Ripened Berries

by Christine Adams Beckett

It was well after midnight
When I heard the whine,
Louder in my heart’s middle-aged senses
Than thunder, which rolled
Over First Mountain and into
My still-waking ears, registering only
The anxiety of a trembling
Labrador retriever. His fear
Befuddled me, assuming him more
Cognizant of the natural world than me.
Perhaps his instinctual response,
A vestigial one, harkened back
To a time when the woods were
His home, and there was nowhere
To hide from flashes
Of blue, illuminating lightening.

I slid onto the floor with him
Where he placed his head in my lap,
Next to my womb, which had sat
Vacant for a decade. He was supposed
To be the antidote for that emptiness,
Filling my nest with a wordless
Charge to feed, to caress,
To nurture. Now I wondered if he
Was destined to comfort me,
To guard my abdomen which
Wouldn’t give way. I gazed at him
With my own brand of anxiety
Wondering if the blood that pooled in me
Supported another or grew stale with age.

The rumbles subsided, the flashes
Grew dim, and the pup’s breaths
Grew steady as a man’s snores.
I got up reluctantly, rousing him,
Ordering him to his donut-shaped
Plush pillow, as my body gave way
To its monthly flush, in conjunction
With the full corn moon. Like the native
American calendar, we women have thirteen
Ticks in our annual cycle. I remembered
Fondly the berry moon, ripe with summer,
Where during a warm night I reached out
To my partner, grasping at my own
Aggregate life. Delicately I pinched the fragile fruit,
Its carpels soft and sweet, staining my fingers with
Raspberry juice before they fell
From the vine.