Monday, October 06, 2008


Day 6: The Blean Woods, Kent

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.



VeggieGirl said...

I LOVE berry-picking!!

Love that poem.

aTxVegn said...

How wonderful. I've never even seen a berry field, and I would love to go berry picking.

Nikki Douglas said...

Just gorgeous - thanks for the images.

Jeni Treehugger said...

Wow, the sun's actually shining for you!!

seitanismymotor said...

You can still pick balckberries in the UK? That's amazing! Our season is already over.

Urban Vegan said...

What a metaphor--we are all blackberries. Seamus Heaney is one of my favorite poets.

Miss U, B-Z.

Vegan_Noodle said...

Love the berry picking pics. And the poem....

Dynah said...

Aww, this is a great poem. I hope you ate your berries in time!

allularpunk said...

i love picking fresh berries.. there's just something about getting your fingers stained and eating them right off the bush. mm!

michelle said...

Blackberry Eating

I love to go out in late September
among the fat, overripe, icy, black blackberries
to eat blackberries for breakfast,
the stalks very prickly, a penalty
they earn for knowing the black art
of blackberry-making; and as I stand among them
lifting the stalks to my mouth, the ripest berries
fall almost unbidden to my tongue,
as words sometimes do, certain peculiar words
like strengths or squinched,
many-lettered, one-syllabled lumps,
which I squeeze, squinch open, and splurge well
in the silent, startled, icy, black language
of blackberry -- eating in late September.

Galway Kinnell

The line spacing got messed up when I pasted it, but one good blackberry poem deserves another!

bazu said...

that is wonderful, michelle, thank you! I want to start a whole blackberry poem collection now.

Kati said...

Ooh summer's blood - like that.