The air tonight feels quite dry as I inhale it. It's going to be a warm night, too. We've reached that arid time of summer, when the fields begin to brown and the oak leaves darken to their deepest green before beginning to turn brown themselves. The sun sets noticeably earlier, and the afternoon light, no matter how warm the day, has a paleness to it. With nightfall the chirps of the remaining crickets are accompanied by the buzz of the first cicadas. The scent of the gardenias, grown a bit cloying as they have aged, seems incongruous as it mingles with the smell of dry grass. It's as though the season can's decide if it wants to live or to die.
But there was certainly life to the afternoon. Dozens of birds of various species gathered in the trees and chirped and warbled and chattered, while bees buzzed and butterflies fluttered. The insects were plentiful in my yard, but the birds kept some distance, probably because the feral cat and her kittens, now growing quite large, were napping in shady spots on my lawn. Only a couple of quick hummingbirds dared raid the trumpet vine's flowers for nectar. The other avians probably had no need to worry. Those cats are so well fed that none of them would be likely to make the effort to catch any birds. I've spoiled the little buggers.
by Seamus Heaney
Late August, given heavy rain and sun
For a full week, the blackberries would ripen.
At first, just one, a glossy purple clot
Among others, red, green, hard as a knot.
You ate that first one and its flesh was sweet
Like thickened wine: summer's blood was in it
Leaving stains upon the tongue and lust for
Picking. Then red ones inked up and that hunger
Sent us out with milk cans, pea tins, jam-pots
Where briars scratched and wet grass bleached our boots.
Round hayfields, cornfields and potato-drills
We trekked and picked until the cans were full,
Until the tinkling bottom had been covered
With green ones, and on top big dark blobs burned
Like a plate of eyes. Our hands were peppered
With thorn pricks, our palms sticky as Bluebeard's.
We hoarded the fresh berries in the byre.
But when the bath was filled we found a fur,
A rat-grey fungus, glutting on our cache.
The juice was stinking too. Once off the bush
The fruit fermented, the sweet flesh would turn sour.
I always felt like crying. It wasn't fair
That all the lovely canfuls smelt of rot.
Each year I hoped they'd keep, knew they would not.