May 13, 2009 / Creative Writing
I watched Rebel Without a Cause on TV late one college night when I learned …
October 15, 2020
You took me strawberry picking
once, drove out to a farm
where we paid to squat in green
beds laced with tongues of red.
I could feel my ears and neck
tighten under the punishing
sun as we filled Morning Glory
ice cream buckets with our
harvest, each berry looking to me
like some vital body part,
an organ or muscle necessary
for life. You sat on your haunches,
fingers staining red, as if you
were some battlefield surgeon
patching up the fallen with only
your hands. Every now and then,
you would lift a berry to your lips,
eat it in a hummingbird moment,
smiling the smile of the freshly
healed at Lourdes, where miracles
are common as empty wheelchairs
or dandelions in a July field.
The days since you’ve been gone,
I see strawberries everywhere,
in a welt of blood on my lip
after shaving, a stop sign,
a friend’s dyed hair,
my son’s sunburned shoulders,
oxygen in the gills of a perch.
Last night, I stood outside, under
ribbons of borealis, watched
them glide between the stars
like garter snakes in a midnight
Eden. The Bible says that, in the cool
of the day, Adam and Eve heard
God taking a stroll through
the garden. There were probably
peacocks nesting in the pines,
a stream talking with moss and stone,
the scurry of mole and spider
in the ferns.
That’s what I believe you heard
in your last moments of breath.
You heard peafowl screams,
brook trout leaps. Grasshopper wing
and corn silk. And you heard
his divine toes in the grass, walking
along. When he came to you,
he couldn’t resist. He reached down,
plucked you from the stem. You were
ripe. Sweet. Ready. He put you
in his Morning Glory bucket, continued
on into the dew and sunlight.
Martin Achatz teaches for Northern Michigan University’s English department, where he has also served as poetry editor for Passages North. His collection The Mysteries of the Rosary was published by Mayapple Press. Achatz is currently serving his second term as poet laureate of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan and resides with his family in Ishpeming, about twenty miles from the shores of Lake Superior. On weekends, he has been known to play pipe organ for Catholic, Methodist, Lutheran, and (occasionally) Presbyterian churches.