Poem introduction

Now I’ll read a poem about blueberries. Anyone who’s grown blueberries will know that it takes several years for them to be ready to harvest in any quantity, so when you plant them it’s an act of faith that you’re going to be around in several years time, living where you live, and still living . . . So this takes the form of an address to my future self, my older self, ten or twenty years hence.

Blueberries

I’m talking to you old man.
Listen to me as you step inside this garden
to fill a breakfast bowl with blueberries
ripened on the bushes I’m planting now,
twenry years back from where you’re standing.
It’s strictly a long-term project – first year
pull off the blossoms before they open,
second year let them flower, watch the bees
bobbing every bonnet,
but don’t touch the fruit till year three,
and the only sample a handful or two . . .
Old man I’m doing this for you!
You know what they say about blueberries:
blood-cleansing, mood-lifting memory-boosters;
every bush a little fountain of youth
sparkling with flavonoids, anthocyanin . . .
I’ve spent all summer clearing brush,
sawing locust poles for the frames,
digging in mounds of pine needles, bales of peat moss –
I thought I’d do it while I still could.
You can do something for me in turn:
think about the things an old man should;
things I’ve shied away from, last things.
Care about them only don’t care too
(you’ll know better than I do what I mean
or what I couldn’t say, but meant).
Reconcile, forgive, repent,
but don’t go soft on me; keep the faith,
our infidel’s implicit vow:
‘Not the hereafter but the here and now . . .’
Weigh your heart against the feather of truth
as the Egyptians did, and purge its sin,
but for your own sake, not your soul’s.
And since the only certain
eternity’s the one that stretches backward,
look for it here inside this garden:
Blueray, Bluecrop, Bluetta, Hardy Blue;
little fat droplets of transsubstantiate sky,
each in its yeast-misted wineskin, chilled in dew.
This was your labour, these are the fruits thereof.
Fill up your bowl old man and bring them in.


from Water Sessions (Cape, 2012) © James Lasdun 2012, used by permission of the author and the publisher

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