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

Sea Buckthorn

2015, oil, fabric, and thread on canvas,

20"h x 20"w

Margaret Shipman  | Southern Vermont | | (802) 451-0332

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