May 12, 2020

Ellen Stone's Poem "Elderberries"

Ellen is one of the talented poets the Prechter Program is collaborating with.

Ellen Stone

On May 7, 2020, the Prechter Program had planned an Evening of Poetry as part of our art exhibit ENERGY – Brain Health and the Power of Creative Expression. The original plan was that published poets would read poems focused on bipolar disorder and depression. However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, this event, like so many others, had to be postponed to May 2021.

In the interim, we wanted to feature on our website some of these amazing poets.

Ellen Stone taught special education in the Ann Arbor Public Schools for over thirty years. She primarily worked with adolescents coping with depression, anxiety and learning challenges at Community High School. Ellen is a graduate of Antioch College (B.A., Education and Psychology, 1981) and Kansas State University (M.S., Education, 1985). She founded a Poetry Club at Community High School and co-taught multiple English and writing classes over her career. Ellen currently advises Community High’s Poetry Club and cohosts a monthly poetry series, Skazat!, in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Her poems about growing up with and then caring for her mother who lives with bipolar disorder have been widely published in journals and magazines such as Bluestem, Dunes Review, Eastern Iowa Review, Sweet, The Museum of Americana, The Rupture, Two Cities Review, and Up North Lit. Ellen is the author of What Is in the Blood (Mayapple Press, 2020) and The Solid Living World which won the Michigan Writers Cooperative Chapbook Contest in 2013. Her poetry has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net. Contact Ellen at


We are featuring Ellen's poem, ElderberriesClick here to hear the poem read by the author.


On the way to the cemetery,
late summer gravel road, fine covering
of dust layers chicory, Queen Anne’s lace.
We search for angels sent to graves too soon.
Clamber up smooth granite tombstones
in the shade of old oaks saluting
the Underhills, Ackleys, Shumways.
The grass under our feet is dry, reserved.

We try not to yell as we cannonball
off headstones, rising out of the quiet,
rectangular and flat -- miniature buildings
in an empty city. One shiny stone
has a sausage shaped roll on top.
We ride it like a bronco, ready to dive
off if a mourner drives up with trowel
and chrysanthemums to plant at its base.

Tired, sweaty, walking through baking
heat, we see giant elderberry bushes
rising from the deep cornfield edge,
crowns of tiny deep purple fruit
cupped skyward. We pluck the inky heads,
snapping them off at their base, carry home
armloads staining our shirts and hands.
Mom makes elderberry jelly when she is up

with us standing over the blue stove,
stirring, waiting for the juice to slowly seep
out of the berries. We will sort and clean
sitting together, our feet touching back
and forth on the front porch swing.
We bang noisily through the front door.
The house is quiet, dirty dishes on the table.
Mom is absent, nowhere to be seen.

We disperse, leave a tangle of berries
in the sink. One of us will pick through them later,
sorting out the good from the bad, before
Dad gets home, the smell of the juice rising
into the steamy air of the kitchen, familiar,
pungent and puckery, the way we think
wine must taste when we’re responsible
enough to drink, old enough to understand.

What Is in the Blood (Mayapple Press, 2020)