GRACE Some will not eat, and some have nothing—a stick or a stone, a tube in the arm or gut (Lord, have mercy). For this food there was rain enough and enough sun, insects died in untold numbers as did the less resilient weeds and seedlings (Christ, have mercy). Hours were logged, loads tallied by planters, cultivators, harvesters, operators of front-end loaders, truck drivers, all more or less happy, more or less skillful in work and in living (Lord, hear our prayer). Hunger keeps coming back like chickweed among the stones, a desire like any other, to be, now and hereafter.
ONE FOR THE POT Lately, I have forgotten how to count single things, this teapot, for instance. There’s my grandmother’s glazed brown pot inside it, dark as tea leaves, its ambiguous scents of thirst and comfort. And inside that, Assam, all of it, highlands and terraces. Darjeeling, Ceylon, spice islands and trade winds and all their stories, rising in the steam like genies. What would they have wished for, the women who picked the leaf tips, the first flush, second flush; and the men who rolled the leaves and raked them? What do I wish for, when I put the kettle on, and listen? For now, just this: to be here, watching the pot.
MAN AMONG BLACKBERRIES As cemeteries go, it was pleasant, with its yew trees and rough-cut grass. What grief there’d been among the headstones had long since passed. But still there was that unquiet quiet among the ranks of the dead, and a sense that the ground was deeded forever to them and the absolute. I felt the life in my own step, the skin and muscle of my own body, so the man frightened me, stripped as he was to his waist and doing something in the bushes. When he turned, I saw a stick, and halted. Then saw he was just picking blackberries, leaning into the brambles, careful of their prickle and scratch as he gathered sweetness to himself, treat, memories of earlier foragings. The birds twittered, as if nothing else was about to happen, and nothing did.
Maura High was born in Wales. As a child, she moved with her family from country to country, and then taught in secondary schools in Nigeria before emigrating to the United States. She now lives and works, as an editor and translator, in North Carolina. A chapbook, The Garden of Persuasions, was published by Jacar Press, and other poems have appeared in online and print journals and anthologies.