Ripening – Alice B. Fogel
Nothing but time-when it is time-
can make the blueberries ripe, their skins
plush as lips, deeply filled with the colors
of bruise and breath and bliss:
Nothing can rush this, this slow swell
of growth, this lush and lavish splash
of fruit, this bloom and blush and burst.
You can’t feed it anything to speed its time-
nothing generosity or economy, hope or desire, can do.
What softens them is all that, too, can soften you:
The length of days spun by the wheel of sun and moon
the same way one continuous thread becomes a cloth.
Like the reviving trees in spring, or astonished flowers
emerging from unfrozen ground, these blueberries
feed on light. Light is their cue and key, the same thing
that feeds me what I know and do not yet know but will.
Because I eat blueberries in midsummer, I like age,
the news it brings of things I’ve known well all along.
I like the questions it poses, and the slow
but sudden way it replies. All the while
I have been too busy to wait, I have been waiting
for this, and this, and this: Each successive,
deliberate day. Through the wild plenty of time,
nature’s pace is a walk, a mild ramble
over mountainsides and fields. Who remembers berries
in November? I want to forget nothing, miss nothing,
but then-the trees fall away in windblown, broken strokes
and let in newer light, and there is still more to behold.
Now, all summer we have been patient and excited,
almost a year since we climbed our home’s hills with our fingers
combing the green for its deep-sea blue. Here, the blueberries
will ripen the fourth week of July, no sooner-not even
if cities are built in a day, or swords are beaten
into plowshares. There’s no hurry, no hurrying them.
And when they come, after the equinox, after the fireworks,
after all. I will roll each one in my hands,
name them, and count them each like blessings.
Then with my tongue I will parse and split and swallow them
so they enter the bloodstream all red and blue because now
is the only time.
Alice B. Fogel, from I Love This Dark World (Zoland Books, 1996)
Reprinted with permission