KYSO Flash
Knock-Your-Socks-Off Art and Literature
Issue 4: Fall 2015
Tanka Prose: 521 words

A Translation and Variations
of Fragment 105 (a) by Sappho

by Charles D. Tarlton

Οἶον τὸ γλυκύμαλον ἐρεύθεται ἄκρῳ ἐπ᾽ ὔσδῳ
ἄκρον ἐπ᾽ ἀκροτάτῳ λελάθοντο δὲ μαλοδρόπνεσ,
οὐ μὰν ἐκλελάθοντ᾽, ἀλλ᾽ οὐκ ἐδύναντ᾽ ἐπίκεσθαι.

One apple grew quite red and ripe
on the highest branch of the tree
exactly at the top of the crown.

The apple pickers were disparaging
because it was too difficult to reach,
not because they didn’t fancy it.


Driving down a narrow road through the Tettnang apple region near the Bodensee in mid-January, we passed a winter apple orchard, bare of leaves as well as fruit, except for one tree where three withered apples, reddish in color even from a distance, looked like ornaments forgotten on some naked and discarded Christmas tree.

no one is coming
to harvest cold apples now
all the bite has gone

a drop in the sea
once the harvesting baskets
have been emptied
into bins behind the tractor
what’s one apple

more or less?
but this one’s a poetic apple
dripping meaning
as historical apples
drip sweet juice

Sappho’s eye is on
the round, smooth luscious
thing of it
imagining her hand
in a soft caress


To my eye the redness of the apple felt cool, smooth the way glass is an idea of brittle but supple underneath, where my stifled ardor paces in its cage.

sometimes a hawk
will circle slowly over
easy pickings
save your pity, bystander
decay has rules of its own

a crippled baby bird,
torn open plastic bags
of garbage, bones and eggs
save your pity, bystander
decay has rules of its own

waiting for
a restive rodent who
thinks the coast is clear
save your pity, bystander
decay has rules of its own


There was a commotion outside, and the classically lovely and very dignified lady hurried over to her window. She watched the gang of charming young men march by her house; some were stealing (she swore) furtive glances in her direction.

you’re too good for them
her father said so many times
you must learn to wait
for the right one. He will come
how we will celebrate then!

But, for the hundredth time no one has stopped, unlatched the gate, or come up to her porch. Well, they are too young anyway, she tells herself, and they lack mature discernment.

like impressions
red ripeness fades in time
unpicked fruit withers
forced to yield up the seed
rot to intoxication

In the produce section, bins of picked apples are dying piece-meal of an overdose of ethylene. But, back on the plundered tree one senescent red apple waits for them to return, to take up again their stations, where now only the rare red leaves light up the road home. She waits all night.

fire blight creeps up
festering and peeling off
the bark. That apple
there, the red one dying
her branch is up too high

If we ever saw this apple
in the topmost branches
of its tree
we might even decide it was lucky

to have been spared.
But then we can’t read apple.
her red apple’s
promises still remain

Charles D. Tarlton
Issue 4, Fall 2015

is a retired university professor now living in Northampton, Massachusetts, and writing poetry and flash fiction since 2006. His poems have appeared in: Jack Magazine, Shampoo, Review Americana, Tipton, Barnwood, Abramelin, Simply Haiku, Haibun Today, Atlas Poetica, Blue and Yellow Dog, Shot Glass, Sketchbook, Skylark, Six Minute Magazine, Cricket Online Review, Red Booth Review, Linden Avenue Literary Journal, Inner Art Journal, Prune Juice, Rattle, Blackbox Manifold, and Ink, Sweat, and Tears.

He has also published a poetry e-chapbook in the 2River series, entitled La Vida de Piedra y de Palabra (a free translation of Neruda); a tragic historical western in poetry and prose, “Five Episodes in the Navajo Degradation,” in Lacuna; and “The Turn of Art,” a short poetical drama pitting Picasso against Matisse, composed in verse and prose, which appeared in Fiction International.

More on the Web: By, About, and Beyond

Simple Tanka Prose for the Seasons, a quartet by Tarlton in Rattle (Issue 47: Tribute to Japanese Forms, Spring 2015)

La Vida de Piedra y de Palabra: Improvisations on Pablo Neruda’s Macchu Picchu, Tarlton’s e-chapbook of a dozen poems, with the author reading several aloud; chapbook is also available in PDF, with cover art by Ann S. Knickerbocker

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