Poem for July

Raspberries

Once, as a child, I ate raspberries. And forgot.
And then, years later,
A raspberry flowered on my palate, and the past
Burst in unfolding layers within me.
It tasted of grass and honey.
You were there, watching and smiling.
Our love unfolded in the taste of raspberries.

More years have passed; and you are far, and ill;
And I, unable to reach you, eating raspberries.
Their dark damp red, their cool and fragile fur
On the always edge of decay, on the edge of bitter,
Bring a hush of taste to the mouth

Tasting of earth and of crushed leaves
Tasting of summer’s insecurity,
Tasting of crimson, dark with the smell of honey

Tasting of childhood and of remembered childhood,
And now, now first, the darker taste of dread.

Sap and imprisoned sunlight and crushed grass
Lie on my tongue like a shadow,
Burst like impending news on my aching palate

Tasting not only of death (I could bear that)
But of death and you together,
The folded layers of love and the sudden future,
Tasting of earth and thought of you as earth

As I go on eating, waiting for the news.

By Laurence Lerner

This poem was kindly contributed by the poet’s son and daughter-in-law who are regular visitors to Arran.

Born in South Africa in 1925, Laurence ‘Larry’ Lerner studied at the University of Cape Town and later, Cambridge. He embarked on an academic and writing career that would take him from Ghana to Belfast, Sussex to Tennessee, before returning to England’s south-east, where he formally retired but continued to teach and publish. To hear some of Laurence Lerner’s poems click on the link to the poetry archive.