Linwood Rumney, "After the Blueberry Harvest"




Across the road three workers burn the field

to yield blueberries, larger and sweeter

than what grows wild. In two years, it will be time


to harvest again, and I, fifteen, will work

there, but today I clamber through

the pear tree’s gritty branches 


in the front yard, through smoky haze 

and day’s heat, through fruit ripening golden

around me, tapering from branches


toward the ground, while workers assemble

to cultivate flame. One collects

loose brush to burn as another digs


shallow trenches to temper the fire.

A third drags his foot over the soil

to signal where burning must end.


I won’t be one who masters fire this way—

scorching everything to the crowns

where roots plunge their tortuous hands


into sunlight. Burning until they

remain only as amputee palms sprouting

new fingers in a field growing dormant


as a cold ember. I’ll be one who curves

close to the earth to gather the plant’s blue wealth,

who will temper my body through the misery


of work, who will return home too tired to climb.

I’ll be one to stand under this pear tree with its 

nascent fruit, summoning the memory of this blaze.


Linwood Rumney’s poems, nonfiction essays, and translations have recently appeared in or are forthcoming from Ploughshares, North American Review, Painted Bride Quarterly, Puerto del Sol, Southern Review, Kenyon Review, Adirondack Review, and elsewhere. He has received awards from the Writers Room of Boston and the St. Botolph Club, and he currently serves as an editorial assistant for Black Lawrence Press. He lives in Cincinnati, where he is pursuing a PhD as a Taft fellow.