Rubus Fruticosus
Jacob Sam-La Rose

How you bleed / into the street / untutored growth that reaches from behind the railings / spilling out / wild cousin / rose-kin / stainer of the fingertips and teeth / it’s said / the very echo of Christ’s blood / and how the day-star cursed you / when cast out and fallen into your embrace / once beautiful / and who’s to judge you / thorn and prickle / keeper of the dead / and proof against eradication once established / of the land / this land and home / your bed is punishment and succour / how you cure / and how a cough hooks in the arch of you / and stays / and how you bleed…

I am a city dweller, through and through. I wear my standard issue urban denizen’s trained blinkers in my day-to-day commuting. There are blind spots here.

It must be said that my relationship history with growing things is complicated. I count the fact that I’ve only recently learned to sustain an entire shelf full of plants (though many of them succulents) as a hard-earned marker of my maturation. That I can name only one of them (Ficus Elastica), and only then because the identification card still sprouts from its pot, tells you everything you need to know.

I have no history with brambles. No rose-tinted reminiscences of rambling walks through English countryside. No childhood memories of hiking out to nearby bushes, filling bowls with fruit to turn to jam or pies.

But all hail the unloved spaces. The small patch of land between the car mechanics’ workshop and the entrance to the local train station. The null space. Inhospitably fenced off, no sign of easy access. The power plant. The warning sign writ large for good measure. Danger of death. A space commanded by wild growth that overshadows the pavement running alongside. Irrepressible growth, dressed with discarded Guinness cans and plastic bags. A body of growth I would never have known to name.

I am fascinated by the things I’ve learned. And I lament the hard limit of the centena’s form, though I celebrate the wisdom of less over more. There’s so much more to say. Of course, all things have their stories. But the bramble’s seems particularly apt for how I’ve encountered it. Thriving in spite of lack of attention. Classified as a weed. Fourth after the olive, fig tree and vine, according to Jotham’s parable (though Jotham is somewhat unkind). A history of healing and beauty. Symbolic of rebirth. ‘An dris-mhuire beannaichte’, the blessed bramble.

A few weeks back, I took a walk around a local park. On leaving, I watched a man picking berries from a loose bush and eating them. As if harvesting. Evaluating. This was not an act of eating for the sake of sustenance. It seemed more like an intellectual activity. He held himself in a contemplative stance. Fully engaged, his back to world, regardless of who might observe. As I passed him to reach the nearby exit, I noted that he was picking blackberries from brambles.

Image: Photograph by Jacob Sam-La Rose.

> Back to 26 Plants main menu