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Blackberry Road

     Piney woods
where we played Fort Apache
        oozed rosin.

 Cow pies baked
    in the dog day

heat while we picked
    what our Mama
had promised she'd turn

       into cobblers
    come supper time.

         Braving those
thorny hells, we risked an arm.
  Then a leg. Half a torso

    till trapped
we stood stubborn as martyrs

      awhile before
we pulled our mortal flesh free,
        praying hard

    not to spill what
      we'd gathered.

    By then it was noon
and so hot we lost faith
  and walked home,

    scratching bug-bites
      and snag-wounds,

displaying our blackberries
    domed in the pot
 the way church deacons hoisted

       collection plates
while we sang "Gloria Patri."

The gnats smelled us coming
       and haloed our heads
   when we reached the backyard

   where splayed in the cool dirt
they'd dug under lantana bushes

        our daddy's hounds
snored like the back pews each Sunday
        before Benediction.

Kathryn Stripling Byer

Louisiana State University Press

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