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Blackberry-Picking

Blackberry-Picking by Seamus Heaney is a poem about his childhood when he and his friends used to go out and pick berries in the summer.

Ireland’s 100 favourite poems
Seamus Heaney

It is a theme many people will be able to relate to, as a fond childhood memory.

Heaney ends the poem by saying that he would pick so many berries that some would have to be stored but the fruit would go bad before he could eat it all.

Blackberry-Picking by Seamus Heaney. Image copyright Ireland Calling

Blackberry-Picking

Late August, given heavy rain and sun
For a full week, the blackberries would ripen.
At first, just one, a glossy purple clot
Among others, red, green, hard as a knot.
You ate that first one and its flesh was sweet
Like thickened wine: summer’s blood was in it
Leaving stains upon the tongue and lust for
Picking. Then red ones inked up and that hunger
Sent us out with milk cans, pea tins, jam-pots
Where briars scratched and wet grass bleached our boots.
Round hayfields, cornfields and potato-drills
We trekked and picked until the cans were full
Until the tinkling bottom had been covered
With green ones, and on top big dark blobs burned
Like a plate of eyes. Our hands were peppered
With thorn pricks, our palms sticky as Bluebeard’s.
We hoarded the fresh berries in the byre.
But when the bath was filled we found a fur,
A rat-grey fungus, glutting on our cache.
The juice was stinking too. Once off the bush
The fruit fermented, the sweet flesh would turn sour.
I always felt like crying. It wasn’t fair
That all the lovely canfuls smelt of rot.
Each year I hoped they’d keep, knew they would not.

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Blackberry-Picking by Seamus Heaney. Image copyright Ireland Calling
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