Lorna Crozier
"Blackberry Pickers"

This is the hour of the blackberry pickers,
before the birds bring in the dawn,
before the smell of coffee wafts from the window
of the farmhouse across the road. The quail
have nibbled the lower ones, deer have eaten
those waist high. Though no one has seen them
the blackberry pickers must stand on stools,
on ladders, on one another’s shoulders, arms gloved
from fingertip to elbow, heads wrapped in scarves.

Is it chance that brings them here the exact moment
the purple-black deepens into the richest blackness?
Is it greed that clears the branches, leaves nothing
for the woman who walks early morning from her house
with just one ice-cream bucket to pick enough for a pie?
If there were gypsies in these parts, they’d be blamed.
If there were refugees, if there were wild children.

Cars coasting, headlights snuffed, they come noiseless
in the dark and in the dark they vanish,
before the cats want in, before the barn owl roosts
above the sleeping horses, before raccoons gather
their little ones and climb the ancient fir, pulling
themselves higher branch by branch
with fingers deft enough to etch a greeting
on a grain of rice, flick salt crystals from a bag of pepper,
pluck pennies from the eyelids of the newly dead.