Stealing Mulberries poem image by Veronica Kornberg
 

STEALING MULBERRIES

 

Walking, hungry, the concrete edge of girlhood,

Where sixteen-wheelers thundered diesel blast,

Road black as grackle, oil-slicked, dead wood

Bristling the stunted scrub — chafe-hearted, I passed

A clump of broad-leaved trees holding fast

 

To the cracked curb, the heaved slabs

Tilted and broken, sprouting soot-choked sowthistle

And cocklebur, the pocked concrete drab, dabbed

With purple splotch, ink-blot, clotted with a drizzle

Of fallen fruit-flesh.  And looking up, I saw the colossal

 

Leaf-sea of a mulberry tree.  Green, shimmering high,

High as the tangle of telephone lines, strung

With sun-bleached sneakers and wind-flung trash, high

As its blue lair, the shaggy green sky-beast lunged

After each passing truck, its thousand small black tongues

 

Beckoning, and so I placed my foot in the crook

And climbed, limb after limb, scraping

Knees and shins on the bark. Bark-shinned I shimmied,

Lusting after those sweet tongues, and escaped

Completely into the high branches— a green, leaf-draped,

 

World I wished never to leave. But of course I left.

With purple-stained hands, face, clothes, sated slack-brain,

Bird treble in my ears, I crossed Route 31, not yet bereft

Of a short, passing season, its unlocked sugar of sap and rain,

Not yet aware that a trodden path will lead you back again.

Winner, Morton Marcus Poetry Prize, 2018

Published in phren-z

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