Daddy always knew where to find them,
Deep in the murmuring summer park –
My legs sticking to his car’s vinyl seats,
Still trees bristling with slurring cicadas.
Nestled under stiff leaves and nettles,
Like clusters of tiny dark eggs –
The youngest ones hard and green,
Reddening, deepening into bursting black,
Juice tattooing my fingers
As I plunked them into my pail.
The ditches teemed with them,
Their untamed abundance made me greedy –
My grabbing hands ignored the briars,
Blood mixing with the berry stains,
Cuts on fingers and wrists stinging in sweat –
Feeling them burn on the way home,
Staring at the bucket of bruised wild in my lap.
He insisted on making it himself:
We could only watch our work transform,
His wrinkles of old worry unfold in pride
As he pulled it bubbling from the oven,
Veins of popping purple juice running
Through peaks of browned sugared dough,
Served thick with melting vanilla ice cream,
Summer filling our scalded mouths.
When his ruined lungs blistered beyond breath
I could still feel his sweet burden singe my tongue,
See his haggard face soften in the oven’s steam,
The plunging of our hands into dark bramble
Over and over, scratching for swollen treasure,
Scarring ourselves to fill his latest search
For a happier evening, his recipe for something good.
I am in twilight while they stitch my new eye together,
Yet even at this vague distance from reality,
My ego churns on: what are they saying about me?
I’m just the latest sputtering car in the shop bay,
Their muffled voices full of friendly gossip –
Something about lunch, a mention of next weekend,
The cheerful nonsense people talk when finishing a job
While my eye’s gelatin quivers at their fingertips.
Yet I feel cocooned in this trance,
Better than when I first woke up weeks ago,
Like staring through a muddy window –
Days of consulting Dr. Google, unable to resist
The countless nightmares that can consume us,
Then the real doctor, more relieved than
Perhaps a doctor should show, pleased to report
I was nothing uniquely horrifying,
Someone so common and easily fixed
They are discussing enchiladas
As they help me see the world again.
I wait for their happy voices to grow louder –
On the edge of dream in an age of rote miracle,
At the routine mercy of chatty, hungry people,
Feeling ordinary, fragile but fixable,
The last problem to be solved before lunch.
© Ed Brickell
Ed Brickell lives in Dallas, Texas. His poems have appeared or will appear soon in Modern Haiku, The Dead Mule School of Southern Literature, Hedgerow, Copperfield Review Quarterly, Last Leaves Journal, and other publications. He has been twice featured by Hidden Peak Press as part of their weekly Artist Spotlight.