Nightfall in early June, raindrops glisten on fresh-cut blades
of summer bluegrass, glass fireflies cast over mountains
luring me to that old maple bench where strawberries climb.
You led me there by the river where waters rose in rain,
and I dipped my fingers deep into the cool stream.
We were sixteen. Your hand brushed over mine as we picked
strawberries from the vine, dyeing your olive skin a shade
of wildness, staining my paleness a deep sateen red.
Orb Weaver spun her translucent silk designs,
like old Ojibwe women pulling tight willow hoops,
stringing a net of sinew and cordage across leaves.
Bush crickets thrummed like pulses, beating wings together in rhythm
and Orb Weaver trapped the sounds in her web.
Strawberry juice ran from your lips and down your chin.
I lifted my hand to wipe it away, but hesitated, then I rested
my head against your shoulder and closed my eyes.
Winds rustled laurel bushes where we counted deer
in groups, two bucks returned each night to feed
and I’d find half-eaten strawberries on ground.
Someone once told me whitetails mate for life, but I’ve learned once
the season has come, a buck will roam on its own, seeking another.
Now, the old oak bench sits cracked and splintered,
abandoned by the hands that sanded and stained it.
The strawberry crowns no longer litter the ground.
Orb Weaver is gone — crushed under the soles of our shoes. I brush her webbing
away with my hand, remember freeing dewdrops that fall to the ground.
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.