(it's not really about blackberries)
Blackberries are a tough call.
On the one hand, they’re not native.
Someone decided to bring them here,
uninvited, and plant them in the earth.
It was pretty rude, when you think about it,
because naturalists classify blackberries as “extremely invasive.”
They don’t grow so much as they explode,
like a virus in a sneeze.
Someone plants one spiny little bitch without asking,
and before you know it you’ve got blackberries
growing into your rhodies,
choking out your native ferns,
and creeping through the dirt in the raised beds you built yourself,
occupying all the places where you tended the earth,
selected your seeds,
and tucked them into their warm, dark beds
with a smooth hand,
and a prayer that they’d rise with the sun.
It’s a silent massacre.
All you can think about are the broad green leaves you picked, planted,
worked for, wanted,
but will never see.
Like I said, rude.
But you can’t just yank blackberries out.
First of all, you’ll bleed.
These plants bite. They fight to survive.
Second, blackberries are so fucking hardy,
and so fucking invasive,
that before you know it, your entire hillside has grown up
on a tangled knot of blackberry roots.
If you yank them all out directly,
even though that seems like the easiest thing to do,
who knows what could happen?
Like it or not, these little pricks are part of your ecosystem.
When you think of it like that,
and we all do sometimes,
everyone who tries to grow something good thinks about it sometimes,
it’s a real fucking bummer.
Not so much a choice between winning and losing
as much as it is a choice between losing on your terms
or losing on theirs.
The battle is survivable but unwinnable.
We all feel that way sometimes.
I will just say this:
There is a way to work on those blackberries:
Put on your thickest jacket, the one that protects you from little pinpricks.
(I think the tiny spines hurt more than the woody thorns.
It can be tough to figure out where they hurt you,
even though you are in pain.
It can be tough to spot them in the landscape of your body,
the sneaky little jerks that lodged into you without giving a fuck.
And other people don’t empathize with you when you show them
the nearly invisible needle, hair-sized,
that you said hurt so much.
Well, some people do.
The ones that have been stung do.)
When you decide you’re ready, put on your gloves.
It’s going to hurt no matter what,
but you don’t need to wound yourself
to prove that it hurts.
You deserve protection.
Then get out the shears that your friend dropped off this morning,
the ones she passed to you with a hug
and a nod. “These worked on mine,” she said.
”Call me after?”
She didn’t offer to help.
She knows it’s a one-woman job.
Decide where you want to cut today.
Decide where you can get close enough.
Then, you cut that fucker.
Cut it back.
Let the sunshine hit the earth that’s been cold for too long.
The good news is that these blackberries can’t run from you.
The bad news is that you can’t scare them away.
You do, actually, have to reach out with your hands,
pull them out of the earth while they scratch you.
They will grow back. You know they will.
You can’t vanish them, but you can defend those broad green leaves,
the ones you grew on purpose,
the ones that will feed you.
This is how you own your space.
When you are done, fix your favorite drink.
Sit in the sunshine you invited back
when you cut that fucker down to size.
Collect your breath. Feel where you’re stinging.
Feel where you’re sore. Feel where you’re strong.
Sit in the garden and look at what you’ve grown,
despite those fucking blackberries,
because of those fucking blackberries.
Look what you grew across the yard from the blackberries,
in a spot where you never even think about them.
Remember, this space belongs to you.
Remember, part of owning space is allowing
other things to live there. You can’t keep out the birds.
You can’t keep out the pillbugs.
You wouldn’t if you could.
Hummingbirds, rats. They’re family.
This is part of it.
This is part of being alive in the world.
Some-fucking-one planted blackberries.
Guess I better get my gloves.
Guess I better call my friend.
And when you’re ready,
remember what I said way back at the beginning?
That on the one hand
blackberries are non-native, invasive pricks?
On the other hand,
have you ever eaten a blackberry
warm from the branch?
You didn’t pick the plant
but you can pick the fruit.
It will feed you, too.
You can pluck the sweet part from the shitty, mean branch
that you will never, ever be thankful for.
You can mix what you picked with something you love
and make it into just what you needed.
Something you could even share.
You never know, someone you love might need the recipe.
It tastes sweet,