The Ladder

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—

*

That stopped—

—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

Peaceful strange—

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.

Do you believe in dragons?

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