This poem was a finalist for Plough’s 2021 Rhina Espaillat Poetry Award.

The hard, dark berries, blue as black
snakes are blue, befogged with newness, clench
their pips in scaly tufts of green, each branch
an elenchus of logic, a spray of craze, an attack

on soft fingers walking through them, your
fingers calling shape from the bedlam of life
with brutal twists of form. You flick the knife
to smooth a stem, a cedar stem; its fur

heaps greenly on your shoes, as if you’d skinned
a wooly tree, not trimmed it, to make a wreath.
Completed circle, made of endings, shaped

to hint what never ends, it tricks and bends
the eye to green forevers, clever deaths
of death, where girls and berries do escape.

Watch Forester McClatchey read his poem at the first annual Rhina Espaillat Poetry Award ceremony.

Eyvind Earle, Pine Branch, gouache, 1955 © 2021 Eyvind Earle Publishing. Used by permission.