Sunday, July 26, 2009

Blackberry picking

Just when I feel that summer is creeping to an end, when I feel the dreadful melancholy of winter approaching, I remember that August is still to come. August with its blackberries and its languid days and its burning sun. August with its memories of picking fruit on the canal banks with my gran, during summer holidays that I hoped would never end.

for Philip Hobsbaum

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.

. poem by Seamus Heaney
. image by Sacredlotus and via her flickr stream


  1. lovely pairing of words and images

  2. August is an amazing month. Warm, sunny, crisp, chilly, vibrant and radiating - all at once.

    I get the melancholy too though, but I do love every part of the fall. At least until the snow is coming down.

  3. august is possibly my favorite month. although more for tomatoes than blackberries.

  4. I love that poem. Thank you for posting it today!

  5. Mmmm saw some ripening blackberries today and was filled with happiness and thoughts of blackberry and apple crumble! Srcummy.
    Reminds me of A levels reading that poem.


play nice.