Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Inhabiting Paradise - 17

Once upon a time, the words "Apple" and "Blackberry" held different meanings. They weren't always applied to high-tech gadgets...

Some of the most pleasant and lasting childhood memories originated from the times we drew closest to our hunter/gatherer roots.

That was the case for Irish poet Seamus Heaney. It seems he treasured summer blackberries just as much as I did:

- 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.


The poet reads his work:

Blackberry Picking : Poetry Everywhere : Video : The Poetry Foundation


Anonymous said...

The Blackberry Blossom - a wonderful old fiddle tune. This Michelle Shocked version is quite pretty.

And this is a nice fiddle version:

Jim Parker said...

I have no doubt as to why blackberries are my favorite for just about anything but especially jam. Has to be the rather large blackberry patches close to home.

Of course one of the problems was that it always seems chiggers love the blackberry briers just as much as we did.

GULAHIYI said...

Oh yes, chiggers. We'd sprinkle "flowers of sulfur" on our socks before going out to pick, in an attempt to repel the "redbugs," but I don't know that it worked very well.

Anonymous said...

Remembers the SIX in a line series of chigger bites across my abdomen. Looked like buckshot.

For the next three months, I was in agony, yet I did not scratch once. Imagine if I had scratched them.

GULAHIYI said...

If you could endure that without scratching, that is a real testament to your will power!