John-Michael Albert 

Poet Laureate of Portsmouth, NH


 

Blackberries

 

It was a ploy, of course. One of mom's tricks.
Take your cousins down to the ditch and
bring back some blackberries for desert.
And we were off with plastic butter tubs
(leaving the aunts and uncles talking
on the porch, the rotisserie tumbling
over the coals, the ice-cream churn humming
to beat the bees), with no thought of returning
because we were happy, and we were with friends.

Then, in the ditch (squashing the late
mulberries under our bare feet, yearning
for the wild cherries that my mother warned
were poisonous), we ate and picked and ate and...
and ran out of ripe blackberries long before
even one tub was full.

And we walked slowly back up the hill
(into the sunset, into the fragrances of
barbecued chicken and citronella candles,
into the colors of Kool-Aid, and parsley
and paprika on potato salad), and we washed
the summer dust from our measly pint with
the garden hose, and offered them to mom,
who wrinkled her nose and unceremoniously
dumped them into the churn.

It was then that I made one of the great
discoveries of my young and very sensual life:
blackberries aren't really black, they're
deep purple; and they make home-made ice cream
just about the sexiest thing a sun-burned kid
can put in his mouth this side of hot, ripe
peaches, purloined from a neighbor's tree.


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