Bitter Strawberries

All morning in the strawberry field
They talked about the Russians.
Squatted down between the rows
We listened.
We heard the head woman say,
'Bomb them off the map.'

Horseflies buzzed, paused and stung.
And the taste of strawberries
Turned thick and sour.

Mary said slowly, 'I've got a fella
Old enough to go.
If anything should happen...'

The sky was high and blue.
Two children laughed at tag
In the tall grass,
Leaping awkward and long-legged
Across the rutted road.
The fields were full of bronzed young men
Hoeing lettuce, weeding celery.

'The draft is passed,' the woman said.
'We ought to have bombed them long ago.'
'Don't,' pleaded the little girl
With blond braids.

Her blue eyes swam with vague terror.
She added petishly, 'I can't see why
You're always talking this way...'
'Oh, stop worrying, Nelda,'
Snapped the woman sharply.
She stood up, a thin commanding figure
In faded dungarees.
Businesslike she asked us, 'How many quarts?'
She recorded the total in her notebook,
And we all turned back to picking.

Kneeling over the rows,
We reached among the leaves
With quick practiced hands,
Cupping the berry protectively before
Snapping off the stem
Between thumb and forefinger.

--Sylvia Plath, 17


Sleep, my child
you are forgiven
escape into dreams
from the world you have lived in

there's no need to bury
broken toys in the sandbox
no need to hide behind
tightly sealed padlocks

no need to deny that you
spit out your vegetables
or to cover your mud tracks
with crayola black washables

the day has passed
you cannot erase it
rest, my dear child
so you'll have strength to face it

when you open your eyes
a little past dawn
the mistakes will remain
but your fear will be gone

so let go, close your eyes
memories no longer painful
remember i love you
good night, little angel.

--Anonymous, 14

Winter Trees

The snow
smothers all that's outside
it wasn't aiming for the tree.
The tree
stands resolutely still
as it has for fifty years
it wasn't stretching to catch the snow.
Yet the delicately frosted twigs
seem the careful work of an artist's hand.
On every branch
the white on top
meets the sepia underneath
without even trying.

--Anonymous, 14


I see you
brunette with the gray cardigan
tall man with suit briefcase and ipod
perky chick with perkier puppy
bet she can’t find iraq on a globe
gray-haired hispanic woman
big-eyed baby in her arms
bearded sunburn on a cardboard square
don’t make eye contact
two giggling asian girls
short skirts long leggings
loud “two for five dollars!”
walk faster we’re too busy for knock-off purses
three college guys laughing
mom pushing a stroller
family of four huddled around a map
don’t they know
better than to look like
young couple holding hands
old couple holding hands
stumbling mumbling bumbling nutcase
honey hold tighter
two backchatting black girls
tight jeans loose blouses
scratchy-voiced melody with a guitar
could be jimi hendrix but
I’m not throwing any quarters in that tin
toddler throwing a tantrum
pack of women in headscarves
cute little girl selling lemonade on the corner,
are you thirsty?
Me neither, but she’s adorable
where’s my wallet?

--Anonymous, 18

Eyes: A Sonnet

I think it would be really cool if I
Had laser vision and could zap my foes,
Or maybe eyes that light up in the night
Emitting greenish other-worldly glows.

I'd see the future with no crystal balls
And read your mind with just my psychic eye,
Or wait! If I could look through solid walls,
I'd be the envy of the FBI.

But all these superpowers seem mundane
When placed beside the magic that is real:
Eyes sparkling, suns, or weeping like the rain;
With subtle strength, expressing how I feel.

These eyes communicate and shine and see--
Let's save those other "cool" eyes for TV.

--Anonymous, 14