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Wild Strawberries

Sandy Shreve
From:   Belonging. Sono Nis Press, 1997.

On this July morning, the Fundy breeze makes waves
on its distant bay
sends gusts like messengers to the marsh
where a young girl stands
still and silent, only her wild hair flying

These are the days when freight trains still speed
across the Tantramar to Cape Tormentine
She rolls the word, terminus, in her mouth
imagines the end of the line, the engine and every boxcar
rising into the sky, their bulk a weightless chain
with the will to glide high and soundless as clouds
above the blue Northumberland tides
Then come to ground at the edge of the Island
ease their wheels back onto beginnings
wherever the rails wait

the way she waits, now
for the rhythm of elsewhere
the click-clack of dreams
and for the call to Come Alo-o-o-ng, Come Alo-o-o-ng
an impossible song on a soft wind
that cups her face like the comfort
of her mother's hands
on this hot day

The girl kneels, knows to put
her weight down slow on the stones
nudge out a blunt nest for her knees
She places her hand on the rail, feels only heat
no shudder
Leans low to listen, ear to steel
her brown eyes wide, watching, just to be safe

She adores the smell of rust and tar and it is
best this close to the track
but on this day the air is also sweet
her nose tingles with the idea of sliced strawberries
She lifts her head
centres her penny on the rail

sniffs at the air, transformed to her rabbit self
leaps across the tracks as if startled
though her flight follows a geography
of other summers, the knowledge of red, ripe
and speckled with the seeds of sunlight

The train rumbles toward her now
its destination west and one day she will follow
see the rest of the world for herself
but this is her place, already she is certain
she will return

What she cannot imagine is a future
when the last caboose will fade into the distance
forever, the rails here lifted from their beds
stacked and abandoned on some vacant lot
herself long gone

She picks up her penny, a good one today
heads home with the promise
of a new shape of copper shining in her hand
the shout of wild strawberries on her tongue

Sandy Shreve's works copyright © to the author.

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