On September and scuppernongs

September in North Carolina means the return of the scuppernong grape.

It’s the state fruit. I first tasted scuppernongs as a child, standing with my grandfather under his arbor, thick leaves waving in the breeze, benevolent sun intermingling with cool shadow. The plain appearance of these grapes is misleading; the taste is divine. Richer than anything on Earth. Those thick, humble hulls contain ambrosia. And seeds; Granddaddy said just spit ’em out. It’s worth it.

Today’s his birthday. He’d be 114. As long as I live, he is, the scuppernong is, inextricable from September…

Every year, I await the return.

And savor it.

September, sovereign whose
Crowning glory is not of gilt but of
Unassuming mottled orbs,
Pendulous bronze-green
Pendants strung on knotted vine.
Elysian fields, perhaps, this black earth where my
Roots run deep, where my ancestors sleep.
Noble edict, “Be fruitful and multiply,”
Obeyed here to an extent only by divine design.
North Carolina’s soil stirred, responded, produced—
God alone infused the foretaste of heaven in its grapes.

With deepest thanks to the friends who know and bring me these offerings from their families’ old vines.

Thanks also to the inspirational Poetry Friday gathering at Radio, Rhythm & Rhyme and to Matt for hosting.

6 thoughts on “On September and scuppernongs

    • Thank you for reading, Matt, and for your comment! You must try scuppernongs if you get a chance; they’re very sweet with a deep richness in the flavor that’s hard to capture in words. I mourn when the last ones of the season are gone. Scuppernong is a (yes, fun!) Algonquian word – it’s the name of the river where the grapes grew abundant and wild. Scuppernong trivia: The “Mother Vine” on Roanoke Island, NC, has the distinction of being the oldest grape vine in America – discovered and recorded by colonists over 430 years ago. Alluring in many ways, my humble (yet divine) favorite fruit.

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    • I should love to taste this juice, Tabatha! I was raised in Virginia; my favorite childhood memories are times spent with my grandparents in NC, which is where I live now. Thanks so much for reading my scuppernong tribute and for your words.

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