Gooseberry Fool

By Amy Clampitt 1920–1994 Amy Clampitt
The gooseberry’s no doubt an oddity,
an outlaw or pariah even—thorny
and tart as any
kindergarten martinet, it can harbor
like a fernseed, on its leaves’ under-
side, bad news for pine trees,
whereas the spruce
resists the blister rust
it’s host to. That veiny Chinese
lantern, its stolid jelly
of a fruit, not only has
no aroma but is twice as tedious
as the wild strawberry’s sunburst
stem-end appendage: each one must
be between-nail-snipped at both extremities.

Altogether, gooseberry virtues
take some getting
used to, as does trepang,
tripe à la mode de Caen,
or having turned thirteen.
The acerbity of all things green
and adolescent lingers in
it—the arrogant, shrinking,
prickling-in-every-direction thorn-
iness that loves no company except its,
or anyhow that’s what it gets:
bristling up through gooseberry ghetto sprawl
are braced thistles’ silvery, militantly symmetrical
defense machineries. Likewise inseparably en-
tangled in the disarray of an
uncultivated childhood, where gooseberry bushes (since
rooted out) once flourished, is
the squandered volupté of lemon-
yellow-petaled roses’ luscious flimflam—
an inkling of the mingling into one experience
of suave and sharp, whose supremely im-
probable and far-fetched culinary
embodiment is a gooseberry fool.

Tomorrow, having stumbled into
this trove of chief ingredients
(the other being very thickest cream)
I’ll demonstrate it for you. Ever since,
four summers ago, I first brought you,
a gleeful Ariel, the trophy
of a small sour handful,
I’ve wondered what not quite articulated thing
could render magical
the green globe of an unripe berry.
I think now it was simply
the great globe itself’s too much to carry.


December 1981

Source: Poetry (June 2012).

MORE FROM THIS ISSUE

This poem originally appeared in the June 2012 issue of Poetry magazine

June 2012
 Amy  Clampitt

Biography

Upon publication of her book of poems The Kingfisher in 1983, Amy Clampitt became one of the most highly regarded poets in America. Born in rural Iowa and raised on a farm, she studied first at Grinnell College in Grinnell, Iowa, and later at Columbia University and the New School for Social Research in New York City. Throughout the 1940s and 1950s, Clampitt held a variety of jobs and attempted unsuccessfully to write novels, . . .

Continue reading this biography

Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Activities, Gardening, Nature, Trees & Flowers

POET’S REGION U.S., New England

Poetic Terms Free Verse

Report a problem with this poem


Your results will be limited to content that appeared in Poetry magazine.

Search Every Issue of Poetry

Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

This poem has learning resources.

This poem is good for children.

This poem has related video.

This poem has related audio.