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Greg Rappleye

Greg Rappleye’s second collection of poems, A Path Between Houses (University of Wisconsin Press, 2000) won the Brittingham Prize. His thirdbook, Figured Dark (University of Arkansas Press, 2007), was co-winner ofthe Arkansas Prize in Poetry and was published in the Miller Williams PoetrySeries. His fourth collection is Tropical Landscape with Ten Hummingbirds, (Dos Madres Press, 2018). He teaches in the English Department at HopeCollege, Holland, Michigan.

Angela Sweets, Black Pearls,
Columbia Stars

Sistrurus catenatus

The summer Mam went back to the asylum,
Da dropped us in the blackberry fields
and days into dusk, those big enough to lift
the galvanized pails picked across the brambles
of Angela Sweets, Black Pearls and Columbia Stars.
It was “a nickel-a-pail, full-at-half”—more might bruise
the touchy fruit—but with four of us left to pick,
we made our keep those crazy weeks with no Mam.
We browned in the sunlight (our itchy purple hands!)
and the rain would soak our overalls, and wash-out
a random Tuesday in the windbreak cedars
at the edge of the fields, playing dime-store kazoos
and a muddled game of jacks. I kept a lookout
for snakes. Twice I heard the slightest rattles
of massasaugas, and saw another quicken off
after Julio nudged it with his nail-imbedded toad-stick,
but Da was never worried when he picked us up
along the tower road, totaled our nickels
and, after the youngest fell asleep in the way-back of the Nash,
put the car in park under the carny lights
at East Town Liquor, treating himself to a fresh pack
of KOOLS and a brown-paper sack of whatever it was
kept him sated through those un-pearled, starless
blackberried nights.


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