H e a r t S o n s & H e a r t D a u g h t e r s of A l l e n G i n s b e r g
N a p a l m H e a l t h S p a : R e p o r t 2 0 1 4 : A r c h i v e s E d i t i o n
All of August we washed oak barrels
Fitted them with shiny hoops
Rolled them slowly to the well and left
The water in to swell the staves.
When the first frost fell, her elbows
White with flour, sank in dough,
Round loaves baked in the clay oven,
Sheep cheese breathed on the table
Unwrapped from its cloth.
It was always early morning.
Blind with sleep I received
The water she poured on my hands
From the tin cup; the smell of frost
Came through the opened door,
The warmth of the room sweated
On the skin of the tomatoes
Piled in the basket on the floor.
Now I hear the grinding of hooves,
The creaking of the wagon at yoking
The slow rolling of wheels
On the road to the vineyard, I see
The seam of trees around our field.
Horses loose and the wagon empty
We each took a row: the grapes hung
Heavy with sweetness, weighty, strange
With their cold skin, ripeness, fragrance:
I crushed them between my palms
To show my partaking in the harvest.
Those were long days filled with sun
Grapes in baskets, naps under the oak tree,
Grandparents’ musings over the tannin
In the wine, the age of cheese
The thicker skin of plum tomatoes,
It all now feels rich as the sound of a cello.
The pressing always began
With grandmother offering food
And grandfather pouring old wine
To family and neighbors, until
Red in the cheeks, we washed our feet
And went dancing in the barrel.
She in her flowery dress and
He in his black suit…
I saw her return into the ground
And I keened the best I knew
But last time I spoke with him
He sat waiting in the quiet yard.
The priest smiles as I take a mouthful
Of wine from the bottle he brought me
As a wedding gift: ‘It’s from your fields’
He says. I hear the clambering noise
Of time which never seemed to end
And it did end, and now begins again.
[Originally published in NHS 2009, http://www.poetspath.com/napalm/nhs09/Carmen_Bugan.htm.]