A Boy, Thirteen

His mom and dad and little sister

pick from the safety

of the road, but the boy

has woven through the blackberry

thicket onto the sea cliff.

They're better here,

long thorny canes arching

like cracked whips,

fruit big as his thumb.

Brown wrist poking

like a young branch from

the cuffs of his old red sweatshirt,

the boy reaches carefully,

thumb and fingers

easing the berries off

the stems, lowering them

into the coffee can

strung with twine around his neck.

Gulls swirl. Sky is all around him -

overhead, behind, below -

keen blue as daggers.

Toeing his sneakers into the soil,

he feels, far down,

the tide crash on the cliffs

and surge up the narrow beach.

He stretches for the ripest handful.

They are his manna: promise

in their gritty bloom

of wind-blown dust,

the harsh sweat and metal

on his fingers, the flood of purple juice.

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