Absence: the highest form of presence


Grapes are pricey this year.

Plump with summer juice

their flesh release bacchic scents.

Touched they become crystal balls.

I see a vineyard in Southern France,

vines running low in fields of pebbles.

Leaves, tendrils hugging stones for warmth

like hungry kittens sucking life.

Beneath linden trees tired vintagers

whispering strange words:

"August rites, communion, reverence,"

 as bees and cicadas' high-speed chase

sent greens to shiver in the heat of day.

I danced 'round a sundial

to see if my shadow

could alter time framed by a Latin sign.


War came, the vines died.

Near the sundial, Waffen SS guards

shot two RAF pilots

and ten harboring villagers.

Legend says, the ground

ever since refuses yield to man.

Too old to dance, I returned once,

sat on the barren stones,

almost smelled the grapes.

Bees, cicadas rustling their passion

flew by exhausted toward fertile land

past the linden trees' silver trunks,

their leaves of scented hearts

light as holy water

sprinkled the graves, sundial:

Remember only the happy hours.


Genevieve C. Kissack