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
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.