Tag Archives: Emperor Grapes




                              I am growing downward,
                              smaller, one among the grasses.

                                                            – Wendell Berry (“Thirty More Years”)

Irrigator until the end,
the vines were his children,
more easily trained than those
               of his flesh.

Water flowed in furrows,
slowed to soak with checks,
his art with a hoe stretched
               across eighty acres.

Quixotic silhouette against
a rising or setting sun,
swashbuckling overshoes,
               hoe in hand,

he found peace deep within
his vineyard rows, red-seeded
table grapes, long ago dozed
               for citrus on drip.



My head spins
another yarn
about the old days,
the old ways
we found comfort
with a job done.

The harvest of Emperors,
wobbly wagonloads
of purple grapes
picked and swamped
from field to shed
before the rains came.

The many hands
wearing a day’s work
beneath September’s sun
well into dark
for a dollar an hour—
each rich
with a small part
of another accomplishment
that dared God’s
impending forces
to escape with the crop.

Another currency
we all shared
with profanity
meant for the moment—
damning Him
and ourselves
when we failed.