Stoic, she relinquishes her treasures.
Fingers swish, palms purple with the richness
of the gift. She whispers soft
but I am occupied; berries bounce in a plastic
pail to the rhythm of songbirds.
The old-timers say
that the harvest is only heavy every
seven years. This is the one in seven-
fat orbs dazzle the eye
and my pail overflows quick,
tongue stained and smug.
I strip the branches easiest to reach, careful to
pry into intimate places, seek
her secrets with greedy grasp. I slow. Here, not all are
perfectly ripe. My fingers must pull with
respect, leave the immature for a later picking.
The pails are piling purple. Content, I
step back, prepare to sail home
with cargo hold brimming. I stretch,
look up. More. And more, and more hang. I hear it
indistinct, this lesson. On tiptoe, the blessings are harder to
harvest, require more of my complacency.
Patience prickles. Fingers falter, accidental purple showers
to the earth. Joints creak, muscles strain,
and here is the true miracle, saved for last. Fullness scrapes the dirt
plump and glad. The equation comes
clear, and I laugh aloud with the unexpected joy of it –
for when do blessings not hang in clusters,
ripe and ready to pick? And how is great glory not
gained with a stretch of stained hands toward heaven?
Which good and surprising delights
were not made the sweeter by bowing of the head
and bending of the knee?
I hear her now.
Her syllables ring loud in the silence.
And I, who teach for a living,
am schooled by the berry bush.