In thrashing nettles the bruise-colored
berries emerge in patches on the gravel path
that runs behind my mother’s house.
We walk through weeks early,
jolting rabbits from the weeds,
itching pastures overgrown for years.
The family left five rusted hills
in the boxwood yard, and barns
pocked with rot and nesting birds.
The silo is fuzzed with ivy
and creepers, raspberries flanking,
sentries to empty threats.
As far back as I go, we had tomatoes
and corn, a plot run through
with gravel as this, vultures hovering.
My father put a wheel in my hand
there, the pathway safe, straight,
direct, without curves or troughs.
Then raspberries lined the road as handouts,
offering themselves directly, gifts
for living, for breathing, solace.
Today, as we prod the clacking
doors with branches and squint
in the familiar sun, the fruited
thistles seem sharper, discreet,
less governed, and clouds
darker, filled with veiled turmoil.
* * *
Nathan Leslie's fiction and poetry has appeared Gulf Stream, Amherst Review, X-Connect, Fiction International, Adirondack Review, The Crab Creek Review, The Sulphur River Literary Review, and 3 A.M., among others. His work has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize, and he has published two books of stories, Rants and Raves and A Cold Glass of Milk. He completed my MFA at the University of Maryland, where he won the 2000 Katherine Anne Porter Fiction Prize. He now teaches at Northern Virginia Community College.