Traces Left Behind

Traces of wine on clay shards,
residue of the past, a history
of migration, cultivation–civilizations
that rise and fall. Transition and transformation–
chemical processes and time, the call

of ancient frescoes, where long ago dreams still live
enshrined, the stories of people and place–
the grapes, the gods, the snakes, and banquet plates,
a bird perched just so,
and for a moment—there—it sings.

I heard it.

Through the grapevine trellis,
in an enoteca now, the sun’s heavy golden face peeks
then goes, as it did that day in Pompeii
before the darkness fell in clouds of ash, rock,
and a river of lava flowed,
burying wine and dreams.

And yet—the artist’s vision lasted–
a woman gazes down at me, the scent of garum
in the air, birdsong in the background—and I
taste centuries in a glass.

I’m sharing this for dVerse’s Open Link Night, where Lisa is hosting. I missed Lillian’s “birthday prompt” on Tuesday. She asked us to
“go to the website and plug in your birthday. There’s a spot in the upper right-hand corner of the site for you to enter your birthdate. Have fun scrolling down the years, seeing what the #1 tune was on each of your birthdays. Pick at least one of the song titles that hit the charts at #1 on your birthday – one that resonates with you – and use it in its exact wording within your poem.”

“I Heard it Through the Grapevine” was one of the top songs on my birthdate. I’m not sure that the line really works in the poem, but that’s what revision is for. I actually do love the direction the title sent me in—which actually fits what Lisa had to say about hidden things and art, and also fits a larger project I’ve been working on. There are more frescoes here.

42 thoughts on “Traces Left Behind

  1. This is perfection, Merril. Not that I didn’t already LOVE it, but I loved it even more after I had to go and look up ‘garum’ and ‘enoteca’ – both new words to me – which only added more enjoyment to the already delicious work. I wish I could write like this. Thanks.

  2. Far out way to rock Lisa’s birthday prompt. If there was a blue ribbon for top poem, this one would earn it. Pompeii and doom dropped in unexpectedly, and it gave your close some horsepower.

  3. Merril, that very first line grabs me. It feels like you are oscillating between present and past here in a very shiny way. I like how you broke up the song title also. Great song title that spun a fine poem.

    • Thank you very much, Lisa, for your close reading and lovely comment!
      I think I tend to oscillate (such a great word!) between present and past a lot. I started out thinking how one could really tell a history through analyzing old bottles of wine–and then that led me to the frescoes. . .

      • You’re very welcome. I’m sure that anyone involved in the harvesting and processing of the wine could do that. There may even be journals laying around with just that history!

        One of my favorite Studio Ghibli anime is “Nausicaa: Valley of the Wind.” In the castle is a tapestry that the old crone interprets, where a hero in blue saved the village. The villagers believe that the hero in blue will return to save them again. What they don’t see is that their very own Nausicaa is that hero.

      • No, people involved in wine harvesting and processing would not necessarily know that, but food historians and archeologists would. I’m sure there are studies–perhaps something for wine like the book Salt.

        I don’t know anything about anime, so thank you!

  4. I absolutely love this Merril, you’ve really captured the ambiance one feels wandering around an ancient site … what went on before, how quickly and tragically it all ended. Yet there are these remains, usually frescos that give us a glimpse into another life!

    You song title weaves in perfectly

  5. Those frescoes haunt me, even when they’re not so well-preserved. You captured well the feeling the evoke in me:

    ‘a bird perched just so,
    and for a moment—there—it sings.

    I heard it.

    Through the grapevine trellis,’

    I didn’t even spot that famous song lyric, so you disguised it well!

  6. Love what you did with the prompt! Your poetry is lush.
    The entire fresco thing is ancient street art to me. It’s not just slices of history/beliefs left behind, it’s yesterday’s art inspiring art today.
    Thank you, Merril!

  7. Simply gorgeous, Merril. Like an archeologist you take us through the shards of time and bring us up into the sunlight of the present with a vintner’s skill and imagination. Love the layers of meaning in each sip.

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