Endowed in perpetuity by the Glenna Luschei Fund for Excellence

The Foragers

The Foragers

Doreen Fitzgerald

All spring we combed the roadside
for free food—the young
shoots of milkweed,
asparagus before it bolts,
the fiddlehead coiled like a green fist
thrust into the air.

Often there was no meat on the plate,
and flavor swam in an ocean of gravy
poured on biscuits,
as both of us whimpered, meat to cut.
Dandelions bit the tongue,
the berries fought back.

We once ate the flesh of a startled deer
thrown skyward by our moving car.
Knowing enough to let it cool,
we hung it first from an acorn tree,
but never thought of using hide to make new coverings for warmth.

The bittersweet I found and bunched,
each orange berry in a sprung case,
was not edible at all. It hung that winter
on the whitewashed wall like a hand,
the small tendrils, stiff and curled,
remarking how it gripped the fence.

Sometimes we fished for a meal
through the ice, chipping our way in
like burglars, keeping still.
We sank the bait and jigged the lines,
luring the prey we couldn't see,
a fish that may or may not bite.

When the ice thickened and the car wore out,
because we could not eat the wall,
and the months of gathering by the road
are far too brief,
one of us must leave, I said,
and when he didn't move, I did.

Prairie Schooner, Vol. 74, No. 1 (Spring 2000), pp. 21-22


Doreen Fitzgerald is an editor, writer, and poet. She has worked for small-town dailies and weeklies and for research magazines and has been a frequent contributor of poetry to The Ester Republic. Her collection of her poetry is Cake (Ester Republic P). Doreen and her husband live near Frankfort, Michigan.