Who put the ladder there?
I’d like to know.
But there the apple and there the tree
And there the child, who looks at me.
Her eye is black
Its thought is grey—
And though it blazes fierce midday
A shadow rests upon her face,
As if a passer had misplaced
A thought of sorrow and despair
And pressed it, like a thumbprint, there.
The shade’s not mine nor of the tree;
I cannot think whose it could be.
A whistle low
Is on the wind—
That makes the lofty tree boughs bend.
The leaves they turn, and softly still,
As sleepers, deep in sleeping, will.
The apple hangs, a wakeful red,
Denying any thought of bed.
The girl looks up and dreams the tree,
As one who lives in memory.
Her cheek was warm
Her brow rose-white—
Now sickened by a secret blight
That worms upon the inmost soul
And eats, and eats; and nibbles slow
So very few will ever know
There was a mind, a child’s heart—
—Before it knew to start.
Oh I am seized
I know not why—
By wild desire to climb, and try
To reach the fruit that lifts above,
And drop it in that child’s glove.
For see, her eyes grow dim and drear
Warmed only by its ruddy cheer.
Her eyes of glass, wet polished stone,
Reflect with no life of their own.
So up I go
Prepared to win—
And it is simple, to begin.
But as the world grows small behind
A thousand worries nip my mind;
Is not the apple far, to take?
Then too, what if my step should break?
For how the ladder sways and tips,
Brittle mast of a bare-bone ship!
I will hold firm
Though I might yearn—
For even shame in swift return.
A fierce Chimera hounds my path
To thwart my aim through waste and wrath
But no illusion blinds from me
A hope—an apple—on a tree.
—And there are poorer ways to die
Than climbing a ladder to the sky.—
Here is the apple
Mine to clasp—
Crisp ruby polish in my grasp
Beyond the Earth, above the lane,
As bright as it were washed by rain.
The last to grow, dear patient One,
Now gilded, glowing, in the sun.
Do I hold time, or is it space
In this free-given eye of Grace?
In that rare moment
Across the green and wooded range
The soft rays of an early eve
Fey patterns lace, and thread, and weave
And make a greater mystery
Of faded flower, withered weed.
Much more than blade of grass or stone
That silent child who waits—alone.
And when my feet
Are on the grass—
I give to her the prize at last.
I see her frown and bend her head;
She shyly takes the apple red
To raise it, cautious, to her lips
And test the thinnest slice of it.
A quiet smile of delight—
She looks at me with eyes of light.
It’s a wonderful strange thing to bring light into a child’s life. Please consider donating to groups like Agape Int’l Missions and Samaritan’s Purse that work to relieve some of the suffering faced by little ones all over the world.