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Berry Fields Forever, a poem by Tracy Mishkin

Berry Fields Forever
by Tracy Miskin

Rows and rows of strawberries. The sign says U-Pick
and we can eat as many as we want, bring them home
and Mom will make shortcake. Our friend Ora gives us
some strawberry plants and now we have a little patch
next to our house. Every year they come back. At camp
we sing “I'll taste your strawberries, I'll drink your sweet wine.”
And when I have my own house, I buy a flat of strawberry plants.
They bear the sweet fruit every summer, and there are so many
packed in the raised bed that we can gorge on them,
give them away, and still they rot on the vine.

My softball game is over, so I climb the mulberry tree
behind the bleachers, picking and eating, stuffing them
in my mouth while my brother plays baseball.
Aaa batter aaa batter aaa buzzing like cicadas below me.
The mulberries stain my fingers and I track the juice
into the house on my shoes. Mom wants to make pie,
so we pull fruit from stems for hours, and the pie is dense
with berries and sour cream. Each year I find more
mulberry trees—Bloomington has the best one, the branches
low to ground, the fruit huge and sweet. I am so absorbed
by eating that I don't see my son's white shirt has streaks
of purple and his shorts berry-fingered handprints.

I am picking black raspberries in the woods with chiggers
biting me where my underwear has elastic. I know
I will be itchy and I don't care because the fruit is so good.
Mom tells me the raspberries are ripe by the tennis courts,
and we wade into thorny thickets together, pluck black fruit
like we don't have to go to work or cook dinner. We are eating
them and dropping them into the buckets, and eating them,
even though they are sour this year and she says a cup of sugar
for every cup of fruit when we make jam.

My best friend has red raspberry bushes and the fruit is big
and soft and ripe. We are fourteen and she is playing the Doors
on the record player when we are full of berries and our mouths
are red with juice. And I am forty-seven, feeding berries to my dogs,
my hands are red and blue with the juice of strawberries and mulberries
together, and the raspberries are green with promise. Only
a few weeks until we brave the thorns again. And every year more
and more fruit, ripe and sweet and rotting, dense and thorny bushes,
huge, abundant, abiding berries.

Bio: Tracy Mishkin is an MFA student in Creative Writing at Butler University. Her chapbook, I Almost Didn't Make It to McDonald's, was published by Finishing Line Press in 2014. She has two poems in Reckless Writing 2013: The Continued Modernization of Poetry and one in Best of Flying Island 2014. She also has a poem forthcoming in The Quotable.