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WINDFALLS / James Ulmer You met my bus at dawn. We drove down winding roads overarched by gray branches, flushed some quail at one bend, and pulled up to your white house hidden in juniper. You'd made wine from the fruit you'd picked in the woods and fields around you— strawberries in June, in August blackberries, sweet wild grapes in October— and that night, while your wife slept in the next room, we sampled them all, staggered out to trace the constellations, and arrived in your overgrown orchard, shoots from the trees nearly sweeping the ground, the two of us kicking windfalls from bunchgrass. You told me how, after hanging for nights in the branches, an apple resembles the sky, flecks of light like stars on the dark skin. We climbed your neighbor's wire fence, you just ahead of me, collar turned up to meet the rim of a brown felt hat, your breath a plume in the bone-chill. I followed you down a knoll, the long grass frozen where the shadows had lain. Horses appeared, took shape from the darkness, ragged in their winter fur, necks tense and alert—moving, finally, to bend for the apples we tossed. Eaten, they made a sound like ice breaking. The Missouri Review · 235 ...


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