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Poetry and Medicine
November 25, 1998

Wild Blackberries

Author Affiliations

Edited by Charlene Breedlove, Associate Editor.

JAMA. 1998;280(20):1738. doi:10.1001/jama.280.20.1738

In memory of my brother Philip

In mid-July the blackberries were tart
and firm within their sweet surrounding flesh.
The full day's sun had just begun to mark
itself on the hidden red as a wish
for time, one week more at most, and warm nights
without rain. Thorns, leaves simple and lobed, dew
poised on dark branch tips framing the last white
flowers—everything reminded me of you
at the end, in a thicket of tubes, blood
spun clean for one more day, glistening hair
suddenly gray in a fan round your head.
The solstice brought a drenching rain as light
left summer behind. Berries draped with mold
shriveled to their stems and vines seemed to fold
in on themselves like dreams under the weight
of swarming yellowjackets. Here and there,
especially if my eyes were closed, I caught
a whiff of missing sweetness in the air.

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