Thomas Rain Crowe

Picking Blueberries in the Rain

     
   

Over near the river,
old blueberry bushes
ten feet high.
Push branches aside
and go inside
to the center
where the big berries grow
unpicked by those
who have come before.
Whole handfuls.
All go into bucket that
hangs around my neck.

Thunder claps in the near distance.
Dark clouds roll in
over Shelton Mountain.
A few raindrops
in face and hair.
Then a shower.
Soon swimming in leaves
and berries.
Clothes and body all wet.

Go back to my truck to
wait out the storm.
After rain passes
go back out to same bush.
Berries dripping with rainwater.
Pick another quart
before lightning and thunder returns
and I go up to the house
to pay the blueberry man.
“Take them home for free
and come back again on a better day,”
he says as I put the green dollar bills back in my pocket.
Tie up the ends of my plastic pick-sack.
Plop a soft blue berry in my mouth.

     
         
 

Walking Kephart Prong Trail

     
   

“A riverine stroll,” the guide book says.
“By the river” (the meaning of Oconaluftee)
to Dry Sluice Gap.
On a bed of fresh-fallen leaves and
guided by four-eyed butterflies,
find the old logging road
sheathed in rosebay rhododendron.
With leaves peaking in the woods,
go uphill to roar of white water cascades
from yesterday’s rain.

“This beech leaf is bigger than my hand,”
Nan says, stopping to pick up the giant leaf
from the trail. Purple aster and maidenhair nod
in approval, as if to say: “What did you expect?”

Come to first prong crossing.
A hewn log stretches from bank to bank.
From mid-way on bridge
look down into clear water at smooth river-stone.
On the far bank
moss and lichen make their home on large old rocks.
Old lichen-bearded railroad irons poke out
of green groundcover like snakes that
no longer slither or slide --
heralding ghosts of locomotives
that hauled timber to mills.

After two miles,
finally find the third bridge --
turned upside down and in need of repair.
With no chance of walking the bridge,
I think of crossing the stream on a fallen birch.
Instead of risking life and limb,
turn and head back down the trail.

With bear scat on the pebble beach at the second bridge
and a chipmunk crossing my path,
the signs tell me we have made the right choice
in turning back.
From the log bridge
only wide enough for my own two shoes,
feel a gust of wind.
Watch leaves falling from tulip trees
high above into the rushing stream.

At the bottom where creek becomes river
and wild Prong turns to calm Oconaluftee
amidst lousewort, rue-anemone, wild bergamot
and myriad roots,
I bow to the thought of Kephart
camping in these woods and
cross the last bridge home.

     
         
 

The Saw Mill Shack

     
   

I have come to this land, how many years.
Alone, and for many months,
I have built this saw-mill shack.
Stone stacked and mortared on stone,
logs laid and joyned in joints,
rough oak boards nailed to beams and rafters
with 9” spikes.
Eat lunch each day listening to
rushing stream running over rocks,
through rhododendron, off Doubletop Mountain.
Sound of grouse wings drumming in the woods –­
With roof on, windows in,
and woodstove sitting in the hearth,
I stand outside gazing at what
these hands have done.
(An old chimney, still standing and covered in vines,
now a place to live.)
Tired from labor and a body
too old for work.
Lay another flat, smooth stone into the outyard wall.

     
 

Chores

     
   

Where will they go
these men and women of earth?
This man whose sweat waters grain.
This woman
whose milk is the strength in human bone.
As the seeds they have saved
from great grandparents to be given
to children not yet born
are eaten by the fiery incinerators of banks.

How can they replace the pain
of what their bodies have become: 
this farm
that feeds those that rule to crush this Land.
A million years of digging in dirt,
now passed on as the nightmare
of empty hands.

Who will separate, now,
the wheat from the chaff?

Now there will be nothing
but tears that go into the rows
that once furrowed their dreams.
What kind of food can be grown from the water in salt?
From the lonely song of a dry desert air.

Friends, think of the music gone from
the symphony of those fields.
The dance of breakfast
being born there for the human race.

Life out of balance
lost like the homeless in city streets,
like walking suicide.
Deprived of their chores.

     
 

The Perfect Work

     
   

Love is the perfect work.
A music which rings all the bells in the temple.
A special wind in the trees --

Listen to the way the drummer hits
lovingly his drum.
The way the dancer moves
over the warm earth.
And watch as children
leave their bodies behind on the old logs
around the fire and sing!

The world is aglow in the shadows of the
children singing. Of the sticks against
wood. Of the heavy silent breathing of the old ones
who sit off to the sides of the circle and pray.

When I am at work in my garden
I take off my shoes. I let
my other hands embrace dirt.
I plant myself in this place.
And knowing what love is, I
awake. In this place in my body.
Full of dream music.
Full of life.

     
 
   
     
 
      return to poetry
 

Thomas Rain Crowe  is an internationally recognized and published poet and writer whose work has been translated into several languages. He is the author of thirty books of original works, translations, anthologies and recordings, including the multi-award winning book of nonfiction Zoro’s Field: My Life in the Appalachian Woods, published in 2005, The End of Eden: Writings of an Environmental Activist, Rare Birds: Conversations With Music Legends, and a book of autobiographical fiction A House of Girls. As an editor, he has been an instrumental force behind such magazines as Beatitude, Katuah Journal and theAsheville Poetry Review. He has translated the work of such prominent writers as Hafiz, Guillevic and Yvan Goll. He is founder and publisher of New Native Press. His literary archives have been purchased and are collected by the Duke University Special Collections Library. He lives in the Tuckasegee community of rural western North Carolina.