Monday, October 10, 2005


- May Swenson

My hands are murder-red. Many a plump head
drops on the heap in the basket. Or, ripe
to bursting, they might be hearts, matching
the balckbird's wing-fleck. Gripped to a reed
he shrieks his ko-ka-ree in the next field.
He's left his peck in some juicy cheeks, when
at first blush and mostly white, they showed
streaks of sweetness to the marauder.


A crop this thick begs for plunder. Ripeness
wants to be ravished, as udders of cows when hard,
the blue-veined bags distended, ache to be stripped.
Hunkered in mud between the rows, sun burning
the backs of our necks, we grope for, and rip loose
soft nippled heads. If they bleed - too soft -
let them stay. Let them rot in the heat.

When, hidden away in a damp hollow under moldy
leaves, i come upoon a clump of heart-shapes
once red, now spiderspit-gray, intact but empty,
still attached to thier dead stems -
families asmothered as at Pompeii - I rise
and stretch. I eat one more big ripe lopped
head. Red-handed, I leave the field.

I initially picked this poem because my friend and i were talking about Strawberry picking yesterday and I thought that this would be a happy kind of poem. This poem, however, isn't as uplifting and "sunshiny" as I had anticipated. Each stanza of the poem starts off literally picturesque in terms of describing the strawberrying itself, then the description gets quite a bit more graphic and metaphoric when the poet compares the starwberries to hearts and cow udders. Although the parallels seem a bit graphic, I know exactly what the poet is trying to tell. It's one of those poems that doesn't necessarily have to say word for word what's happening in the poem, but the reader knows very well what's going on. I've always wondered, however, why the sentences are broken up the way that they are in their stanzas. I also liked how the poet throws in proper nouns here and there so that the descriptive words aren't so general (ie. Pompeii). I want to go strawberry picking now :)


Blogger Matt said...

At first I thought this was some sort of fruit sympathizing poem since the speaker made the strawberries seem to be murdered in cold blood. But as a read, I realized the humor. It really is very graphic, but I think thats why it is almost funny. I liked it, but it is making me want strawberries too.

10:02 PM  

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