Sunday, July 23, 2017

Poem for August

Miguel tells us
that what is buried here
stays here,
under the Portuguese sun
as he fans himself
with the straw hat

he swings by his side,
and that when we see
petals fall and the last bees
hover as awkward heads
of raw-green skin
suddenly appear

that that is when
apples bud and dangle
like unwanted words
and then blossom
tilting this way and that.
This he tells us

means that spring has arrived
as the new-born sunlight
leans against the slope
above a small stream
flowing through the valley
where cork oak trees

in open woodlands
are warm to the touch
in the sheer wind passing
as nearby sheep graze
and Iberian pigs
thrive on the fallen acorns.

Miguel’s hobbled walk
is steady like an old horse
put out to pasture
and against the blinding sunlight
he is more scarecrow than man
but we keep up

stride for stride
past the slanted hillside-
fincas and eucalyptus ready
for the harvest
and the olives
recently picked;

the marks of nets
dried in the ground
where the shaken olives
had fallen and are kept
beside the stone walls
in barrels.

Miguel says it is better
to be here now
rather than in the dry heat
of summer when crickets
sing and the vines
are weighed down by fruit

and when buses full of tourists
roam the old mosaic floors
entombed in foundations
lived over for thousands of years
he says, antiquity like all else
is best kept in the dark.

He is an old man
who is careful with his smile
and as careful at picking bones
from sardines and tipping
his hat to old woman passing
on their way to market.

He has lived here forever
he says as do
his ten grandchildren
he reminds us
when he extends his hand
for the coins and dollars

we lay flat on his tanned palm
and as we head back
to the parked car beside the café
with a shiny apple and green olives
still full of grass we had taken
from the fields,

Miguel is approaching another couple
talking aloud of Roman ruins,
of hillsides full of olives and sheep,
of acorns and the smell of spring,
of how an old man with ten grandchildren
knows the secrets of old Rome.

Steven Pelcman
Acta-Victoriana magazine Toronto Canada spring 2015

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