Biting the Apple
edited by Jeanie Greensfelder
Penciled In, 2012
Review by Ellee Prince
As I child, I wrote poems in angled and wandering cursive. I’d sprawl out on the carpet, usually in some bright square of sunlight, and press my pencil into my notebook’s delicate pages. I’d write about coins on the ground, dogs in my neighbor’s yard, the heart inside my body. I never felt that I got it right, but I savored the moments when an image seemed to hover above the page. I’d smile to myself and wonder if anyone else would understand.
I think poet Jeanie Greensfelder might. In her collection of poems, Biting the Apple, her words are rich with images and small moments. Like these lines in a poem titled, “The Bad Apple,” each word emerges from the page like ripe fruit, ready for picking:
One day with no one home
I dare the dark basement
and pick a perfect apple.
Upstairs I cut it crosswise
and eat around the stars.
Greensfelder’s collection of poems speak of her life — from her wonder as a child evaluating the nearby world, to her reflections as a young woman on the dangers of choice, to her experience as a woman settling into marriage with all its detailed complexity. She builds memoir through simple poems, one upon the other. And as we read, we hear echoes of her earlier selves in later words, like this moment when her husband wields a knife over fruit in, “The Morning Tangle”:
He hoards the cutting board,
slices a peach and a banana.
I prepare coffee. We pivot for a
choreographed collision at the refrigerator,
him for almond milk, me for an egg and jam.
We exchange no words, for
we are dangerous before we eat.
In Biting the Apple, Greensfelder leads us through 49 carefully crafted poems over the course of almost 70 years. We get a sense of her — as a child, as a woman — and a sense of the specific rhythm of life for a female born in mid-20th century, middle America. With subtleties of dark and light, her poems also tell a universal story about the choices that women make. She pauses on the in-between moments and explores what they may hold, how they might offer up a chance to define something in the essence of what’s moving around them. Yet, above all, she tells the story of a woman who chose, early on, to taste the forbidden fruit. And she found flavor there.