I wish I could say that I grew these.  They look delicious, don’t they?  So sweet and juicy. The ones I did grow were coming along quite nicely, tiny white and yellow flowers abloom, bees bobbing among the bounty. The berries themselves — tight little balls of pale beige — began to form. Heads down, shyly, half-hidden under their blossom caps.  Then they started to flush — just the lightest tint of pink.  But the next day when I checked on them, they were gone. Disappeared. The whole berry patch dismantled. I know that I’ve only myself to blame. I should have been more careful. I’d noticed the chipmunks, scampering along the top of the split rail fence, casing the joint. And I could see that they were pilfering the odd berry or two as the fruit started to ripen. But I never imagined they’d be able to cart the whole crop away overnight.

Summer in the garden is full of such minor tragedies. In early May, our oaks, smoke bushes, astilbes and Japanese anemones were hit by that terrible late frost.  Everything’s re-leafing now — the astilbes’ plumes thicker than ever.  No such luck with the strawberries, I’m afraid.  It makes me more grateful than ever for the Berry Farm, our wonderful local organic farm store.


Ellen Bass

Bad things are going to happen.
Your tomatoes will grow a fungus
and your cat will get run over.
Someone will leave the bag with the ice cream
melting in the car and throw
your blue cashmere sweater in the drier.
Your husband will sleep
with a girl your daughter’s age, her breasts spilling
out of her blouse. Or your wife
will remember she’s a lesbian
and leave you for the woman next door. The other cat—
the one you never really liked—will contract a disease
that requires you to pry open its feverish mouth
every four hours. Your parents will die.
No matter how many vitamins you take,
how much Pilates, you’ll lose your keys,
your hair and your memory. If your daughter
doesn’t plug her heart
into every live socket she passes,
you’ll come home to find your son has emptied
the refrigerator, dragged it to the curb,
and called the used appliance store for a pick up—drug money.
There’s a Buddhist story of a woman chased by a tiger.
When she comes to a cliff, she sees a sturdy vine
and climbs half way down. But there’s also a tiger below.
And two mice—one white, one black—scurry out
and begin to gnaw at the vine. At this point
she notices a wild strawberry growing from a crevice.
She looks up, down, at the mice.
Then she eats the strawberry.
So here’s the view, the breeze, the pulse
in your throat. Your wallet will be stolen, you’ll get fat,
slip on the bathroom tiles of a foreign hotel
and crack your hip. You’ll be lonely.
Oh taste how sweet and tart
the red juice is, how the tiny seeds
crunch between your teeth.

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11 Responses to Strawberries

  1. Leslie Gold says:

    Wow. Thanks for sharing (for those of us always kept at arm’s length) this side of yourself. Intensely refreshing.

  2. Cheryl Sullivan says:

    Really interesting poem! Much truth. Savor the moments, eat the strawberries, and the chocolate.

  3. Cheryl Sullivan says:

    Really interesting poem! Much truth. Savor the moments, eat the strawberries, and the chocolate.

    This does not seem to be posting.

  4. Max says:

    Sorry about your strawberries. The moral of the Buddhist story is to enjoy this moment regardless of what’s happening. Tigers above, tigers below.

  5. Patricia Aakre says:

    It is you, Liza, who are the poet here, though Ellen Bass is not half bad.

  6. oh, Liza, what a poignant story, and that Ellen Bass poem is an absolute favorite of mine. A perfect pairing. And I love all those luscious “B” sounds in your piece. Sending summer love to you…

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