Just Now

Just now, on 8/10, the last pound of blackberries was picked. It took me an hour to find them, and I had to share them with doodle bugs and ants and jumping spiders and grasshoppers, and mosquitoes drank my blood and sawgrass sawed my tendons. My farmer friend Orville said, “You picked the first ones, might as well pick the last.”

I picked the last blackberries with my right hand, saving my soft, dominant hand, the left, for love, like Curly in “Of Mice and Men” – though I am nicer than Curly. But I have no expectations, mind, but I am prepared in case a hippy woman walks up the driveway: my one clean, freckled hand for caressing, the other stained like a water color painting, with red and pink and purple juice.

As I picked, I recalled a farm field overlooking the Mississippi River, where thirty of us watched the night sky from our high bluff perch, and thirty of us drank syrupy wine from glass jugs, that the farmer made from cherries, apples, grapes, raisins, persimmons, potatoes, and a girl read Shakespeare’s sonnets aloud by lamplight, and the spirit of Amelia, the Dark Lady, was outlined by the Milky Way, and our brains fermented and we slept in the straw like puppy brothers and kitten sisters, and I never saw one of them again.

Every first has a last. It is one thing to say it, yet another to know it, to know you are as fragile as an overripe blackberry, to know even music dies out in space and the miraculous, two-hands-wide, eye-spotted Polyphemus moth in Orville’s barn will die within five days of being hatched – all that sensual beauty, all that wing hallucination for no discernable reason, and crickets shriek for joy and it is a death song, to know that your essential, throbbing juice is like a water color painting fading, fading, fading.

Just now, on 8/10, I looped my t-shirt into a basket for transporting tomatoes, and those red-dressed orbs will slide through my starving lips at 6:09 pm, will stain my lips and stomach, will kiss my middle, the perfume lingering on my red and pink and purple-stained hand.

Keep those gifts, like paintings on a wall, and they will wither, and the rot will permeate the house and fruit flies will swarm. Eat those mellifluent gifts and they are gone. Seventy-year’s- worth of seasons, of fruit, will never be enough.

The fine art gallery of the tomato, of the blackberry pulsates along my synapses; my memories of fruits are nectarous. There is the perfect peach, the sapid blueberry, the burst concord grape, the crisp new apples, the luscious leak of strawberries – there:

my one clean, wrinkled, shivery, freckled hand for caressing, the other stained like a water color painting, with red and pink and purple juice (on my deathbed in my last dream).

About Eugene Jones Baldwin

I am a writer: non-fiction, fiction, journalism (Alton Telegraph), essays (The Genehouse Chronicles) and have a website: eugenebaldwin.com. I've published a couple dozen short stories and had eleven plays produced. Current projects: "Brother of the Stones" (available on Kindle), a book of short stories; "The Faithful Husband of the Rain, short stories"; "A Black Soldier's Letters Home, WWII,;" "There is No Color in Justice," a commentary on racism; "Ratkillers," a new play. I am an avocational archaeologist and I take parts of my collection of several thousand Indian artifacts (personal finds) to schools, nature centers, libraries etc. and talk about the 20,000 year history of The First people in Illinois. (See link to website) I'm also a playwright (eleven plays produced), musician, historian (authority on the Underground Railroad in Illinois, the Tuskegee Airmen) and teacher.
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