Florence Nash




We choose plump, bundled leeks,
pale green and white,
red peppers, fresh-ground sausages.

We crush garlic, melt cheeses, tear
the fragrant, flesh-warm bread.

Loaf, roast, ragout, sauté, oh soufflé of desire,
how the keen knife slices us.
We coddle, simmer, stir, beat,
lift the ladle to each other's lips, taste
the mingled flavors. Complex, tangy, sweet.

At midnight, ravening, shivering
in the refrigerator’s chilly glow,
again we eat, using our hands,
mouthful after mouthful
after mouthful.

Fish Music

Music is the basis of agreement among things in nature and
of harmony in the universe. It brings together and unites.

—The Pythagoreans

Trolling off Cape Lookout point
at falling tide, in the heave and crash
of counter-currents over the shoal,

our outboard rocks and slides.
We haul the taut hand-lines aboard,
blues and Spanish mackerel for dinner.

I grasp the flipping silver bodies,
twist steel barbs from bleeding jaws,
and feel their fish hearts drumming in my hand.

Who can tell me what we are?

Porpoises roll close beside the boat,
comic and languid as dogs, puffing
lungfuls of warm fishy breath.

From the deep they rise, breathing like our brothers,
while in the bottom of the tossing boat
mackerel flutters its delicious flesh.
Saint-Chinian 2005

For one long day of stoop and sweat and crack-back crouch
we work down slow rows, dragging baskets, pickers paired
to either side of goblet-pruned and trellised vines.

We peer and paw, lifting the leaves to find the cloudy
green-gray shine of sauvignon, swollen and sweet
between the looping leafy vines, the shifting-shadowed

vines. We push the sharp snap-nasty clippers deep
to cut the cool palm-filling weight and drop of grapes
into our grasp and pass them to the basket. From time

to time I stand to sweep my sweat-stung eyes along
the vineyard-ringing hills, the lift of distant limestone
cliffs, then squat to squint again into the flutter-

shadow leaf-on-leafy green and yellow shining.
Stumbling from the fierce mud-suck on shoes, I stagger,
flail, the blade slices deep and quick, and sudden blood

runs rude onto the piled picked grapes that wait
for porteurs roaming the rows, backs burdened with their crates.
At noon we leave our shears and baskets on the ground

and crowd onto the loaded grape truck into town,
to rest and eat at shaded tables by the river,
cheese and bread and nectarines, new-bottled red,

while in the dim cement-floored cave the old pressoir
squeezes grapes and stems and juice and blood—mine—
into gathering pans and holding tanks, and all the while

my opened hand drips red. Sweat cools my aching back
and legs and arms and head, and I smile to think
that from my own sore, stinging hands runs wine.
Early Walk, New Year’s Morning

Sucker for signs on this day for signs,
I look at everything: morning’s
glass-sharp edges, the flicker
of squirrels across the crisp leaf litter,
cracked sidewalk unspooling
beneath my feet. I watch
for summations now, not portents.

A chilly trick of wind
twirls leaves apart, and there
beside the pavement’s edge,
half gone to dirt, a rogue curve
of purple lurks: half a plastic egg,
root-wrapped, still cupping candies.

Last spring children with their baskets
tacked like kites about the yard,
aloft on expectations. Now
in a lean season there’s odd comfort
in this little gimcrack joy overlooked,
vouchsafed instead to slower eyes.