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    painting of a plant

    Blackberry Hush in Memory Lane

    By Jennifer Fair Stewart

    June 22, 2024

    This poem is the winner of Plough’s 2024 Rhina Espaillat Poetry Award.

    Nobody in the lane, and nothing, nothing but   poison ivy
    along its shoulders, hunched into fields, once stripped, clear
    back when the Black Angus herd intervened;
    sold off to cover a single semester of college tuition,
    their rasps of papillate tongues became meat, sliced
    in rasping bawls, no longer licking

    all those leaves of three, let them be
    in the lane, witness the itch, down deep green
    the gloss of encroachment on hallowed ground
    in fricatives vining, chafing up every tree,
    every gasping gap of old fenceline, edging the lane
    to a climax, choking

    the blackberry canes that used to be
    in the lane, where we lapped
    all the summers’ juices, lavished
    for us to grow and sing, young glistening things
    facing the fall and cull, another year older, we’d run
    that quarter mile stretch to catch the school bus, slick

    potholes to dodge in the lane, the grey mist before day,
    while the cows would wake and aggregate, round
    flanks and eyes shining, dark as blackberries,
    to curtail the poison ivy, close-cropped;
    later, quietly ruminate the cud—
    so tender the release


    painting of a plant

    Image from the Metropolitan Museum, The Jefferson R. Burdick Collection, Gift of Jefferson R. Burdick. Used by permission.

    Contributed By JenniferStewart Jennifer Fair Stewart

    Jennifer Fair Stewart is a poet who lives in Texas.

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