'Swullocking' & 'Labyrinth': Two Poems by Charles Venable


my sister and i loved blackberries

ripened in summer

we wandered the woods

on the edge of the swamps

a game to fill bowls of berries

from patches growing in the backwoods

before our papa mowed the patch down

he called them weeds

we’d whine and wander the woods

wearing jeans and long-sleeves

worn thin from thorns

stained red as summer

our reward for braving the thorns

along with moccasins and rattlesnakes

who wound their way through the underbrush

and spider webs sticking to our skin

my sister swatted them with

shots from the bb-gun scaring

our blind dog who followed us

into the woods to warn us of snakes

but he only barked at the gophers

when they peeked out of their holes

the ripest berries

low enough for him to steal

were his reward

weathered whiskers stained red

and his slobbery kisses tasted sweet

as when we’d climb on the counters

to steal the biggest bowls

before mama caught us and

made us use our shirttails

but she never complained

when we returned with bowls

filled to the brim with berries

to be packed into pies and

jars of jams and jellies

and when we moved away

when there was no one to stop papa

from mowing down all the blackberries

there were no more bowls filled to the brim

jars were empty of jams and jellies

mama planted rows of her own berries

where she’d gather them herself

bake cast-iron skillets full of cobbler

but nobody ever came home



And I found a labyrinth hidden

beneath the boughs of an oak;

the bricks laid in circles

like leaves fall through the air.

I walked the path—

how did it turn in on itself?

At the center was a stone inlaid

blue, green, and yellow marbles:

a labyrinth with a labyrinth

at its center.

I kneeled, traced

with my fingers until I found

the middle of the middle

in this fractal lost in the forest.

My head spun,

dizzy with wanderlust...

Do mazes know what they are missing?


Charles Venable is a storyteller from the Southeastern United States with a love of nature and a passion for writing. He believes stories and poems are about getting there, not being there, and he enjoys those tales that take their time getting to the point.

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