Week 116: Bilberries, by Eric Millward

This tender poem brings back fond memories of picking berries (blackberries rather than bilberries) with my own small daughter. (I particularly remember how she would put one rather squashed berry into the bowl, take out half a dozen and eat them, then say proudly ‘I are being a helpy girl, aren’t I?’). It is one of those poems that snatch a precious and perhaps never-to be-repeated moment out of time and preserve it in an amber of loving observation.


We have been picking bilberries over an hour.
Your small hand opens, closes: a preying flower.
Warm shadows deepen into greys and blues,
hiding in caches those we didn’t choose
or didn’t see. All of the world is still
except ourselves, upon this glowing hill.
Whatever moved here earlier lies low,
waiting for us to pick our fill and go,
when, watched by them, the patient, the bright-eyed,
we shall go down the bountiful hillside.
But for an hour we lord it over eyes
that watch us covertly, with some surprise,
for hills hold nothing quite like me and you,
stooping and picking till our hands are blue.

Eric Millward