The problem with blackberries — Kate Feld

1. These particular blackberries I’m talking about are the ones that grow in the cutting between two stops on the Bury tramline. All along there they’ve taken over, spilling down the steep incline that separates the tracks from a housing estate. It’s been a good year for blackberries; early spring/late summer, such an abundance of sunshine it seems like a mistake. I‘ve watched them ripen, blazing past in a stink of metal twice a day. Brambles nod under the weight of all that dark sweet, winking at me in the sun. I pass so close I could reach out my hand and pick one. I’m there and then I’m gone. I start to think about them a lot.

1.5 (Let me be clear about this: they’re nothing special. So I don’t understand why it happened, but for a few weeks these particular blackberries became the direction I was always oriented in, the frequency I was tuned to. They filled the hollow of my skull with a silent static of desire. Do you remember the fairy tale about the pregnant woman who craved the greens in her witch-neighbour’s garden, and got sick from wanting until she would give her unborn child to taste them? Like that.)

2. It’s not impossible. I could get off the tram just there, in my work clothes, and wait until the other passengers have dispersed. I could climb between the horizontal bars of the fence and walk crabwise through creepers and bindweed and then brambles, fighting me like a living thing. My bag looped over a branch, forgotten. One shoe snared and its comrade slipping off down the gully. I could carry on, my tights in threads, deaf to the little yelping of each thorn in my hide. How good that first one would taste! I could go on, reaching for another, and another. My mouth stained purple. My skin bloody. I could do that. But tell me: who would come back from that? Who could fit the knowledge they had behaved that way into the container of their personality?

2.5. (I always worry at these odd ideas, picking at their edges like scabs. What I crave is blackberries but also the proximity of a ridiculous notion, sheering past so close I could reach out my hand and touch it. I like the wind of it on my face. For a while when I was a girl, or more accurately in that stuckness between girl and teenager, I used to go wait at the station for the New York train. I did it every day, without thinking much about it. I suppose the howl of the horn, the stench of diesel and the sheer force of the train roaring in produced a species of divine terror. The nearness of you.)

3. I mark the day when the blackberries are perfectly ripe. And the day after. Then it changes. Then I don’t want to see them anymore. I look less often at them, but I see the berries harden and brown, the colour bleach out of the leaves and their serrated edges curl. Then I don’t look at them.

3.5. (They are dead to me, these blackberries. Also: they are dead.)

4. In the city, not long after this, my friend surprises me with a jar of her blackberry jam. She takes it out of her bag and places it on the table next to the teapot, turning the label toward me proudly. I exclaim over it and say the right things. I put it in my bag and ride the tram home. In my house I take the jar out of my bag and get a spoon and open the jar and eat a spoonful of jam, quickly and secretly. Standing in the kitchen in my stocking feet. I could eat the whole jar of jam, but it wouldn’t help. I screw the cap back on the jar. I put the jar of blackberry jam on the middle shelf of my refrigerator and close the door. The light goes out when you close the door.

4.5 (In this way we all must pass by and let everything we cannot have go from us.)


Kate Feld  is a writer of fiction and essays whose work has appeared in publications including Neon and Caught by the River and is forthcoming from Litro. She is the co-editor of creative nonfiction journal and reading series The Real Story (therealstory.org). She lives in Manchester, UK and tweets at @katefeld

Image: Season of Fruitfulness, Andrew Hill, Creative Commons