Loading Strawberries 1912
For six summer weeks it's strawberry time in Swanwick.
The air smells sweet and sodden. June is sweltering.
Carts coming down Duncan Road clatter in line,
await their turn to pull longside the sidings.
Horses stamp and shake, pile their shit onto the road.
The Railway Hotel courts the growers thirsting
for beer after hours in the fields, fussing their pickers
into production. Their hands are grime and scarlet.
They stink of jam.
The loading is slow, baskets
balanced inside the trucks. Then a sudden
shout or fist signals a dispute.
Someone is out of turn or settling scores.
Growing's full of conflict, conciliation,
grudges and gambling on weather, livings laden
into these weeks. Families can be broken
by a bad season.
The line loiters to the train
all afternoon, boys squeezing the baskets
into small spaces until the steam is rising.
In thirty-six hours Glasgow will be gorging fruit.
The guard waves green, the signal has nodded.
The station porter sweeps turds onto his roses,
watches the departure, smiles with a knowing
that strawberries aren't the only kind of growing.