What would it be like to belong 
entirely in your own body, or in your own country, or at 
your own address? It might 
be like these unselfconscious, tangled, each-
one-over-the-next-one Concord grapes, 
hooked (as in hook-and-eye) on the chainlink fence 
between our driveway and the next; 
the populous dewy clusters 
hang as if lashed 
to so many miniscule masts, 
or threaded and caught in the stems of their earnest 
commensals and competitors. 
Each skin gives its possessor neither shelter 
nor camouflage, only a violet luster 
that catches the eye. For such a wild 
varietal to thrive, 
let alone spread, it has to be 
consumed. The state seal 
of Connecticut, designed 
in 1639, depicts 
three poles, each supporting a hefty cluster 
of purplish discs, over Latin that means “Who transplants, 
sustains.” On each, a serpentine 
red line—a thickening vine, 
though elsewhere it could read 
as a caduceus, or a dollar sign— 
connects the grapes it does not quite entwine. 
When the first Europeans to try Concord grapes 
made wine, 
they found it repellently sweet— 
as if a less-than-competent 
goblin or vintner had meant 
to intoxicate children. So they drank
their barrel ciders and mashed these into jam. 
Two hundred years afterwards Ralph Waldo Emerson thanked 
“embattled farmers” for firing the grape-
sized “shot heard round 
the world”; not many decades 
or compromises later, Julia Ward Howe 
predicted the “trampling out” 
of “vintage,” if not the scavenger-mutilated 
or putrefying corpses of Shiloh 
or Andersonville, who “died 
to make men free.” Unpicked, the grapes 
have a musky, or dusky, hue, especially 
at dusk, although their promise of easy 
separation from the stem is not 
to be trusted; fingered, they often fall off 
and into the thicket they made, as if 
once ripe, they would rather wither 
than give 
pleasure to us, who have 
taken more than our share. The English Romantics preferred, 
when they were moved to speak of revolution, 
a series of metaphors about dawn. 
The motion sensor–operated 
lights that hang, and sometimes swing,
like tennis rackets, from the corners 
of our eaves over the fence are always darkest 
just before they get turned on.

Concord Grapes” from Advice from the Lights by Stephanie Burt. Copyright © 2017 by Stephanie Burt. Reprinted by permission of Graywolf Press.