Picking Blackberries

We pull up in the Vauxhall, Dad’s latest acquisition since the
old Austin became bush litter and wore the soles off his feet.
Our new car is a sculptured suite of space, gorging on
breeze. This semantic lineage of ‘Tin Lizzies’ will understand
the routine soon, connecting family to a pause in grassy
fields, our amplified rustle tracking down vigorous canes
sprawled on highway fence and railway post.
It’s late spring, a full week of rain filling creeks and
waterways, and there’s an unbreakable sky stirring over
Koolewong. The sun quickly shares a moment of glare as
swinging billycans we trek to purple knots of blackberries.
We find dark cherries, marbled reds and plums inking up a
hunger. You can’t escape the squelch, the zebra scratch
detonating skin as an afterglow of thorn and fruit.
Blackberries bequeath a country of newly imagined jam,
delicate things that lust your mouth for the taste of thick
sweet wine. Under a domed heart, my brother and I pluck
and eat our way with pocketknives.
‘Watch out for the five o’clock train,’ calls Gran, her lungs
extended in worry. Then on the railway bridge, a panting
engine catches our history, opening tongues to reveal the
purple track of fruit, empty cans held high to a waving crew.
Each year before development came, we loaded ‘Lizzie’ with
berry tins and muddied boots. Later, dark blobs boiled to
jam, and we knew this was the second feast picked from the
blades of spring.

Helen Hagemann

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