Vendange Tardive – by Ray Miller


When you read of the farmer near Beziers,
whose entire grape crop –
all thirty-five tons –
was stolen overnight by a gang
with a mechanical harvester,
did you remember how we bent

and ached for the grapes, swollen
and pendulous, bruised
like love-bitten breasts,
sweating and swaying before us?
How at night we poured
ourselves into each other

and the rhythm of crickets.
The Languedoc women
wore dark bandannas and clicked
their tongues in mock disapproval
when they learnt we were unwed.
C’est la mode! they supposed,
blessing our unborn children

asleep in the abandoned college
where the mayor of the village,
a Communist called Bruno
begrudged us free electric.
I quoted Lenin’s famous maxim
and he drove us to Beziers

one Saturday afternoon;
me in my yellow kerchief,
polka-dot shirt and fedora hat;
you in your thin peasant dress.
We bet who’d receive the finest
proposals and opted for a sauna
with the young Catalans.

Oh, Jesus, you would whisper
in your soft Northern tongue
as we bit into vendange tardive.
You clawed and kissed the icon
at your neck before we burst
into Rabelaisian giggles.

Did you smile – just a little –
as you thought of the fruit
being lifted by those
with dishonest intentions?




Ray Miller – he’s somewhere between T.S.Eliot and George Formby when he’d like to be between Althia and Donna.


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