Bad Year for Berries
Maybe too much rain—saturated soil,
water table squishing over our shoe-tops.
Maybe sinners in the hands of an angry God,
the theology here being that nature must pay
every one of us back for that septuagenarian
who opened the cellar door, and pushed
his wheel-chaired wife over the edge.
Whatever the cause, a bad year for berries:
bushes bare, scant fruit tasteless, watery,
diuretic. Prices inflate at farm stands.
Nobody Picks Their Own this season,
so the growers who lease two acres
from the Army Corps of Engineers
say, “That’s it, we’ve had it.”
What to preach, what to tell them?
Never mind the birds who usually
hunt and peck; old gambler woodchuck,
rolling berries in his paws like dice;
the black bear who, in a better year,
would be backing up to the bark of trees,
rubbing passed seeds off an itchy butt.
Women in the church parlor are full
of good words and good works. They are
the Garden Club, and no one more likely
to totter back to Eden on high heels.
Their perfume is incense to remind the world
it had a mother once. They bring dead buds
to blossom, then giggle, ”Oh, it was nothing.”
Their hairdos are like July’s cotton candy.
Pastor receives a platter of high-calorie
cookie bars. He knows that’s how they killed
their husbands, he did most of the funerals.
But that was involuntary manslaughter.
Had his predecessor, who did the weddings,
predicted widowhood, they would have laughed
at the time to come. They cried when it did come.
They would not have done anything differently.
When the furnace labors and the old pipes creak,
it sounds like someone moving, one floor above,
opening a drawer, repositioning a chair:
the noise but not the presence of someone dear,
phantom sensation in the amputated limb.
Somebody anxious for me to come upstairs
will not be anywhere, no matter where I look,
behind the shower curtain, underneath the sole
remaining double bed. So I do not come up.
Once I did, but nowadays I don’t.
I’ve had enough time to learn the difference
between the voice and the echo, ecstasy
and remorse, and stay in my reclining chair.
Let the feelings of that nobody be hurt.
© Russell Rowland
Russell Rowland, a resident of New Hampshire, is widely published in small journals. A seven-time Pushcart Prize nominee, he is a past winner of Old Red Kimono’s Paris Lake Poetry Contest, and twice winner of both Descant’s Baskerville Publishers Poetry Prize, and the Plainsongs Award. His chapbooks, Train of All Cabooses and Mountain Blue, are available from Finishing Line Press.