Daily Archives: August 19, 2018

Blackberry Picking, Stile, Zebra and Jam

We collected pounds and pounds of Blackberries on our walk this afternoon, enough to freeze some, make a Blackberry and Apple Crumble and many jars of Blackberry and Apple Jam. I was reminded of Seamus Heaney’s poem as we went around though we have left none of them to go mouldy!

Juicy blackberries

Stile en route

The Zebra coat on this pony amused us

Blackberry and Apple Jam


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.
We hoarded the fresh berries in the byre.
But when the bath was filled we found a fur,
A rat-grey fungus, glutting on our cache.
The juice was stinking too. Once off the bush
The fruit fermented, the sweet flesh would turn sour.
I always felt like crying. It wasn’t fair
That all the lovely canfuls smelt of rot.
Each year I hoped they’d keep, knew they would not.
I love the child’s voice in this poem – the ‘big dark blobs burned/  Like a plate of eyes’ , the reference to the Pirate, Blackbeard and the hope that the cans would stay full of blackberry sweetness, a disappointment that happened year after year.

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