Alice shared the context of the background of the poem, as a little girl in Scotland, Hallowe’en was called “Dookie Apple Night” because you bobbed for apples in a tub of water, ducking your face right in.
Dookie apple night
Carlin (“old woman”) was the Scottish spirit
of the eve of Samhain – her effigy, built from the last sheaf
of harvested corn, protected farming families.
Treacle scone looms from the kitchen pulley –
the carlin’s molasses-covered moon, its mottled old-woman face.
And the children snap at its edges like small, raucous dragons,
eclipse their faces in its stickiness
then bob them clean as shining apples
in the tin tub
In the corner, the carlin rocks herself with glee,
shrieks in her straw mummery
as the year cracks open to release
its goblin rapture
The children know
how two halves of the universe make a whole,
an old-woman gambol, unsinkable as apples
by Alice Major
– from “The Occupied World”