JOHN CHAPMAN’S WIVES
John Chapman 1774-1845
“He . . . claimed to have frequent conversations with
angels and spirits; two of the latter, of the feminine gender,
he asserted, had revealed to him that they were to be his
wives in a future state if he abstained from a matrimonial
alliance on earth.”
—William D’Arcy Haley, “Johnny Appleseed:
A Pioneer Hero,” Harper’s New Monthly Magazine
The rustle of frocks in the breeze
and their perfume, like mulled wine,
drew me to the confluence of creek and river,
the silty bed where sprigs leafed forth
from seeds gleaned at the cider mill.
Each year I circled back to water
and weed my progeny. “But no grafting,
no pruning,” my wives-to-be warned
through a veil of tremulous leaves.
“What God joins let no hand put asunder.”
On wintry nights I did sometimes yearn
for the warmth of a farmwife
knitting by the fireside, to hold her
close and stroke entwining limbs.
But my sore heart was ever bound
to the spirits of trees who conversed
with me and stood by me as we exchanged
the same breath, for better, for worse,
in rain or drought, till death did us wed.
Shari Wagner has published three books of poetry (The Farm Wife’s Almanac, The Harmonist at Nightfall: Poems of Indiana, and Evening Chore) and her poems have appeared in a number of magazines, including Shenandoah, North American Review, American Life in Poetry, Writer’s Almanac, and Valparaiso Poetry Review. From 2016-2017 Wagner served as Indiana Poet Laureate.