Tuesday, July 1, 2008

July 1988

long, probably rambling, too prosey perhaps....

July 1988

Those blasphemous raspberries resolutely refused
to ripen during the bright clear days of June,
color rich and glossy but tart enough
to keep even the youngest of us from eating them.

Every day my mother sent us up the hill
to check on them. We’d try a few, competing
to find the largest, the darkest, the highest, hoping
to find one sweet, return defeated and scratched
with that sour still-green taste in our mouths.

We watched the sky for rain because she did,
eyes darting west at every little breeze, watched
the garden dry and crack, plants yellow and droop.
Every evening when the sun went down, we filled
five gallon buckets in the stream, as full as we could
carry, my sister and I sharing one bucket,
my mother with one and a baby on her hip,
my father a bucket in each hand, a scowl on his face.

We poured water carefully, focusing on the roots
not the leaves, trying to save the rows of corn,
the hills of potatoes, squash, beans, the sad spindly
tomatoes and peppers. The garden seemed endless
in those dry, rapidly cooling twilights, no humidity
to hold the day’s heat, spilled water quickly evaporating
from our hands and legs. It should have been enough
to feed all of us with plenty left over to sell
and freeze and can and keep for winter.

When it rained on the 4th of July, we ran outside barefoot
to play in the muddy water that filled the yard
too much for the dense clay to absorb so it splashed
around our legs, scooped up by hands too young
to be grateful, watched by eyes too young to be desperate.

The rain didn’t stop.

She forgot about the raspberries, worried now
about flooding, drowning the plants in the garden,
water in the basement and mold and mildew. I woke
on the 7th, the first day of sun, everything in rainbows
and mud puddles. The overflowed stream had stopped
just shy of disaster, the corn in the garden stood tall
and truly green, bees reappeared, buzzing heavily
between the purple blossoms of beans. I climbed the hill,
my sister in tow, carrying one small metal bucket.

The raspberries hung from their pale thorny vines
plump and beaded with dew and rain. I reached for one
and it fell apart in my hand, juice staining like wine,
tried another and it too dissolved. A smell rose
from the crushed berries, too sweet, too soft. We turned
guiltily, humbled by those blasphemous berries
we’d forgotten for a few days, long enough to miss
our chance. She wouldn’t blame us, we knew, but we would
blame ourselves as we'd been taught for not braving
the rain to pick berries before they rotted, for not remembering
what we’d spent the past weeks looking for, for not
picking them sour and adding sugar, for not outsmarting nature.

No comments: