Berry Picking – a poem

Winter Memories of Strawberries by Sally Wiener Grotta Here’s another poem memory inspired by Ellen Kushner’s  Facebook posting of “Picking Blueberries” by Margaret Atwood.

Then again, what is memory other than the mythology we’ve created about who we are, who we were, and why we have become the person we are today and may be tomorrow? I wonder how my sister remembers this day, if she remembers it at all, if it ever happened.

Grey clouds heavy with snow
Hover close to the earth,
Extinguishing the sun.
Yet the air is sweet and crisp,
Fertile with sensations
Of the ever-present now
And memories of never again.

Gazing back at the paths
Behind me, I pause
On one golden summer day,
Ripe with warm breezes
Swirling through
Open car windows.
I rest my chin
On the leathered door
My eyes barely level
With the world rushing by.
A languid, laughing day,
Safe on Grams’ lap
Dad driving, teasing,
Making believe he’s lost.
Mom telling us stories
About people and places
Fleetingly glimpsed.
Amy, six years older,
Pretends to not care
But her eyes sparkle too.
“Look Sally!” Mom or Dad
Or Grams or even Amy
Point at phantom sights,
Moving past too quickly.
Did I see a horse galloping
Trying to keep up with us?
Or cows gazing with sad eyes?
And a doe behind the trees?
Or do I remember only
Myths of my childhood
Woven by family storytellers?
One memory of that day,
One alone, I know as mine,
As real to me as Dad’s
Big boisterous laugh,
As real as Mom’s tales,
And the safety of Gram’s
Warm fleshy perfume,
Though they’re gone now
For far too many years,
As real as Amy’s hazel eyes
Still twinkling with mischief.
I know as only a child can,
Through senses beyond sense,
That we stopped on that hot
Summer day to walk
A field of sun-heated earth.
Rows of low green leaves
Hug the soil, so Mom,
Dad, Grams, even Amy
Have to bend, doubled over,
Fingers searching, picking
The ruby treasures
That perfume the still air.
Only I touch the earth
as easily as a dance,
Or the butterfly I chase.
Then, Mom, Dad, Grams
Or even Amy catch me,
Laughing, feed me
Red, ripe strawberries.
This one memory is mine
As real as sweet berry juice
Playing on my tongue
Sticky on my face and hands
Permanently staining my pinafore
Forever etched in my mind.
Even now on the cusp of winter,
This one summer day
Holds me in its heart,
One golden summer feast
Of love, laughter and strawberries.


If you’re curious about my other poem inspired by “Picking Blueberries”, click here to read “My Mother’s Hands.”

1 comment on “Berry Picking – a poem

  • Lovely, whether real or not is not important. It is important that your memories of the family are as sweet as the strawberries we picked. I remember picking strawberries more than once.

    Love you


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