Like motley soldiers, we lived the dust,
the harvest heat, grape lugs swamped
and in the barn before the storm—gray

curtains looming in the west bringing steam,
mildew, rot and decay to a crop of grapes.
Right after the war, we were born to be bent

to discipline, small army of many hands
like locusts up and down the vine rows,
dollar an hour, until we stripped them clean.

We knew no better, I suspect, of town life,
all the trouble we could find to try,
become forever changed if not careful.

Could we go back having tasted luxuries
of dreams we never had, could we endure
what we have learned about ourselves

since? Clinging to our lungs and flesh,
we will always breathe heroic days
closer to the innocence of dirt.


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