Thoughts While Slicing Berries
Sometimes, I don’t think of you at all,
unless I see you.
Then, I want you—
want to have you, like a bowlful of strawberries
fresh from the icebox,
berries red as angels’ hearts, and as sweet—
(the refrigerator hums, soft, like our moans in the dark).
I’m simple—c’mon, I told you that
on our second date, when you said
your inner vixen and inner puritan were at war
with the rest of you,
I asked: how many of you are in there?
you laughed, said we all have so many sides, yes?
No, I insisted. No.
I just have the one.
In bed Sunday morning you asked if I’d do something
—special—just for you, during the week
my heart began to thump—thinking of possibilities,
but instead you asked if I’d please call to say goodnight,
because it would feel like a warm hug
I laughed—tickled you with my chin,
offered to come ‘round midweek to
I’m just simple—I’ve told you that
sometimes, I don’t think of you at all
sometimes, I want you, other times, not
sometimes, I think of nothing whatsoever—
while slicing these little hearts wide open,
berries, I mean.
Sometimes, life washes over me like
water through a colander and I let it run, run
fingers wet numb
because when I’m cold enough—
sometimes, I can forget the burning, burning
of all I’ve had and lost,
had and lost, had and lost.
I’m helping my daughter water
the greens: kale, collards, red-veined chard,
parsley, turnips, cilantro
North Philly slumps around us
crumbling bricks and falling cornices
boarded up double-hung windows next to flim-flam-flash
student housing tossed up cheap in a month,
trash palaces that won’t last a decade
much less a century or two
I feel eyes watching; I look up
an elderly lady, peering through chain link:
I meet her eyes, smile—
“Ya’ll ever sell those greens?” she asks.
“No, they’re free,” says my daughter. “For everyone.
Come on in, we’ll help you pick what you need!”
My daughter is as gentle as a fawn,
her long fingers dug into the soil, she’s grinning wide,
voice warm as the spring afternoon
But still, the old woman hesitates
finally tiptoes in, as if she’s trespassing here, ready to run,
dark eyes drinking in overflowing beds, a tender feast—
Lush oblong isle in a sea of buckled blacktop,
the garden’s abuzz with bees, daisies nod heavy in the breeze,
orange butterflies soak up sunshine.
“It’s all free, for the neighborhood,” says my daughter.
The lady shakes her head. “Only with you here,” she says.
“Only with you here. The campus police…”
Along the fence line, strawberry vines run, fruiting
white-green now, I imagine the berries swelling up,
blushing bloodred in June, hanging heavy as my heart as
I imagine this desert grandma, after we’ve gone on home—
imagine her watching this bounty bolt and rot,
guarded like gold, by campus cops.
Author Bio: Elaine Olund lives in the hills of Cincinnati, Ohio, where she writes, designs, draws and teaches yoga. In her free time she facilitates writing workshops. Find her prose and poetry at elaineolund.com and in many online and print journals, including Flyway, The Ocotillo Review, and (forthcoming) Peregrine.