It’s not a painless task, picking blackberries from the bramble
of a past bursting against the canvas of November
snow – cold magenta slewed across the ground
under the crunch of my boots.
As a boy I remember my mother picked out slivers
with a needle, picking ever so gently as to uproot the pain
from my hands striped with lessons I learned to endure.
Trust meant offering tears to a steel point
burrowing like roots, pulling me into fibers of myself.
I remember one time I slipped below bushes
that snagged my jeans, trying to reap
that dark cluster untouched by the iciness of winter.
In a thrash of worry, I squeezed too hard,
leaving blossoms of red in the snow. Vines
whipped at my arms, my legs, my face, clawing
deep into the skin for trespassing against my reach.
My mother clipped verdant veins to free me from fear,
picked out thorns, then brushed witch hazel
to cleanse my wounds. I let my tears fall.
For years, I imagined reliving that time,
presenting my mother with that robust fruit,
plump with last of summer’s juice.
The chill of echoes now pleas against limestone coves,
barren of sweet berries for the color
that dyed the ground, mapping
my lineage on the virtue of my flesh.
Matthew Gilbert is a recent graduate from the M.A. program in English Literature at East Tennessee State University. He has served as the 2018-2019 editor of the student-based literary journal The Mockingbird. His work has appeared in Echoes and Images, The Mockingbird, The Red Mud Review, and Delta Poetry Review.