Brute Necessities

Posted in Politics by Arasmus on October 29, 2008

In Tuscany about now, maybe a little earlier, the farmers cut away the old dead wood from the olive trees. The perfumed smoke rises up from the valleys into the cold air. Through it you can make out a distant cathedral, or a train station built by fascists. It seems jarring to smell destruction in a place so often associated in one’s mind with that growth that having settled things affords. But this is how it is done. For centuries on end, independent men have pruned the origins of their sustenance and left them, as the poet says, “hacked clean for better bearing.” We are coming now to the end of a sad summer of bitter fruit. And so we cut out the old dead wood that has betrayed us. The memory of so much bitterness has shaken our belief in the fecundity of this valley. We doubt it all and the decision of so many ages before to settle in this place. I remember better summers, glorious halcyon days when together we teased each other, free in our own land, as we carried in the harvest. Those days existed, I recall, for I have not yet lost my mind, I think. And so something must have happened to cause this harvest to have been so bad. In some way we must have strayed from the old traditions that year on year filled our now empty barns with tall jars of grassy, perfumed oil. With my other eyes I can see my mother, half-lit in the window. She fills a peppermint bottle in the shadows of the cellar. I can smell the song of lamb cooking over the open fire. She is gone now. The jars are dusty. Empty. Unasked I defend myself. Throwing my arms out to heaven I point up and down the smoke filled valley – it is a blight! Father. I stare down on the village below. It is inevitable now. Rumors wind by the river, of troops on the move from Pisa. The days of this Prince are ending. We will be a republic once more. I stoke the fire and remember sitting on my father’s knee as he told me, beneath his father’s gaze. Of round tables and our old customs. The leaves spit and hiss amidst the flames. I watch a line of luminescent orange sear through a blighted leaf – the tired green and the spotted mold equally consumed. Next summer we will have a harvest mother, when things are settled and the lamb is done.Brute NecessitiesB


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