Down in Polly Johnson’s Holler, a two hour hike from here
Just when you reach the long lost village of the ancient pioneers
You’ll know it by the long, tall grasses
Empty houses with a vacant stare
But by the side of that abandoned mountain
Grow the sweetest kind of berries there
And if you battle the brambles, and give it your best
The birds will get the sweetest ones, but you’ll get all the rest.
Three or four abandoned houses, a pantry and a barn
Who built these houses and then left them looking so forlorn?
With tobacco handing in the rafters
Squash and beans on the pantry shelf?
I’d run away and hide out in this holler
But when you’re grown you can’t run from yourself
Still I’d live off these berries, and I’d give it my best
And the birds might get the sweetest ones, but I’d have all the rest.
Rough-hewn logs, a little mortar oozing in between
Plastered with some old newspapers from nineteen-seventeen
News of Europe’s war, a distant rumble
Hints of changes in a mirrored glass
How it freezes time in one still moment
When your life is papered with the past
It’s here they battled the brambles, here they gave it their best
And the birds would get the sweetest ones, but they had all the rest.
A wooden spoon, an old tin pitcher, a jar of berry jam
Crack the lid and dip my finger, transported where I am
You leave a legacy of stone and marble
Proclamations in a dusty will
But you give more by leaving hints and guesses
Unpicked berries on a brambled hill
So we can battle the brambles, and we will give it our best
And the birds might get the sweetest ones, but we’ll have all the rest.
© 1993 Pamela Cardullo Ortiz