Poetry Friday: Blackberry-Picking by Seamus Heaney

All around us, corn fields are being mown down.  In years past, I would be in New Jersey at this time of year, back in the world of teaching and the happy, hectic life of Room 202.  On the Fall weekends we were able to make it back to the farm. we’d take some note of the shorn fields, but our attention was focused on the glory of upstate New York foliage.

Starting this past Monday, a cold and rainy one at that, and continuing all week no matter the hour, every farmer for miles around has been busy slicing through fields of bronze and gold.   More than once this week, I have followed one enormous truck after another, loaded down with silage bound for winter storage.  I love watching plumes of green and gold confetti float off the tops of these trucks – the last vestiges of endless days of sunshine and heat.

All summer long I’ve woken and fallen asleep to the rustle of corn, and there is now a weird stillness to get used to.   Summer never lasts as long as we wish for it to…

Blackberry-Picking

BY SEAMUS HEANEY

for Philip Hobsbaum

Late August, given heavy rain and sun
For a full week, the blackberries would ripen.
At first, just one, a glossy purple clot
Among others, red, green, hard as a knot.
You ate that first one and its flesh was sweet
Like thickened wine: summer’s blood was in it
Leaving stains upon the tongue and lust for
Picking. Then red ones inked up and that hunger
Sent us out with milk cans, pea tins, jam-pots
Where briars scratched and wet grass bleached our boots.
Round hayfields, cornfields and potato-drills
We trekked and picked until the cans were full,
Until the tinkling bottom had been covered
With green ones, and on top big dark blobs burned
Like a plate of eyes. Our hands were peppered
With thorn pricks, our palms sticky as Bluebeard’s.
(you can read the rest here.)

8 thoughts on “Poetry Friday: Blackberry-Picking by Seamus Heaney

  1. I remember putting on an old work shirt of my grandfather’s to protect from those thorns, but picking with my grandmother, and looking forward to pie! This is an interesting ending, isn’t it, the last of the summer turning sour! Thanks, Tara, so glad to hear of your lovely time there at the farm.

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  2. Thanks for sharing this part of your new life chapter with us, Tara – all that rustling corn making way for cleared fields. The bittersweet Heaney poem is apt as we say farewell to the carefree nature of summer – reminds me of Linda B’s poetry offerings today. :0)

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  3. Love these words from your post: “…plumes of green and gold confetti…” And delighted that we get to experience some of these last sounds and sights of summer through your eyes as we hasten toward fall.

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  4. That is one luscious poem. Blackberries are long gone from this summer, but this reminds me I need to prune our bushes to be ready for next year!

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  5. Tara, I keep thinking of you in your lovely upstate home. I, too, am enjoying the fall harvests. The other afternoon, I took a short video of silage shooting into trucks…to send to the girls at college faraway. Lots of love and blackberries and sheep and scenes of beauty in this new chapter. (Did you know we had Icelandics several years ago?) xxxx

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