Marc Belisle

Grandma’s Apple Pie — From Scratch

“If you wish to make an apple pie from scratch,
you must first invent the universe.”

— Carl Sagan


1 universe


1. Wait infinitely.

2. Universe will expand rapidly. Let it set until matter separates from energy.

3. Nebulae will form stars.

4. Preheat a star to ten thousand degrees. Avert your gaze.

5. In the star’s gas disk, colliding asteroids will congeal, gaining gravity.

6. Allow planet to cool for a billion years until it forms a rich atmosphere.

7. Protein chains will flit around a thermal vent spewing organic compounds. Some spark will inspire one to spontaneously self-replicate.

8. Wait three billion years.

9. Life will waddle from ocean onto land.

10. Wait 400 million years.

11. Green plants will evolve angiosperms. Within the plant is contained the seed. Within the seed is contained the plant.

12. A meteor will nearly end life.

13. Mammals will nuzzle forth from the ashes.

14. Wait 64 million years.

15. The globe will warm, causing forests to recede. Hominids will descend from trees, evolve to walk upright, in search of food and water. They will sprint across vast savanna. Let them frolic.

16. Capture fire. Use stone tools.

17. Wait a million years.

18. Dance around the fire pit under the pale glitter of the galaxy.

19. Discover agriculture. Cultivate orchards. Grow wheat. Grind the germ between mortar and pestle.

20. Spin clay. Construct ovens.

21. Build ships. Explore Earth. Humans will exploit fellow humans to exploit sugar cane. Don’t look away.

22. Get conceived. Be born.

23. Discover your hands, your mouth.

24. Discover your mind discovering your body.

25. Roll dough, cut up apples, mix in nutmeg, sugar, flour. Slide it into the oven.

26. Wait 20 minutes.

27. Find a fork. Puncture the pie crust.

28. Fill your mouth. Empty your mind.

29. Chew the warm, gooey, crunchy, sweet apple pie as if your taste buds were your grandmother’s truest expression of her love for you. Live that moment as if it were the history of an entire universe unto itself.

30. Inevitably forget that moment.

31. Metabolize the apple pie. Discard the seeds. Defecate. Grow old. Die. Decompose.

32. Fertilize the universe with your surrendered atoms.

33. Reincarnate: water molecule of a cloud; carbon dioxide of a lily petal.

34. Commingle with your grandmother in the flow over a waterfall, the bloodstream of a heroin addict, the saliva of a scavenger yet to evolve, an orange storm swirling in Jupiter.

35. Create a kaleidoscope of covalent bonds with your grandmother to express your gratitude.

36. The sun will burst, casting your atoms into the void. Nebulae will form.

37. Wait infinitely.

Marc Belisle lived in Buffalo for four years, where he taught English to refugees and founded the Allentown Poets Workshop, which he’s happy to see is still flourishing without him. He currently teaches English at a university in southern China. He’s spending the summer of 2019 backpacking through Southeast Asia, meditating at Buddhist temples, and writing travelogues. You can follow his journeys at