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Creative

Blackberries

  • Nancy Pagh

From No Sweeter Fat by Nancy Pagh

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I would like to write you a poem about fat ladies

but you prefer to read of blackberries.

There are eight hundred sixty-four poems about blackberries

published in English; where is the harm

in another?

So let's say that the wildest fat ladies

grow on low runners that snake

unplanted along the driest hillsides

of coastal British Columbia.

The tight knot of their fruit

is smaller than all others, and shaped

like the bud of your own coldest nipple.

I heard a Sixteenth-Century Italian printer

despaired the destruction of cuttlefish

and began making his books with the juice

of fat ladies.

A transplanted Himalayan variety of fat lady

ripens in cow pastures late in the autumn.

It hangs in black clumps

among serrated yellow leaves, tasting

like barbed wire, hatred, and the mineral note

of self abnegation; your tongue thrills

to meet such darkness.

Royalty used to reserve the color of fat ladies

just for itself, but now

the CEOs all favor a striking red tie.

The American president follows suit.

Fat ladies travel many miles

in the gut of a bear

to colonize the bright waste of clearcuts.

I would like to read the diaries

kept on one of these passages.

Have you ever noticed that the biggest fat ladies

are just beyond your reach?

Fat ladies do not taste

like salmonberries. Salmonberries do not taste

of salmon. Fat ladies taste good

when you are standing near the Nooksack River

watching the salmon

or watching the places you wish there were salmon.

Fat ladies permanently stain everything

except your tongue.

An overripe fat lady drops in your palm

with the slightest touch.

If you try to blow off the roadside dust

you will break its tender skin

and miss the holy communion

of eating the roadside dust.

Oh that first day, that first day you notice

the fat ladies have withered and dried on their vines:

a regret more tart

than the small unripe segments

of the first fat lady

you ate that summer.

Again and again the fat ladies push

in to every unclaimed corner of the neighborhoods,

reminding the soft palates of children

there really are things in this world

so sweet and so free.

There are so many fat ladies; where is the harm

in sprinkling one with sugar

to watch the materialization

of Homer's wine-dark sea?

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