Blackberries hang in the darkest
creases of the trellis, each dimpled
to bursting. The black-eyed Susans
are mostly black, their yellow tresses
already rotted. Goldfinches wander
the air, meditate upon the cone flower’s
sharp seed, trying to discern if it’s time
to leave. This early, before anyone
has opened their doors, I watch chickadees
sidle up to sunflowers and cosmos
while cricket song sifts through the screens
like fog in the belly of this valley.
I’ve been making jam most of the month,
and the jars from last night’s batch
have been talking, lids sinking toward sweetness
with a satisfied metallic ping. The weatherman warns
of frost, so after the air warms this morning
I’ll scoop the last bits of black from the canes’
green strings, bottom press the potato-masher
to render the berry syrup into a bowl
the color of nightshade. Other birds will dawdle
through, but none will be dressed as brightly
as the finches who helped greet the dawn.
If there’s any consolation in the dying
we must do, then let it be stored on a shelf
in a raised glass jar, adorned with pictures
of strawberries and cherries, grapes and pears,
the pale seeds that fix in the cracks
of our teeth, floating in a sticky infusion
we lick from the ends of our breakfast spoons.


From In the Kingdom of the Ditch (Michigan State University Press, 2013). Posted by kind permission of the poet.