[from Anne Carson's The Beauty of the Husband, Alfred A. Knopf, 2001]
VI. TO CLEAN YOUR HOOVES HERE IS A DANCE IN HONOR OF THE GRAPE WHICH THROUGHOUT HISTORY HAS BEEN A SYMBOL OF REVELRY AND JOY NOT TO SAY ANALOGY FOR THE BRIDE AS UNCUT BLOSSOM
I will never forget.
Out behind the vineyard.
Stone place maye a shed or an icehouse no longer in use.
October, a little cold. Hay on the floor. We had gone to his grandfather's farm to
the grapes for wine.
You cannot imagine the feeling if you have never done it --
like hard bulbs of wet red satin exploding under your feet,
between your toes and up your legs arms face splashing everywhere --
It goes right through your clothes you know he said as we slogged up and down
in the vat.
When you take them off
you'll have juice all over.
His eyes moved onto me then he said Let's check.
Naked in the stone place it was true, sticky stains, skin, I lay on the hay
and he licked.
Licked it off.
Ran out and got more dregs in his hands and smeared
it on my knees neck belly licking. Plucking. Diving.
Tongue is the smell of October to me. I remember it as
swimming in a fast river for I kept moving and it was hard to move
while all around me
was moving too, that smell
of turned earth and cold plants and night coming on and
the old vat steaming slightly in the dusk out there and him,
raw juice on him.
Stamens on him
and as Kafka said in the end
my swimming was of no use to me you know I cannot swim after all.
Well it so happens more than 90% of all cultivated grapes are varieties of
the Old World or European grape,
while native American grapes derive
from certain wild species of Vitis and differ in their "foxy" odor
as well as the fact that their skins slip so liquidly from the pulp.
An ideal wine grape
is one that is easily crushed.
Such things I learned from the grandfather
when we sat in the kitchen late at night cracking chestnuts.
Also that I should under no circumstances marry his grandson
whom he called tragikos a country word meaning either tragic or goat.
The Beauty of the Husband: A Fictional Essay in 29 Tangos