Guest poem submitted by Aamir Ansari:
(Poem #934) Blackberry-picking
Late August, given heavy rain and sun For a full week, the blackberries would ripen. At first, just one, a glossy purple clot Among others, red, green, hard as a knot. You ate that first one and its flesh was sweet Like thickened wine: summer's blood was in it Leaving stains upon the tongue and lust for Picking. Then red ones inked up and that hunger Sent us out with milk cans, pea tins, jam-pots Where briars scratched and wet grass bleached our boots. Round hayfields, cornfields and potato-drills We trekked and picked until the cans were full Until the tinkling bottom had been covered With green ones, and on top big dark blobs burned Like a plate of eyes. Our hands were peppered With thorn pricks, our palms sticky as Bluebeard's. We hoarded the fresh berries in the byre. But when the bath was filled we found a fur, A rat-grey fungus, glutting on our cache. The juice was stinking too. Once off the bush The fruit fermented, the sweet flesh would turn sour. I always felt like crying. It wasn't fair That all the lovely canfuls smelt of rot. Each year I hoped they'd keep, knew they would not.
In a lecture given to students at Oxford University, Seamus Heaney compared the writing of poetry to the creation of a labyrinth, one that mirrors the gruesome contortions our own world assumes at times. The difference is, however, that the poet's labyrinth, the poem, has the power to restore us, to reset the balance. Heaney displays those restorative powers wonderfully in this poem. The arrival of joy and the subsequent convulsive preparations to capture every last drop of it ("...with milk cans, pea tins, jam-pots") are honest to the rich sensations of childhood experience. The poem itself is laden with strange rich fruit, sweet clammy experience ready to be tasted and stored. This, finally, is art true to life. Aamir. [Minstrels Links] Poems by Seamus Heaney: Poem #61, Song Poem #883, Personal Helicon Poem #934, Blackberry-picking Poems on related topics: Poem #827, Strawberries -- Edwin Morgan Poem #274, This Is Just To Say -- William Carlos Williams Poem #377, Loveliest of trees, the cherry now -- A. E. Housman Poem #430, Wild Asters -- Sara Teasdale Poem #417, Thistles -- Ted Hughes Poem #63, Daffodils -- William Wordsworth