by Liz Purvis
“You and I could not have been simply married lovers. There are so many reasons I can’t count them.”
-James Wright, “The Young Good Man”
I used to like blackberries, once,
when I was very young. At least
that’s what my mother says. My own
memory doesn’t stretch back quite that far.
All that I remember now is childish,
puckered lips at the sour taste
of bursting pustules, the spitting out
of a half-chewed berry.
But I met a one-armed farmer
the other day who said the bramble patch
behind his tobacco field was filled with the sweetest,
largest blackberries that he’d ever seen.
I don’t know why, but I believed him.
The next night I dreamed of blackberries
under a heavy-hanging August moon, and air
that pressed down on my skin, a humid weight
even at night. You were there.
I swung over a splintery, split-rail fence to reach you.
You were standing in the brambles. The jagged wood
scratched sharply at my skin.
Picking mouthfuls of berries below moonlit clouds,
our hands looked streaked with blood.
When I woke, the warm and blue-red tang of them
still clung onto my tongue. And you were gone.
I can’t make up my mind
whether it tasted bitter or sweet.
You and I were never simple:
we were seven years of complicated. I counted
them to see if I could make some sense
of it. Of us.
Perhaps if I’d minded the wiser words
of my younger self, the one that said I’d never
go back to one love more than twice…I suppose
this never would have happened,
the back and forth of us.
You said that you stopped trying
to figure us out. I didn’t.
I coddled you at first and then, years later,
not enough. I came whenever you called. You only came
when it was easy, wandering away when you found another
one of my new, sharp edges. You were bitter
when you found I was no longer quite as sweet.
I wish that we could have been
simple. I wanted to write you
this before we ended.
But the truth is that we’ve been done
for a long while now.