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

One thought on “Ripening – Alice B. Fogel

  1. This poem is a reminder to me of the kind of ripening of awareness that a visit to Monhegan promises. I long to be there, only a few more weeks…

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