by Grace Cavalieri
for Raffael Cavalieri
One by one things fall away,
everything but the sweet earth itself.
Already this year he has watched the nest’s
careful brush of twigs lose a summer song.
He leans his bicycle against the tree.
Tuscany never changes, they say, but the mountains
seem smaller, each season, as he goes north
toward Pietrasanta. Only carciofi remain the same, clustered
to the earth. Year after year, this time, the tough fruit
is left for the last of those who want it.
My grandfather picks them here, although he
is not a farmer, he knows where on the stem
to reach. A scholar who saw the world as
a work of art, he holds them like this,
carries them back to his small apartment
past the piazza, behind the University wall.
Pisa. Can you see the dirt on his hands, as he
cups them close, their hard skins,
dusty particles beneath his nails.
What moved him to hunger, and when, that night
we can’t know, but that he ate carciofi, the diary
reveals; a plant flavored with olive oil.
Maybe after the lamp was lit, a tiny flask
of oil was brought out, pressings
from a vat near Granoia. Adding
salt from a bowl, the mineral
makes a fragrance rise, enough to move him to
open the small window and, by luck, hear a nightingale.
Later he will lean over his drawings. But right now he
puts the finished leaves in a bowl. This is the man who
imagined the gas-driven tractor which would
someday ride the fields of uneven ground.
Tonight there is only the vision of a vehicle
in his head, for he feels refreshed after dining.
How strange to rest, brushing his hand across the
linen, smudging it, without thought.
ll paese della meraviglia. He will
visit the farmer again, take from his fields,
But for now the mind feasts on what the eye has
seen, villas with ochre walls, pink terra cotta roofs,
factories with old doors, the ride out of town
pedaling past olive groves, apple trees pinned against
fences, pruned grape vines ready to burst,
covers pulled taut over seeded ground, the sun
to the sea, peaceful snow on the mountains.
Everywhere he looks, the land ready for a new way to harvest.
This poem was originally published in Water on the Sun.
This poem was originally published in Ocho #8 (goss 183:: Casa Menendez) and Sounds Like Something I Would Say (Casa Menendez).Grace Cavalieri is the author of several books, and produced plays. Grace edited, along with translator Sabine Pascarelli, The Poet’sCookbook; Recipes from Tuscany (Bordighera Press, 2009,) and The Poet’s Cookbook: Recipes from Germany (Forest Woods & Goethe Institut, 2010). Her new books are Navy Wife and Sounds Like Something I Would Say (Goss 183::Casa Menendez, 2010.) Previously published is Anna Nicole: Poems, winner of the 2009 Paterson Award for Literary Excellence. She’ produces “The Poet and the Poem,” now beginning its 34th consecutive year on public radio. Her new play for children, ”Lena’s Quilt,” premiered in NYC libraries and museums, 2010 and is now running in the 2011 Harlem Renaissance Production in New York City. Photo of artichokes courtesy of Xedos 4.