A few rags tied to branches
led us into the bog. Brown water
seeped over our ankles like tea,
pogonia and arethusa nodded
beside the sudden pools our footsteps made.
Last year's cranberries
held their fermented sweets,
and pitcher plants
thrust up fat vessels filled with dew
where small flies struggled.
At the swamp’s edge
an abandoned house still held
preserving jars and mugs, a checkered apron,
and Tropical Lands, mildewed etchings
of crocodiles and monkeys spilling from its spine.
Like children, holding hands, we followed
a trail of rusty nails
to the collapsed floor of the summer kitchen
where woodchucks burrowed. Rhubarb
surrounded the house like a rain forest.
the stew of rhubarb and brown sugar
was tart and sweet on our tongues.
Old woman, I thought,
I would have gone berrying with you,
baskets strapped to our backs, hands free,
tying shreds of an old scarf to hackmatack limbs.
When the cranberries shriveled to wrinkled leather bags,
did you take to your bed
or did you one day
walk deeper into the bog
until it quaked beneath your weight
and pitcher plants grew up around you?