The Orchardist

Rebecca Lilly
Photo by Jennifer Langley

“Every soul evolves by spectrums of brightness in
the cumuli and hourly geometries.” The dwarf was
wild-eyed. “For centuries it’s been a holy war. All
sorts  of vermin threaten our livelihood.”

His intensity frightened me a little, for he acted
as if I were assisting him, but in what capacity I
couldn’t guess. With stubby hands, he pointed to
windfalls on the grass. He had a forked beard and
droopy hat, this dwarf with the looks of Rumpelstiltskin.

I was about to introduce myself, when suddenly he
leapt up like an acrobat, stamping the mud with
his boots. “Crush that nasty devourer!” he yelled,
waggling his finger at an apple.

A black and yellow caterpillar crawled across an
apple skin while the dwarf hopped about, his
stumpy body shriveled as a gourd, issuing orders
as if I were his henchman.

“That isn’t  a snake,” I assured the little man.

“It’s a snake in miniature!” he spat, his beady eyes
boring into mine.

“Snakes do not morph into butterflies,” I added,
my bare heels sunk in weedy grass.

“Thank the Lord!” He scuttled off, muttering how
no “philosophy of growth” took adequate account
of pests devouring his apples.

The trees reminded me of scaffolds with their
gnarled limbs. Tagging along, I kept my distance.
Fog settled on the mountaintops and along the

The dwarf’s cap jostled as we crested the knoll;
then abruptly he stopped.

Cloud-shadows rolled down the slope like a snakehandler’s
gloves; the apples were blood drops. I saw a
caterpillar vanish in one apple hole and burrow
out another.

The dwarf stumbled and cursed, his boots stomping
caterpillars through the soil, muttering of
vermin. “In the dark, it’s hardly noticed under your
boot sole, chomping in the dust...”

When I woke, my window was open. Fog bearded
the full moon, a haggard old man coughing smoke
into the suburbs, a covering of leaf-fall on houses
and roads under frost.

It was close to dawn. The mystery of the orchard
was a wind rising toward windows of the house
where I was born, offering its song without words
for my insomnia.

Read more by Rebecca Lilly in our print, Kindle, or LitRagger edition

REBECCA LILLY has published several collections of poems, most recently two books of haiku: A Prism of Wings (on butterflies) and Light’s Reservoir (a companion volume on wildflowers). She holds degrees from Cornell and Princeton. Her author’s website is