I climbed the chain link fence,
placed one foot after the other
into the diamond spaces of crisscrossed
metal wire strung along the property line
separating our subdivision from the wild,
cut down to clear land
for track houses, built for GIs,
their spouses and the exploding baby boom.
A thicket of mulberry bushes remained
within reach of determined climbers
undeterred by twisted spikes
along the fence line’s top bar engineered
to uphold the linked steel chain below.
A barrier, a borderline to hold back overgrowth,
nature’s untamed handiwork from
planned growth, humankind’s insistence
to re-create the world in man’s chosen image.
Land reshaped into housing lots,
rows of rectangles, each corner neatly squared.
Mortgaged to homeowners as their god-given right,
the American way of life. Children were warned
no to reach over the fence:
“You’ll get hurt.” “
My feet secure I leaned
over the boundary line. My head
and arms disappeared into the wild green
thicket. I stretched, fingers lengthening
I plucked the purplest of berries. My thigh
scraped a metal spike atop the fence,
red juice ran down my leg while
I licked sweet purple from my fingers.
All I could think about
reach further, pluck another and
another to fill Mama’s crocker bowl to be
washed, then tossed into a mottled
black and white pot to cook down
in a little sugar water until the stirring spoon
came up covered with a silky smooth coat.
The berries even sweeter than the kiss
that sealed the wound from
climbing over and reaching beyond
“you’re not supposed to do that.”
Kate Hymes is a poet and writer, writing consultant, and workshop leader. She is a native of New Orleans, Louisiana. Many of her stories and poems are inspired by memories of her hometown, and stories of plantation and city life in southeast Louisiana passed down by family. She is a third generation poet and storyteller. Her poems have been published in a number of anthologies, most recently mightier: Poets for Social Justice, edited by Poet Gold, CAPS Press, 2020. In Fall 2017, her chapbook, True Grain, was published. She edited wVw Anthologies 2011 and 2015. She has led Wallkill Valley Writers’ workshops, an affiliate of Amherst Writers & Artists, in the Hudson Valley for over 20 years. She lives in New Paltz, NY.