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Sep 2018
The vines have turned the color of the season —
as red as the wine their grapes will spill.
I peer back up the hillside into the circling sun,
an infinite swath of yellow. Below it surges
Homer’s wine-dark sea, repeatedly, endlessly, effortlessly
spreading. Except the sea is never red in Greece or Italy,
or even in France, where I stand amid a sea of wine-red leaves,
in silence, under the sun, holding back the flood of invaders below.

From the crumbling wall of the vineyard,
I survey the village of Riquewihr in all its medieval splendor,
gorged with tourists like an unfortunate goose
gagging on grain forced down its gullet:
foie gras for the shopkeepers, who crowd the cobbled courtyard
in all its chaos and cacophony.
“Sample a macaroon for free under the ramparts.”
“Buy a reproduction of a one-of-a-kind watercolor of the bell tower,
built in 1291. (Only 400 Euros for the original),” the artist says.
“Reserve it now for Christmas.”

His stocking cap needs cleaning, I think.
I eye the village fountain, the half-timbered shops, the claustrophobic
stone houses, brightly painted, squeezed into walls like tiny fortresses.
The artist tells me how hard it is to make a living —
the global economy his impenetrable wall, which holds back a flood
of buyers from Germany, China, New York.

I decline his offer to buy and climb the steep hill out of town,
the wine-dark hill of the vineyard.
This is what it means to inherit the world:
to stand apart, high, distant, above the sea
of other tourists, just like yourself, who yearn to stand apart,
just like yourself, laden with bulky guidebooks,
just like yourself, looking for the perfect souvenir, just like yourself,
the one that will sit perfectly on their mantle. Just like yourself,
they seek a memento that will remember for them — remember
all they could have had if only they had had the village to themselves.
If only you had had the village to yourself, to make it your own.

On this sunny afternoon, the village is my own — for a moment,
from a distance, awash in gray-blue shadow. Only the vineyard beams:
isolated, fecund, teeming with dreams; ever gaining on the harvest;
angling closer to the giant wine press that will spew the scarlet juice
at my feet, the earth turned the color of blood.

I resist the urge to pluck a baby cluster of grapes, nestled safely
beneath a leafy wave of this wine-dark sea, these purple berries
springing from the ground: so many earthy bubbles, born to burst.
Le terroir in French: The dirt makes all the difference.

A handful of soil would prove the perfect souvenir, nest-ce pas?
sitting pretty on my mantle. The dust and debris would blow away
day by day, like ashes spilled from a funerary urn,
the sacred remains of my travels.

Let me be buried, then, in memory of the fertile furrows of Alsace.
Let me push up this hillside, along its ample paths of abundance;
its ripening rows of fruit; its wine-red passageways through leaves
and vines, steep and luminous; the sea of blood yet to be pressed
from the soon-to-be-crimson grapes.

“Does this vast vineyard hold any secret worth journeying halfway
around the world to find?” That is the question I scribble in the dirt.
“Does this village? Does this vision? Does this ancient, failing wall?”
Even if the answer is “No, no, no,” I shall reply, “Yes, yes, yes.”

Yes, let me be buried in Alsatian soil as a lasting souvenir.
Yes, let me lie here, as I stand: free and upright,
lighted by the autumn sun, unchanging, set apart
to revel in the marvel of red blood seeping into the soil
.
Yes, let me make this stained patch of dirt my own.

The vines have turned the color of the season —
wine-red, wine-dark, blood-red.
And I have turned the color of the vines,
in silence, under the sun, holding back the flood.
Arlice W Davenport
Written by
Arlice W Davenport  M/Kansas
(M/Kansas)   
  4.6k
 
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