February harvest: Boland
1. The grape picker
Her calves hard as stumps of vine
an old woman heaves a basket
like a hump to her back and hacks
a pearl of phlegm from her throat.
Daybreak. She yearns to taste
that warm and sweet sulphuric wine
and dreams of empty rows of vine:
one tot for each tenth load of grapes.
But the rows hang full and wait.
One foot in front of another
she stoops, bends knees and waist.
Soon, her brown and stick-gnarled arms
alternate to pluck and toss
pluck and toss fat grapes
from vine to back-borne basket:
her limbs akimbo, like broken swastikas,
like vine barbing the still, persistent land.
2. Wine’s estate
The early sun bloats the long drop to such glut
odours clamour over the bluebottles’ buzz.
In the distance, a slit-eyed cock tries to crow
chokes on a crackling phrase, heaves for air.
At ten, the sun slows, hangs just there
like God’s diamond brooch to robes thinned by wear.
Under her fifth basket of grapes, the woman
bends so low over shrivelling leaf
she hears her sweat seep into the ground.
Thirsty, she lifts some grapes to her mouth
and feels them burst like a flush of blood
against her palate