Applewine

i.m Rude Hrvatin

 

Dropping jokes like shelled nuts along a path

only he can discern, my wife's uncle

takes us past stands of oak and wild cherry

beyond the shy village with one surname,

greeting women who are bent over furrows

or walking home with hoes over their shoulders.

 

(I’m thinking of protracted paddocks

squared away in shire offices

back home)

 

Drinking from a creek, he shows us how to fish

making traps with his fingers splayed among the dark roots.

In its bachelor’s austerity his house huddles around

a voracious stove; outside

things are dried, ground, fermented, hung,

threshed from the carapace of their forms.

 

(I’m thinking of the dishevelled rout

of my splintered firewood, unsure of the grain,

persuasion bouncing off the resinous core)

 

Not speaking his language and he not speaking mine,

we never exchange a word, like silent actors

losing our careers over the edge of sound

 

but I do have his recipe for applewine:

the removal of lees, clarification, dealing

with the must, the final racking and decanting

 

(I’m thinking of the self on display

in dark aquaria of conferences and offices)

 

the trick, he explains to my wife,

being in the patience to distil

to distil

to distil

and then to distil again.

Newcastle Poetry Prize anthology 2008