A Better Berry by Duncan Forbes



Duncan Forbes’ poems have been published by Faber, Secker and Enitharmon, who brought out a Selected Poems, Lifelines, in 2009. It was drawn from five previous collections. Awards and prizes include a Gregory Award, TLS/Blackwells Prize, two Stephen Spender Times Translation Prizes and a Hawthornden Fellowship. A painter as well as a poet, he read English at Oxford and has taught for many years. Now retired, he lives in Gloucestershire. His latest collection is Human Time (2020). See www.duncanforbes.com 





















A Better Berry


“Doubtless God could have made a better berry,

but doubtless God never did.”

Dr Boteler quoted by Izaak Walton










Reach down between the green serrated groves

And feel for berries’ ripened crimson selves

Wearing their seeds like buttons on a sofa,


Twiddle the six-point star of Bethlehem

Between your pink forefinger and your thumb

To reinvent the wheel with leaf and stem,


Then with some Amaretto – just a splash –

Taste at its best, sun-ripened and picked fresh,

The veiny brainwork of the sweetened flesh


With caster sugar crystals by the spoonful

And cream poured in a languid waterfall

Onto the waiting strawberries in a bowl,


Then savour both the shape in the saliva

And that infallible midsummer flavour

As if you were in love and it your lover,


Moving the proof from lips to uvula

And swallow, swallow till the fever’s over,

As if in heaven and an unbeliever.



Duncan Forbes


Cellar Dweller by Duncan Forbes