Jelly [Poetry]

By Judy Ireland

We climbed the mulberry tree
after laying old sheets beneath it
white in the twilight.
Backs against the strong trunk,
we shook the biggest branches
until it was like snow,
soft, purple hail,
small splats like bird shit.
The berries were only good
for birds and jelly, but the climbing
and the shaking was good for us,
ready to vibrate out of our skins,
augured down, sheared, ready to fly out
like grain from the chute of a combine,
high speed tractor ass kids
breaking buds
detaching from stems
splitting seeds
boiling in water and sugar
squeezed through cheesecloth
until you could hold us up
to the light from the kitchen window,
see life through us,
sweet, sticky, clear.


Judy Ireland’s poetry benefits from the verdancy and barefaced authenticity of the Midwest’s working class culture, which keeps her work grounded and focused in the ordinary world, where extraordinary ideas reside with great subtlety and power. Her work is also influenced by the lush excesses of South Florida, where she currently lives and works. Her poems have been published in Calyx, Saranac Review, Eclipse, Cold Mountain, Hotel Amerika, and other journals.  Her book, Cement Shoes, won the 2013 Sinclair Poetry Prize, and will be published this spring by Evening Street Press.