Friday, August 2, 2019

Blackberry-Picking by Seamus Heaney


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.

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