Becca Carson

Dark Fruit Soft

Isn’t this stealing? is what your little sister asked when you unclipped the helmet and lined it with your papa’s red handkerchief, but you only bit your lip in concentration—already balancing on the corrugated steel ribs of the drainage pipe to cross to the other side that night you ransacked the bad neighbor’s blackberry patch. You slipped pale wrists through the barbed wire too close to the cliff edge of the irrigation ditch, so determined to take every single berry worth picking you didn’t register the groan of the garage door opening, not until your sister’s voice from the road hollering He’s home! He’s home! pulled you from the thorned limbs of the thicket in a cold panic. That’s when your heart thundered right out like a wild rabbit trapped.

It never came back.

You nearly bit through your tongue screaming Run! but when your feet slipped in the rich black dirt and folded you like dirty laundry over the lip of the gaping metal pipe the bad neighbor’s wife turned white at the sight of fresh blood staining your teeth. She doesn’t mention the NO TRESPASSING sign when she kneels next to you on the ground with an open mouth as if this is the first time she’s found you like this, curled motionless and vacant, your soft skin stained to match the sweet blackberry preserves the bad neighbor brings to your house every winter, a trade.

No, this is taking something back is what you wish you’d said to your tear-streaked little sister scooping the spilled berries back into the helmet.

This is trying to reclaim something sweet, dark fruit soft and bleeding, dark fruit belonging to someone else now and somehow softer than you remembered it.

Becca Carson (she/they) lives in Missoula, MT with her wife, kids, and Marla Singer the Great Dane. After nearly a decade as a high school English/Creative Writing teacher and Adviser of Aerie Literary Magazine Program, Becca switched gears and is embarking on their first year of graduate school. They are studying clinical mental health because the world needs more therapists. Their first full-length book of poems, Flight Path, was published in a small run of fewer than 500 hand-stitched copies by Foothills Publishing, a small press in upstate New York. Becca has work published in The Sonora Review, Camas, Juxtaprose, Cagibi, and an upcoming anthology from Stillhouse Press. She likes making art, exploring outdoors, and looking at rocks.