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A Sneak Peek of Margaret Atwood's Poem, Blackberries

Posted on 28th September 2020 by Mark Skinner

Thursday 1 October is National Poetry Day, the joyous celebration of verse inaugurated in 1994 and now a beloved fixture of the literary calendar. To mark this special event, we have a first look at Blackberries, one poem of many featured in Margaret Atwood's breathtaking latest collection, Dearly - published on Wednesday 10 November. 

Blackberries

In the early morning an old woman

is picking blackberries in the shade.

It will be too hot later

but right now there’s dew.

Some berries fall: those are for squirrels.

Some are unripe, reserved for bears.

Some go into the metal bowl.

Those are for you, so you may taste them

just for a moment.

That’s good times: one little sweetness

after another, then quickly gone.

Once, this old woman

I’m conjuring up for you

would have been my grandmother.

Today it’s me.

Years from now it might be you,

if you’re quite lucky.

The hands reaching in

among the leaves and spines

were once my mother’s.

I’ve passed them on.

Decades ahead, you’ll study your own

temporary hands, and you’ll remember.

Don’t cry, this is what happens.

Look! The steel bowl

is almost full. Enough for all of us.

The blackberries gleam like glass,

like the glass ornaments

we hang on trees in December

to remind ourselves to be grateful for snow. 

Some berries occur in sun,

but they are smaller.

It’s as I always told you:

the best ones grow in shadow.

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