On the long driveway to the school -
bursting through the undergrowth
like octopus arms drooping with black, red and green fruit
ready for a fight,
But at home-time the children pass by.
In cars, or dragging bags
earnestly exchanging views on
superheroes or zombies, unicorns or pokemon
oblivious to the challenge,
contemptuous of the reward.
On this yellow autumnal Saturday, I am alone.
Grey head bent,
working alone under the cool green leaves,
pressing back the cane's defences
reaching, curling my fingers, and plucking
yes, plucking is the very word
fruit from hiding places.
The challenge of finding berries
the evasion of wicked barbs
the quiet working of the vines
as men and women did
for thousands of years.
I imagine company: naked cavemen and women gossiping softly on the cooling air
the children learning to avoid the thorns
an ear out for bears who would also be
rewarded with the purple stains of juice
on paws and mouths.
And I worry that my transaction with these plants,
this natural bargain (for plants are subtle and use us well)
today is foundering on a trade,
unnatural and perverted
isolated in hydroponic sterility,
their thorns mutated, their berries swollen
produce flavourings selected by focus groups
of those children who never stopped
to taste a free berry as it grew.