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WOMAN ON TWENTY-SECOND EATING BERRIES

by Stanley Plumly

She’s not angry exactly but all business,
eating them right off the tree, with confidence,
the kind that lets her spit out the bad ones
clear of the sidewalk into the street. It’s
sunny, though who can tell what she’s tasting,
rowan or one of the serviceberries–
the animal at work, so everybody,
save the traffic, keeps a distance. She’s picking
clean what the birds have left, and even,
in her hurry, a few dark leaves. In the air
the dusting of exhaust that still turns pennies
green, the way the cloudy surfaces
of things obscure their differences,
like the mock orange or the apple rose that
cracks the paving stone, rooted in the plaza.
No one will say your name, and when you come to
the door no one will know you, a parable
of the afterlife on earth. Poor grapes, poor crabs,
wild black cherry trees, on which some forty-six
or so species of birds have fed, some boy’s dead
weight or the tragic summer lightning killing
the seed, how boyish now that hunger
to bring those branches down to scale,
to eat of that which otherwise was waste,
how natural this woman eating berries, how alone. 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Stanley Plumly was born in Barnesville, Ohio, in 1939, and grew up in the lumber and farming regions of Virginia and Ohio. He received his B.A. in 1962 from Wilmington College, and his M.A. and Ph.D. from Ohio University. His work has been honored with the Delmore Schwartz Memorial Award and nominations for the National Book Critics Circle Award, the William Carlos Williams Award, and the Academy of Amerian Poets’ Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize. He has written nine books of poetry, including Old Heart (2008); Now That My Father Lies Down Beside Me: New and Selected Poems, 1970-2000(2000); The Marriage in the Trees (1997); Boy on the Step (1989); Summer Celestial (1983); Out-of-the-Body Travel (1977); Giraffe (1974); How the Plains Indians Got Horses (1973); and In the Outer Dark (1970). His work also includes Argument and Song: Sources and Silences in Poetry (2003), a collection of essays, and Posthumous Keats: A Personal Biography (2008). A Distinguished University Professor and Professor of English at the University of Maryland, Plumly has served as poet laureate of the State of Maryland since 2009. 

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Silver Birch Press is honored to feature poetry by Stanley Plumly in the Silver Birch Press SUMMER ANTHOLOGY, a collection of poetry and prose from authors around the world — available June 1, 2013. 

Photo: “Cherries or Berries?” by Janiceeey