Carol Barrett


My father recalls gooseberries rising
to the top of pies, wild Kansas fields,
stickery and hot. An earned offering.

We invent uses, this lowly plum
relic of currants: tart marmalade
oozing over goat’s milk cheese,

saffron sauce, the gold coin of lamb,
fluted scallions with romaine and pear.
The prophets of Genesis reaped carob

from locust trees, ladled raw honey.
The humble gooseberry, translucent
globe lined for longitude, still

flourishes, olive gray branches
arranged in slender vases
with purple vetch. Its yield, five

hundred shekels, weeping stems
that root wherever they touch
ground, buds becoming

a quatrain of flowers. My father
planted the bristly berries
with limestone in the high shade

of persimmon, thorn at each axil,
tended through the great winter
chill when the honeybees froze,

their box of trays knocked over
by an unknown intruder, human
or beast, no matter—they were

gone when he found them
on his morning rounds.
My mother baked a steaming pie

from a quart put up at the height
of harvest, tending this loss.
She is still tending, bees

swimming the air again
as she folds her apron, rings
the big brass bell. Table filled,

cousins in from haying,
layered with sun dust. Jacob,
the youngest, leans to his plate,

licks the last sweet swirl,
a devouring without grace
but with my father’s blessing.

Carol Barrett

holds doctorates in both clinical psychology and creative writing and teaches for Union Institute & University. Her books include Calling in the Bones, winner of the Snyder Prize from Ashland Poetry Press. A former NEA fellow in poetry, she lives in Bend, Oregon.