Sea Buckthorn Berries
It was the buckthorn that saved us—
no way to turn the rambling hills
into cooperatives of production, no way to take
the people’s land, rendered useless to the party
by patches of buckthorn shrubs that inveigled
themselves on the torn clay, gorges
and ravines, eroded soil. The arduous roots
kept the hill from rolling into the creek.
When let loose, mostly sheep thrived on the shrubs
and got lost in wide-spread patches.
Every year people shredded their palms trying to cut
the bushes, contain the thick texture of thorns
and silver-green leaves. Not good for marking
property edges because the shrubs swelled
overnight, took over the shrinking corn fields, ate up
the pear trees, competed only with hawthorn.
Party officials sent the young to harvest the berries
and send them away, but we hardly used them
ourselves. That cătina is good for the skin,
for antiaging treatments, combating stress
and intellectual fatigue, we didn’t know. It’s good
for arthritis, gout, and skin rashes, improves sight,
strengthens the heart, the immune system,
has ten times the vitamin C of other fruit.
What we knew is that our grandmothers made wine
with it, added it to high-octane ţuică,
made a mied, a syrup of buckthorn and honey.
Then we didn’t know. Today, my mother
makes me juices and jellies, jams and peltea
to treat colds and allergies, make skin
glow, hair shine, heal cuts and wounds,
heal displacement and departure.
Margaret Shipman in collaboration with poet, Lucia Cherciu
2015, oil, fabric, and thread on canvas,
20"h x 20"w