap of an apple is only a receptacle?
– Part of the stem on which the floral organs grow.
A little botanical trick.
And still, an apple is a symbol,
Of temptation, lust, original sin, even immortality.
And there’s nothing more symbolically
American, as a crumbled apple pie.
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The French call potatoes
Pommes de terre, the apples of the earth.
And I look at a potato dressed in dappled eyes,
Organic filth and a thin skin that covers
The starchy spuds. They are ubiquitous
In the American household, and that dish too
Is given a fancy French identity – French Fries;
Which during the Iraq and Afghanistan wars
Was insensibly called Freedom fries.
And if you’re at McDonalds
French Fries will be accompanied
With a smiley face, a happy clown
Borrowed from vaudeville.
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And pommes de terre are why the Americans went
Irish. The great Phytopthera infestans famine
In Ireland was why the east coast
Is a hot bed of Catholicism. Why you still
Find rosaries underneath pillows
And statues of Mother Mary on bed stands
In households near Jamestown.
250,000 Irish followed the pilgrims of Mayflower fame,
And made America the bedrock of their
Lineages. Sweat-imbued palms
That lifted iron railings, and churned concrete,
Were interfaced together on Sunday mornings,
As their lips sang hosannas, thanking God
For pommes on the table
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And the apple pie
With its latticed upper crust, only
Came from the old world, from mainland Europe,
Years back, there were only crabapple trees,
On American soil. It took migration
To bring apples from old world plantations.
Even the cinnamon came from Sri Lanka,
And the nutmeg was hauled from shipments
From Grenada. It seems the apple pie was never
Really American, only a colonial delicacy that grew
To colonize the American palate.
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The French will continue to use their
Accents to pronounce pommes,
In their own charismatic style. While
Across the Gulf Stream, two pommes will prosper on,
In two convergent backyard stories.
How Johnny Appleseeds are plucked,
To make cider and spuds are dugout to distill poteen,
Cheering on an American tradition,
Of how to guzzle home-brews,
Down a funnel, which fuddles when full,
And pines when empty.

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