Stephen Robertson

Slanting Lines

Sharpness

The latest growths are long and barbed,

reaching out to colonise the heath,

at war with the bracken.

No fruit here—the thorns will catch

at your sleeve, at the tails of your coat,

and sometimes at the bare flesh of

the back of your hand as you reach past to pilfer

the clusters beyond, adding scratches

to the stains already covering your fingers

and your palms.  Sometimes you must stop

to disentangle a particularly tenacious tendril

before you can back out to reconnoitre

another part of the bush.  Take care not to spill

your precious hoard (I mean the ones you will deliver

for tomorrow’s blackberry-and-apple pie

—the ones you ate straight off the bush are saved forever).

At the end of summer, and in the first mists

or wild winds of autumn, on the wild Suffolk heath,

the wild Suffolk blackberries

of my childhood remain forever perfect,

forever simultaneously sweet and tart,

sharp on my mind’s tongue.  Why is it that

this latter-day fruit so often disappoints?

Did I just dream the taste?

But no.  Once in a while

a perfect burst still catches at my tastebuds

and drags me back again.