A few years ago I drifted away from writing poetry. This year, after publishing Lifelike, I found the daily barrage of bad news and work stress was pounding the imagination out of me until I just couldn’t write anything new. So, in an effort to rediscover my muse, I turned tonight to some poetry I wrote a few years back. Almost immediately I discovered this one, which although a little self indulgent perhaps and in need of some tightening, I think is actually quite good. I hope you enjoy it.
My father wears a white bucket around his neck,
shaded by a wide brimmed hat.
I’m ten years old, jostled along
on the flat bed of a converted farm truck.
Its enormous, bald tires kick dust
into the sweaty Connecticut summer.
A line of tall trees wilts in the shimmering heat,
too far away for shade.
The truck turns, grouches to a
bumpy, dust-bowl halt.
The teenagers in their frayed cut-offs
and faded bandanas
leap off even before the truck stops.
They gather and mosey into the spaces
between long rows of blueberry bushes.
My father hops off, turns and reaches for me.
I hand him my bucket, and he watches me
squat at the truck’s edge before
I drop carefully to the soft, bent grass.
He picks us a pair of untouched bushes
just far enough away from the others.
He teaches me to roll clumps of berries
off their sagging stems.
He shows me how to reach inside,
under, around to pick the bush clean,
unlike the teenagers whose impatience
seems like an injustice to the bush.
He pops fat, juicy berries in his mouth.
I follow, but unlike him I select the
red berries, their tartness like
summer lightning in my mouth.
As our buckets fill, hollow plunks
give way to a soft, rain-like drumming
of berries falling on berries,
and I treasure the growing weight
pulling down on my hot neck.
Now I am nearly forty years old,
and the sun seems hotter and the
air seems stiller and the teenagers
seem exactly the same.
Ethan and Sam hang empty plastic buckets
around their necks, complaining of
the rope’s dull bite, the sweaty day.
I lead them over yellowed grass
between the rows of bushes
the boys can’t see over.
I teach them to roll clumps of swollen berries
off sagging stems, to peel back the branches
and pick the bush clean.
And I pop a plump, juicy berry into my mouth
as the boys seek out the summer lightning
lurking inside the little, red ones.