“The Apple Factory,” a poem by Arletta Dawdy–1914 Sharp turns in Russia and China…apples, war, and rivers.

Pop peeling apples

Remember Arletta Dawdy’s poem “Clara’s Air” posted May 12, 13 and 14 in three parts? Here she is again with “The Apple Factory” which grew out of a conversation in the 1970s with an elderly neighbor as they stood in her kitchen window looking out on the apple orchard that backed both their homes.

Both the elderly neighbor and the apple orchard are gone now with the latter given over to a vineyard where the birds don’t come anymore because of all the chemicals. Arletta says, “I’m just back from there as our son bought the old house in Guerneville and is raising his kids there now.”

Arletta’s return to Riehl Life is inspired by a comment Jane Kirkpatrick, former president of Women Writing the West, who said of “Clara’s Air”: It’s a lovely poem and makes me think that you, Arletta, ought to consider a collection of poems like these that capture an era and a people and a journey so well. Individual poems may be difficult to get published, but I wonder if collections might not have a better chance? This one is finely crafted. I’ve given Arletta an open invitation to assemble such a collection publically on Riehl Life as the poems come to her. We look forward to more to come…in between the trilogy, of course! –JGR

By Arletta Dawdy

She told me her story on a fine spring day.

Across the long miles of all the Russias,
Into the Manchurian cold,
They went to build a railroad.

Raised up a native in Chinaland,
She asked her daddy,
Where is the apple factory?

Summer of 1914,
He sent her to find the apples.
Back to the Caucasus,
Where Grandpa lived to a hundred and thirteen,
Where fruit trees grow,
Where the family founded itself.

Homeward bound, an archduke died.
Forty-five days is a long train ride.
Making room for soldiers,
The apples turned to mush.
Daddy, what is a war?

Ninety-nine years and the lease was up.
Railroading in Manchuria,
Splitting of rails and family,
Lost addresses, lost lives.
For forty years they were scattered.

She learned the other war
Took Daddy and Brother, too.
Sister found her in harsh January,
To say, Mother died just last October.
But, what of all the years before?

And now she stands,
Looking out from her California kitchen
At her own apple factory.
Tangy Gravs and Red Delicious stretching
To the Russian River beyond.

And she remembers the flavor of 1914
When war was a delay in the timetable.

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  1. I wonder if the apples tasted different here. I wonder if she couldn’t stand the smell of apples after being in a train rotting of them. Brought back memories… I can smell the skin of the other neighbor, a man with a fiddle and a tin of cookies who kept a garden against his loneliness. He lived on Orchard Avenue, mom. Thanks for bringing back multiple childhoods for us, both sweet and sad.

  2. One of the best things about reaching mid-life and beyond, is that sometimes we have the opportunity to see our life come full circle. This poem captures one’s women’s journey around the world and back to herself beautifully.

  3. Arletta’s poem, The Apple Factory, is very sensitive and gently arouses my own thoughts and feelings of past times. Thank you Arletta for sharing your time and talents.

  4. Thanks for writing. I love reading about the past. The memory of rotten apple reminds me of the game I would play with my friends years ago. The taste of apple pie is only a few bits away. Thanks for the memory!

  5. It was easy to see the old woman and the apple trees. I do wonder how apples could be enjoyed after being with the rotten apples. A very enjoyable and well written poem. Thanks Arletta. Keep up the good work.

  6. Arletta’s talents shine in both “Clara’s Air” and “Apple Factory.” Both poems are crafted with sensitivity and care in recording two remarkable journeys. I look forward to reading more from your pen!

  7. Lovely. This poem makes me feel that there is, in fact, an invisible plan guiding each of our lives. I look foward to reading more of Arletta’s work.

  8. Arletta, what a rich and sweet read. It gives, in a spare and clear voice, the history of a people, along with the texture of their lives. Poetry suits you well. Kudos.

  9. Yottabyte

    Contemplating the objects of a preposition

    A pond, a lake, a sea like

    A smooth glass smile.

    Tideless at the break of day.

    Becalmed at the water edge.

    Plying peaceful waters.

    White wizard’s wings.

    The black heart of a blood red flower.

    Pendulous papayas, full ripe, hanging in the tropical breeze.

    Thatched skin.

    Cross hatched in youth

    Smooth as cork when they are old.

    Drying of the pools.

    Algae and other scum.

    Choked with weeds.

    Throat full.

    Choking on plants while drying in the sun.

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