Daniel Bourne

And so it is time I commit to more words,
to coax Margaret out into the strawberries
to look for stragglers, the small ones deep under leaf,
hidden, gnarled and sweet, their tiny yellow seeds
like the stubble on an old beard. Times like these

she plays hard to get.  She turns her back
and only pats the dog. Out in the garden
so much left to strip off from the stem.
I feel like a groundhog underneath the fence
—or is it a snake?— crawling and crawling into Eden.  

Daniel Bourne

                                      (For Margaret)

No one thinks of Noah at night.  Forty times
he floated into darkness.  There  

before the happy ending of doves and rainbows
was the lantern made of garnet

he held in his hand
as he ministered to the animals, telling them

memory was even more powerful
than promise, trusting  

the creatures’ old worlds
of grass and nest and burrow

would light the growing flood
of darkness.  Yes, as you read this

yours is the stone
that has always guided travelers; the heart’s  

own light
that you carry.  O Jewel of Bohemia, red  

pomegranate, your own crystal seeds
refracting the past and future, every facet

like the surface of a planet, the wax and wane of waters,
little girl walking through the weeds, the world of pale Ohio

that years later, you make into your garden, 
red gem of tomato and strawberry, or the balm

of catnip
to administer to the last days of our black diabetic cat,  

the flood of blood and urine,  the covenant
that we should have  

with all animals, to make them feel,
like we do, that we will live forever, the kind delusion  

that God will never
do this terrible thing again.  That is why you whispered

those memories to your father, the old
words of Bowling Green and Jerry City

so that he could once again wade through the gathering
of ivy, his own Ohio flood  

of childhood, Black Swamp, 
wet desert, land of sogginess and need.  Near death

he opened his eyes and saw not just the ceiling
but through your bright swaying lantern of words  

he heard the snap of locusts in the beech trees, Joyce and Betty
calling him in to supper,  

fried pork and pickled beets  The pigeon near the barn
bearing branches for its nest.  Land at last at hand, the boat

nudging up on shore, though all around, 
of course,  

it was only darkness.

Author's Commentary: It’s interesting how these two poems pair with each other. "Jewel of Bohemia” embraces the sense of world that you create with another person, how you come to share a cosmology, a mythology of people, animals, places, events. I also think that this poem was sparked by not so much the fact that my wife and life partner Margaret was born in January with garnet as her birthstone, but how I see her in the same way as Noah, carrying a light of nurturing and care down the corridors of her own life, her own ark. That is why the poem itself starts to drift, through her emergence in the intertwined ball of myth and geography that we call Ohio, through tending our pets and, finally, to the death of her father, one that was both sudden and slow, as many deaths are, and which—it was a surprise to me—ended up being where the poem came to shore. “Last Strawberries,” though, is more about the little disruptions still present in everyday life between you and your beloved, moments where you sheepishly feel as if you don’t quite live on the same wavelength (or even planet) as this person. But you’re still energized to try.

Daniel Bourne’s books of poetry include The Household Gods, Where No One Spoke the Language, and a collection of translations of Polish political poet Tomasz Jastrun, On the Crossroads of Asia and Europe. He teaches in English and Environmental Studies at The College of Wooster in NE Ohio, where he edits Artful Dodge. His poems have appeared in such journals as American Poetry Review, Ploughshares, Guernica, Field, Salmagundi, Prairie Schooner and Plume, and are forthcoming in Yale Poetry Review, Tar River Poetry, Lake Effect, Valparaiso Poetry Review, Canary, and Weber: The Contemporary West. Visit his web-site at