Poetry Sunday:
“Scuppernong Grapes,” by Susan Williamson

Scuppernong Grapes

Ten thousand orbs of summer, lit against
the cobalt sky. The arbor, faded white, blisters

in the sun. Gray wood, finger-sized holes
bored by carpenter bees, square joints wired

by curling green vines, hand-sized leaves
clutch wrinkled fruit suspended over me.

Brickled bee-made combs leak spun-honey
drops growing large on the surface of wild

purple skins. The bees work again, and again,
tend each cluster as the hot glare burns a memento

into me at age nine. Today’s glare shines on it,
light wakes the arbor in decay, bees buzz honey

over grapes – great hive. Tangle distills each viscous
dram – in harsh dazzle over grapes. Terrible how

light seeks out sweetness, lashes every drop. Nearly
boils the fruit we burst in our tender mouths.


First published here in storySouth and reprinted here with permission of the author.

Listen to the author reading her poem here.



Susan R. Williamson‘s poems have appeared in Beltway Poetry Quarterly, Crab Orchard Review, Paterson Literary Review, Poetry Daily, Poetry East, Smartish Pace, SoFloPoJo, storySouth, and The Virginia Quarterly Review, among others. She holds an MFA in Poetry from New England College and a BA in French Language and Literature from the University of Virginia. Her chapbook, Burning After Dark, won the Hannah Kahn Poetry Foundation’s 25th Anniversary Prize and is available for order here and here. Williamson lives in Boca Raton, Florida, where she is Director of the Palm Beach Poetry Festival. Author photo credit: Deborah Quon.



Poet’s Note

This poem was born the child of observation and memory. It recalls for me the first time I saw grapes growing in cultivation, and the wonder I felt at the light, the grapes and the arbor. I discovered them while visiting a new friend for the first time. The lines are brimming with first times, though that is never mentioned here. Omitted is the way that asphalt can burn even through the soles of your sandals in a hot Richmond, Virginia summer as you walk over to visit your new friend. Also omitted is the taste of the scuppernong jam purchased years later, and how tasting it in Proust-like fashion recalled the memory for me. Visiting this poem again reminds me that the distillation of experience, like taste remembered or vision remembered, opens the world of memory and reverence for the world and its wonders.

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