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Finding Forgiveness in “Blackberries”

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    The poem “Blackberries” is about a young man spending his day eating handfuls of blackberries. Narrator Yusef Komunyakaa paints a picture of the day. The perfect stains left from the juices of the berries, as well as concluding the day of picking wild blackberries by describing a memory of when he was younger. His fingers not only stained from the berries, also by the blood from picking the berries that were “too ripe to touch. ” This poem is about forgiveness and the affects of how limbo can change a person. Firstly, picking blackberries is a symbol of the narrators need for forgiveness.

    Secondly, personal feelings are brought into the poem adding a sympathetic feel. Lastly memories become reality, rising to the surface of guilt filled through the vines of the poem. The narrator jumps into the poem by painting the picture of having fresh, sticky juices stained on his hand as if he were a printer or a thief being finger printed for a crime. “They left my hands like a printer’s/Or thief’s before a police blotter” (1-2). This creates a clear image of his hands stained purple, in every nook and crease on his hand. The first two stanzas are all about explaining and creating the blackberries. Terrestrial sweetness, so thick”(4), adds the depiction of the berries forcing the reader to now taste the thick, sweet juice that invades when biting into a freshly picked berry. “I ate the mythology & dreamt Of pies & cobbler, almost/Needful as forgiveness”(11-13). This now adds a stronger taste in adding the words pie and cobbler since it is commonly known as dessert. However, “almost Needful as forgiveness”, gives the impression that the narrator is holding out for forgiveness, as if he needs to be forgiven for something unseen in his past. In the last two stanzas, the narrator becomes more personal.

    The blackberries remind the narrator of his past and of something he needs forgiveness from. “My bird dog Spot/Eyed blue jays & thrashers. The mud frogs/In rich blackness, hid from daylight”(13-15). Creating a surrounding helps the reader imagine the setting of the poem. The third stanza can be portrayed as the end of the day. “I balanced a gleaming can in each hand/ Limboed between worlds, repeating one dollar” (17-18). He references to the feeling of being in limbo, which is the region between heaven and hell. This could suggest that the narrator needs to be forgiven before he is able to move towards his destiny of heaven or hell.

    His day spent picking blackberries is as needful as the forgiveness he is seeking. In the final stanza of the poem, there is a memory of the narrator that is being formed into reality. “When I leaned closer I saw the boy & girl my age, in the wide back seat Smirking/ & it was then I remembered my fingers /Burning with thorns among the berries too ripe to touch. ”(21-24); He is imagining himself as a young boy, picking berries with a young girl. The young girl is the existence of his need for forgiveness; something could have happened that makes the narrator seek forgiveness in blackberries.

    The imaginations of the two children could have been there to tell him that his hands were bleeding and wounded from the thorns of the berries. In conclusion the poem, “Blackberries”, by Yusef Komunyakaa, in my opinion is, a poem of a missed childhood of picking blackberries in the summer sun. In reading this, the reader feels his remorse for what could have been and how feeling guilty may cause his need for forgiveness. The poem is about life and how good it can be. The blackberries are a metaphor for the narrator’s childhood and the thorns pricking his fingers is the everyday reminder of the pain and anguish he feels.

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    Finding Forgiveness in “Blackberries”. (2017, Mar 15). Retrieved from

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