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Making Wine




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.]