Academic journal article John Clare Society Journal

Dessert

Academic journal article John Clare Society Journal

Dessert

Article excerpt

The gooseberry bush hung down the wall

by the slow Fifties7 summer sun;

the rundown cottage. After wars

Italian farmworkers had come.

A widow, child-high, in black clothes

lodged there. Did she see them fall,

the gooseberries7 pale globes of gold?

I reached for them in heat or rain7

aged eight. One fruit would fill my mouth.

It was the sun, to blind small pains,

the perfect note, the dreamed of South,

then to my grandmother. Housebound, old,

she left us; that shawled lady, too.

There is a chance rough berries spill

in leaping hands, still spiced by theft,

above new walls, on that small hill.

This shop has one box, ripe yet left,

dusked fruits, lit amber. They will do.

NOTE

Clare's manuscript version of The Shepherd's Calendar, published by Carcanet (edited by Tim Chilcott, 2006), was a revelation to me in the rich rush of its uncut and unpunctuated text. One passage which leapt out at me from this version was the child's longing for the unaffordable fruit on sale on summer Sundays. …

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