Friday, May 31, 2013

Strawberry Days

A friend recently introduced a poet who was entirely new to me, a poet with whom I felt an immediate affinity. When this happens, it's as though I've been given a delicious, but temporary secret which must be held and cherished for a while before sharing. I think it's time.

The poet, Max Garland, arrived in this world via Kentucky, where he spent fifteen years as a rural mail carrier. Perhaps this spoke to me, in part, because my grandfather, Moses, who raised sheep, was also a rural mail carrier, although a couple of generations earlier. It seems we are arriving at a time when both writing and distributing letters is coming to an end. I wish it were not so, but life goes on and now I wouldn't want to live without the immediacy of email. So, a price is sometimes paid, a new way emerges and we become accustomed.

Max is now living and teaching in Wisconsin, and is the poet laureate of that state. He has two books of poetry published, which I have on the table next to me. I read from them a little each day, lingering over each line, sometimes each word, as I recall days so similar in their nature that I could be reading from my own diaries or journals.

It's been difficult for me to choose the right poem to share here, as I know you would like so many of them, but just this morning I ran across this poem and knew it was the one. I was reminded of my grandfather and a particular day when I was very young. We walked down the cow path in our pasture to where the raspberries grew, wild and untended, ripe and ready. I recall sawdust on the ground from an old sawmill, the sun shining brightly, my grandfather bent towards the vines, filling his bucket with sweetness. There was a sense of enduring goodness, and I'm happy to say strawberries and raspberries still fill my summer days...

Now, I'll be quiet and let you read.

    ~ for Rayford Simmons

Whatever is truly delicious

according to a local Baptist proverb.
Whatever bides its life

under the leaves, patiently
undoing the bitter

green knot of itself, swelling outward,
deepening, reddening. Whatever ripens

in the sun, shaping itself
into a tiny version of the heart,

the sweetness at a berry's core
leaking slowly through the flesh.

We had nearly a half-acre to pick,
my grandfather and I, crawling

or stooping through the long rows.
Not much passing between us --

the faint snapping of the fruit
from the stem, the occasional

judgment of cigar smoke
trailing back to where I lagged,

knees stained almost to blossoms; the low vines

teaching the body to bend. The arc
of my grandfather's back, for example,

repeated the story of strawberry gathering,
spring after spring. Whatever is delicious

draws the man from the body, is the proverb,
coaxing the long, elderly nerve

through all the meandering hoops
of the spine. Until

after a while, my grandfather
thought it would be a good idea

to rest there. He thought
it would be a good idea to lie down

among the berries. According
to the Baptists, whatever it is

invites us, can almost taste us
near the end. He thought

it would be a good idea to sleep
down in the cool shadows

of the berry vines. Just for a while,
my grandfather thought. Just until

his mind was sweetness.
Just until his body was straw.

~ Max Garland,  The Postal Confessions

On my other blog, , I've posted a micropoem, one I wrote a few months ago, that seems to dovetail nicely with this post. I hope you'll visit me there...



  1. Max Garland has captured that moment so incredibly. And I need to thank YOU for introducing us, by giving me the gift of that poem. Teresa, you are truly a conduit of light to me. Thank you again.

    1. What a lovely thing to say... I'm deeply grateful for your continuing light in the world. I am smitten by this man's poetry. There is a kindness and gentleness to it that is not easy to find. I'm so glad you liked it, too.

  2. Strawberries are the food of the gods!

  3. A good harvest of strawberry that carries life's philosophy as well. How nice it would be if we can grow out of the 'bitter green knots' in our lives and become like strawberries. Thank you for sharing.

    1. That's such a good thought. Yes, those bitter green knots need to be transformed...

  4. Replies
    1. I think the best ones do... good to see you, Jenny.

  5. You chose wisely. That certainly placed me patch and center.

    1. I love poems that reach out to my center and pull me along with them...

  6. Picking Hearts And Eating Them....Until They Eat You!Not A Bad Way To Go.......

  7. And what a place to rest! I have found that one of our flower beds has simply exploded with wild strawberry plants. They are tiny but oh, so delicious.

    1. Yes, the wild raspberries are also much smaller, as I'm sure you know. It makes picking more time consuming, but worth it. Thanks, Montucky.

  8. My father was a rural mail carrier (and an amazing musician). This poem is so galdarned beautiful that it hurts. Wow. Wow. Wow.

    1. Bill, I'm glad it spoke to you so beautifully, as it did me. Thank you for this response/comment.

  9. I've come back a few times to read this, Teresa; your words. Max Garland's. How is it that I did not know of him? Well, now I do and will seek out his poetry soon.

    I appreciated your comments about letters and emails and times changing. I think about this age we live in. A lot. I love receiving letters, but, am finding that I enjoy the many more people I hear from via the internet as well. Life is complex, isn't it? Now, I'm going to eat some of the strawberries I just brought home.

    1. I was so happy to have my friend introduce his poetry to me... I thought it would speak to you, as well. Life is, indeed, complex. We are between two generations in which much change has taken place... Those strawberries sound yummy...

  10. Where we live, the undeveloped Preserve is what you would expect to find in late autumn. All the winter grass has turned from luscious green to desolate (to me) amber. And the damp earth is dry. May is the month when everything turns. When Ballou and I walk the Preserve, I have to stop and sit on a fallen tree two or three times to relieve the pain in my back and thighs. Clearly my strawberry days have passed. But I have gratitude, immense gratitude, for each day my Doberwoman and I get to walk this trail, even if it bears no fruit to pick.

    1. I'm quite fond of that "desolate ... amber." But, as you say so beautifully, any day one can be out walking in nature and appreciating the day is one fine day. The fruit is sometimes metaphorical, but just as tasty.

  11. Our strawberry season has just finished, after weeks and weeks of wonderful berries. But the blackberries and peaches are in, so we won't suffer.

    Still, strawberries are the best, perhaps because of their delicacy and sweetness. They're an old-fashioned fruit, too - still requiring a human hand to claim them, just as those old-fashioned letters required a human hand to write and send them.

    And, as we're in the process of learning, those old-fashioned letters were shared only if the recipient chose to do so. I am mightily unhappy about recent revelations about the scope of government data-gathering, and wonder if another terrible border has been crossed while none of us was looking.

    For now, this wonderful poem will pull me back into real life - the best place to be on an early June afternoon. Thank you for sharing it!

    1. Good heavens, I almost forgot your beautiful comment! Shame on me... You always have such interesting things to add. I am very unhappy with the continuing assault on our Constitution and our rights guaranteed therein. "...another terrible border has been crossed without our looking," and many others yet to be revealed would be my guess...

      Thank you for your awareness and for sharing it in your comment.