Grapes

I saw some grapes growing in a field. No one was tending them to be some rich man’s wine. No one was tending them at all.

1.

I saw some grapes growing in a field.
No one was tending them
to be some rich man’s wine.
No one was tending them at all.
They sang the way only things without voice can sing.
Wowza, mañana! went their song, regardless of audience.

Would they ever know the adoring precincts of a mouth?
A congress of such comeliness,
a watering hole for arrant bees.

I propose an abdication from the familiar, these tired economies.
Glisten. Seethe. Suggest, to the wind, your unlikely perfume.

2.

Another lousy season for romantics.
The Beaujolais was boring and the mountaintop is gone.
Prisoner to my own tastes
I’ve had such expensive bottles it makes me sick –
tally them against the cold I might’ve housed.

I’m working out a winter
to see
in anemic woods
blue-blessed
kingfishers
alight.

3.

Look how black, how blue-black, how globed in Egyptian
         darkness
Dropping among his leaves, hangs the dark grape!
Brother Lawrence commands our attention
to what might have been a Chardin or in fact a real grape, a single grape,
have you ever seen one a single real blue-black grape?

4.

Where did these grapes come from
who touched them before they were
on this plate this table were they
washed and tossed into a bag into
a truck who owned the truck who
owned the vines how many times
had the hands that touched these
grapes touched other grapes the story
of our mouths begins with fingers
where are they pointed the sun is crazy
how can it regard these small flowers
that are not flowers at all but little
purses of juice little explosions there
are bombs going off not far from where
these grapes are from have you ever
seen one go off a blue-black bomb?

5.

Then he took a cup
and after giving thanks
he gave it to them
and all of them drank from it.
He said to them,
“This is my blood
of the covenant,
which is poured out
                   for many.
Truly I tell you, I will
never again drink
of the fruit of the vine
                   until that day
when I drink it new in the
kindom of God.”

6.

Most men find the bread and wine
no aid to devotion
Emerson noted in “The Lord’s Supper,”
wherein he proposed
an end to the feast.

7.

Go without.
That is what Cesar Chavez asked
of us when he started
the Delano grape strike.

Everything
you put in your mouth
costs something.

What abstinences stain you?

Little by little our refusals accumulate
and mean as much as what we take,
unwittingly, unwieldy, into our bodies.

Let our bones record our victories.
Let our lips be smeared with justice.

8.

You shall not strip your vineyard bare,
the Lord demands in Leviticus,
or gather the fallen grapes of your vineyard;
you shall leave them for the poor and the alien.

9.

Unfermented grape juice is a bland and pleasant drink,
Frederick Buechner, speaking of the Eucharist, says.
Especially on a warm afternoon mixed half-and-half with gingerale.

It is a ghastly symbol
                             of the life-blood of Jesus Christ,
                             especially
when served in
individual
anti-septic,
thimble-sized
glasses.

                             Wine is booze.

Which means it is dangerous and
                                           drunk-making.
It makes the timid brave and the reserved amorous.
It loosens
the tongue
and breaks
the ice,
especially when served in a loving cup.

10.

Of the nights
I’ve raved
drunk & naked
in the streets
I’m not sad
nor ashamed.

I was saying:
Hither, Lord!
Bring your berserk beauty
to the table.
The places are set.
Betrayers, deniers, sycophants – we’re all here.
Good women, and men.
Cannibals, disciples, timpanists,
mourners, bathers, liturgists,
the slow, the bruised-lipped, the soft.

Even when I was using other words
this is what I was saying.

11.

I sing songs in strange lands.
In Jamaica, at the bobo shanty,
they say each man will sit
under his vine and fig tree.
The women must kneel
in the dirt at the back
of the tabernacle while
the men lift up the words
                                                of God.

The light is a sort of wine.
It is a wash, a wonder, a music.
Our minds are uncertain vintages.
                                 Turn the soil.
Winds, sew. Rains, forgive.
Such odd jazz late in the vineyard. Adore it.

12.

Last night I dreamed pink petals
at Monticello. More ardent
in his imagination
than in his affections
one once described
Jefferson, who called wine
the only antidote to the bane of whiskey.
He planted plenty the slopes
of Charlottesville, silent country
of far-flung patriarchal seats,
canteloupe, watermelon, sweet
potato, noting the greatest service
which can be rendered any country
is to add a useful plant to its culture
that elegant civilian
whose nonpareil turn
of phrase brought us
America & westward
gentleman whose gentle
intellect was perhaps
guided & graded & gifted
by his love of what he called
the whole family of grapes
shall we say something
about how he treated
his blue his black his blue black brothers and sisters?
what can we say
that might make
the dim dust-draped earth
this terrace of terrible
contradictions & half-truths & wrong
sing sweet into our wine-wanting hearts

13.

In California
where we find
our people gathered
white black indian asian
Spain Japan China
America France England
Mexico Korea Austria
all intertwined
inter-vined in one state
where so much of
what we eat & don’t & drink
grows
where Brother Levis guessed
What the vines want must be
this silence spreading over
each town over the dance
halls and the dying parks
and the police drowsing
in their cruisers under the stars
your guess is better than mine

14.

I am the true
vine                       and my Father
       is the vinegrower.                  He removes
every branch
                           in me
that bears no fruit. Every branch
                                  that bears fruit he prunes to make
it bear more fruit.

I am the
                             vine

                                        you are the branches

15.

I think so much of skin.
What it hides, what it hurrahs.

Skin of grape both is and is
                            not wine
when the red grape’s skin’s removed
                                        the wine’s a pale pink

There might come a time
                                 when I will be
light
             as a grape.
Then my blood will sing. I’ll have no more need
of words, knives. You will look at me, and look away.
Your tongue will pause, plush on my lavish toxins.
Chardonnay, Syrah, Mourvedre. I’ll glow like a good goblin.
God damn, I will. Gobbets of fire in the fire-blessed mouth.

16.

Is the grape a man or a woman?
Is it muscled, does it mourn,
are stars cousin, confidante?

Into the history of worry-veiled avenues, husbandry, empire
all that’s been right & not & wine-winged
history of blades & precious jewels & new old blue black music what we haven’t said what we’ll never be able to say what we’ve repeated repeat lift the cup, pour

17.

bless my little lips let the least light lingerrrrr
a grape is a lullaby strummed for the furious

bless worms rivers wrens they also make
these fecund wallets these aggregate strings

bless the knife that cuts the cluster from the vine
and the vine that refuses squalor

bless the bread broken to dip into the cup shaped
to catch the drops squeezed from the palm

bless small hills smell of soil of rain of anguish
dismissed by the slightest touch of tongue

bless liquor slow in my slaw head
champagne my mouth till it fizzes fire

let the grapes
              wait
keep the wine
                        in a sanctuary of stone
the best

last

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