Sunday, April 05, 2009


Along the abandoned railroad tracks
where the palmetto had been cleared
away and not yet reclaimed its domain,
its scrub country birthright, we came
to gather wild guavas. My brother and I
brought buckets and bags and a twenty-two
to plink at the empty cans we found --
we always found cans, mostly beer
but sometimes soda. Either works
for target practice. But the guavas,
that's why we came: sweet and tart,
full of worms but free and the worms
didn't matter once they were cooked
down with plenty of sugar. I know
about the guava jelly and the paste
found at stores or those roadside stands
for the tourists but there's nothing
better than homemade guava preserves
topping a bowl of vanilla icecream.
That's how Florida tasted to me.
We gathered as many as we could find,
as many as we could carry home;
there Mom took charge and filled the house
with their aroma, simmering in
the big dented stock pot and even
outdoors we'd catch that perfume sifting
through the open jalousie windows.
It's been too many years since I picked
a wild guava, a long time since I was
a boy with a bag and a rifle and an eye
out for snakes and I don't know
if they grow there anymore.
But they did; they did, back then.

Stephen Brooke ©2009

When the phrase Wild Guavas suggested itself to me, I thought it would become a song (and perhaps it will someday) but instead it grew into this rather prosy poem (which could have been formatted as a prose poem but I chose to break it up into rough tetrameter).

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