Today’s NaPoWriMo prompt asked for poems that incorporated the sense of taste. I decided to mix that with the Writer’s Digest prompt to use the words pest, crack, ramble, hiccup, wince & festoon in a poem. I had a small hiccup in that I couldn’t find a way to include “hiccup” at all, but I did use the others — or versions of them.
We leave as soon as there’s a crack in the cloud cover.
I don’t have a rain jacket, but Auntie’s offered me
an old windbreaker, bright orange and smeared with
mud on the front. It hangs loose on my ten-year-old
frame, and I push the baggy sleeves up past my elbows,
exposing summer tanned skin to the ravenous pest
mosquitoes. We ramble up the hill behind the house,
Auntie and Mom walking side-by-side through
ankle-high grass and scrubby weeds. I watch
small splashes of mud dot the backs of their bare
calves with each step. Oh! A deer! Mom says, voice
excited but quiet, as she points to a doe, munching
clover by a barbed wire fence. Every lean muscle
on the animal goes stiff and Auntie says, Better not tell
the boys or they’ll run right out here with the rifle.
I wince, thinking of this reticent creature, turned into
the red, meaty cubes I’ve seen Uncle press into
the sausage grinder. The doe jolts across the field,
into a thicket of trees, and I exhale loudly.
Just a half a click more, Kimmy, Auntie says and smiles,
because she knows I don’t mind when she calls me that.
I knock the empty ice cream pail against my thigh
as we walk, and think of how the thin metal handle
will cut into my palm on the way back, when the pail’s
heavy with berries. The grass is a little taller here.
We high-step our way up to the saskatoon bushes,
their short branches festooned with lush,
purple-blue berries. Auntie and Mom chatter about
some cousin’s husband’s accident, He’ll be better in time
for harvest, thankfully as their quick hands pluck-pluck
and plop-plop the berries into their buckets. I pull two
matching clumps off the bush, five-berries on each,
dangling like jewels and hold them up to my ears
when Mom looks over, trying to get a laugh. But she
only smiles and says Get busy, young lady, and don’t
eat more than you keep. I like them better in pie anyway,
or in sweet purple-black jam I can spread on my buttery toast
on cold November mornings. But there’s always something
tempting about the fat, ripe ones, when all the green’s gone
from the skin, and you know if you pull too hard, the juicy berry
will squish between your fingers. Those ones I pop into my
mouth, pressing them between my tongue and the back of
my front teeth. Savouring the tangy taste of right now.
My Alberta poem today is by Edmonton writer and editor Peter Midgley. His poetry collection, Unquiet Bones, dazzled me when I read it last year, and the cover art is nearly as gorgeous as the writing inside. All Lit Up recently published his poem “nongqawuse (it is tasteless, this meat)” as part of the Poets Resist series, and you can read it here.