Published at
Cover Library Poetry A Hot January

Wild Fruit

Margaret Wilmot
Smaller text sizeDefault text sizeBigger text size Add to my bookshelf epub mobi Permalink MapThe Andes outside of Mendoza, Argentina
The wild fruit forests of
   the Ili Valley, where
a tangle of apples,
   pears, plums, apricots and
other, berrying trees —
   hawthorn, rowan, the like —
hang on high slopes I see
   in that geography
of the mind as sunlit
   uplands; Jerusalem
and its depths and layers,
   sun and stones and belief
which go so deep nothing
   may be disentangled,
and how that farewell called
   over the dark lagoon
as Daniele’s boat sweeps
   out and turns toward Venice,
“Ci vediamo a
   Gerusalemme,” can
encompass an entire
   shorthand of desire: That’s
what I’m trying to find
   the words for. Neruda’s
escape through the Southern
   Andes; travelling north up
California, mission
   to mission on horseback
in the days before gold —
   It’s desire which locates
these places I have not
   seen, journeys I have not
taken, on the mind’s map
   next to that long lift from
Florence to Rome, pillion
   on a Vespa, when in
an eternal present
   we wound along small roads
around olive-covered
   hills, stopping only once
for a cappuccino.
   The rosy-cheeked driver
came from Argentina,
   long before I went there,
and met other people,
   who talked books and took me
on a picnic into
   the Andes outside of
Mendoza, which had air
   like the Napa Valley,
not far thinking as crows
   from that high place of light
and leaves and the clearest
   water; the children swam
before we went on to
   the mission, and picnicked
saying, Just look, that’s life,
   the dedication: We
three met so many years
   ago in Padua
where this St. Anthony
   had his shrine. Now that friend
has died. Yet it doesn’t
   seem so as the boys climb
higher in the branches
   overhead and dancing
light filters the easy
   chat, the laughter, Sukie
always had us laughing.
A postcard on my desk
   shows a subdued farmyard
where a red tree blazes.
   Curiously, this painting
makes me think of Sukie —
   maybe the tree’s ardour
reminds me of her hair
   when we first met; I had
never seen so rich, so
   silky an auburn, and
in Padua’s stone streets
   she blazed. With her one saw
paintings in a fresh way,
   even Gauguin, never
a favourite, one suspects.
   Now there’s a traveller who
made amazing journeys
   which pull me not at all —
and just what is it that
   pours all its energy
through you, and pulls, and there
   you are in a high fruit
forest where light filters
   through branches of apples,
apricots, plums, pears which
   catch your hair and tangle?
What lays the ground for play
   between a single mind
and the fertile moment?
The priest sets his torch on
   the small table which seems
the only furniture
   in what feels oddly like
a ballroom; cavernous
   darkness presses all round.
Someone told me I’d find
   accommodation here,
and I do: the priest gives
   me permission to spread
my sleeping-bag, but first —
   I take a seat, relieved
and grateful, if galled with
   myself, God, how stupid
“Tell me,” he says, “what you
   are doing knocking at
a sailors’ hostel in
   Buenos Aires?” He might
well add, “at midnight.” I
   too have been wondering.
There isn’t much to say.
    “I’m ashamed,” I begin,
“I shouldn’t let these things
   happen, not anymore.”
His face in torchlight might
   almost be a portrait,
a person you would like
   talking to — and I try
to answer his questions
   honestly. Headlights flash
by the huge plate windows.
   Lying awake later
on the wooden floor, I
   tell myself this is it,
no more just — following
the moment, the feeling,
   no more dreaming. Wake up.
Sukie’s just spent four days
   getting to Taranto
and back. “Why don’t I learn?
   Yes, lovely.” She accepts
a glass of wine. “It was
   far too far. Yet” — her face
lights up — “there’s a magic
   in getting off the train
at dusk into that warmth
   and breeze, the piazza
alive with light movements,
   people coming and going...”
Her words spin us all back
   to that world still stirring
in warm and transparent
   currents beneath the skin,
this sea which stirs, and pulls,
   and may sweep us elsewhere
and back, so suddenly...
   Sukie is telling us
of Taranto before
   I ever hear of wild
fruit forests, and a long
   time after that strange chat
painted on the dark in
   Buenos Aires, but they
are charted together
   on the map which never
stops changing, the real map,
   which first took bearings when
a child was climbing high
   into walnut branches
those years before the groves
   fell to developers,
and we all came to pick.
Table of related information
Copyright ©Margaret Wilmot, 2005
By the same author RSS
Date of publicationOctober 2005
Collection RSSA Hot January
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