Thursday, May 8, 2008

Blackberry Poems

I recently purchased a black chokeberry--not the same thing, but the two poems below are ones that always seem to haunt my writing (a good thing), and the shrub made me think of them.

Meditation at Lagunitas

All the new thinking is about loss.
In this it resembles all the old thinking.
The idea, for example, that each particular erases
the luminous clarity of a general idea. That the clown-
faced woodpecker probing the dead sculpted trunk
of that black birch is, by his presence,
some tragic falling off from a first world
of undivided light. Or the other notion that,
because there is in this world no one thing
to which the bramble of blackberry corresponds,
a word is elegy to what it signifies.
We talked about it late last night and in the voice
of my friend, there was a thin wire of grief, a tone
almost querulous. After a while I understood that,
talking this way, everything dissolves: justice,
pine, hair, woman, you and I. There was a woman
I made love to and I remembered how, holding
her small shoulders in my hands sometimes,
I felt a violent wonder at her presence
like a thirst for salt, for my childhood river
with its island willows, silly music from the pleasure boat,
muddy places where we caught the little orange-silver fish
called pumpkinseed. It hardly had to do with her.
Longing, we say, because desire is full
of endless distances. I must have been the same to her.
But I remember so much, the way her hands dismantled bread,
the thing her father said that hurt her, what
she dreamed. There are moments when the body is as numinous
as words, days that are the good flesh continuing.
Such tenderness, those afternoons and evenings,
saying blackberry, blackberry, blackberry.

--Robert Haas


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


Frances, said...

I like both poems, but also have a black chokeberry, aronia. So far it is small, but has made a few berries every year. The fall coloration of the leaves is wonderful, reds and oranges. Our blackberries are ripe in June, not September, where did he live? I know that is not the correct type of response to a poem with such depth and beauty, but I am a gardener first.

Unknown said...

That Robert Haas poem is stunning. So many references to making love, whether they are in poetry or prose, tend toward either the salacious or the absolutely watered-down. He gets it right.

Benjamin Vogt said...

Frances--You know, I don't remember where he lived. But, to your chokeberry and mine, I hope my little guy grows fast--I'm sad to hear yours sounds a bit slow? I need a privacy hedge-ish thing.
Kim--I think he gets it right, too. I'm sure the poem took 100 drafts and decades of writing poetry, though.

Anonymous said...

a personal favorite-


When the blackberries hang
swollen in the woods, in the brambles
nobody owns, I spend

all day among the high
branches, reaching
my ripped arms, thinking

of nothing, cramming
the black honey of summer
into my mouth; all day my body

accepts what it is. In the dark
creeks that run by there is
this thick paw of my life darting among

the black bells, the leaves; there is
this happy tongue.

-mary oliver

************************* said...

I like both of thes poems. But I would love to read one about aronia.

Do you know of any poems about black chokeberry, Aronia melanocarpa? If so, I would like to include it on my blog.

If you want to learn more about aronia go to my blog at and visit my website at

Dr. Eldon Everhart

Benjamin Vogt said...

Eldon--I grow a few aronia myself, but who would ever write a poem about chokeberry? It doesn't sound too poetic. But maybe one of us should give it a try? :)

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