Thursday, September 8, 2011

Ode to Basil


Easy to grow, green herb (in sun)
That we love, common though it be,
With tomatoes, garlic, olive oil, salt,
soaking into the crusty bread
like the gall that Christ was given
on the Cross…?

But now we’ve taken a strange turn,
And soon we’ll be discussing which
Proven├žal skull of Mary Magdalene is real.
I’d rather return to the basil, wild-grower
In the Cinque Terre and throughout Liguria,
Where Montale wandered the sunny beaches,
drenched in gloom.

Neruda I’m not. And the basil gets tougher,
Still big clumps for a dollar, Hmong women five feet tall,
Wondering, perhaps, why you don’t buy the
Thai variety? The eggplants also look nice.
But is eggplant necessary?
And is Al Hirt necessary?
(And anyone who can trace that reference
Gets a free subscription to Macaroni.)

Later, I will turn all this into a sestina.
For now we enjoy the mellowing early autumn light,
The hints of sweet licorice in the basil leaves,
The perfect tomatoes, gifts of near-perfect friends.
The sprinkler coats the leaves of nearby trees
as it passes, back and forth, and a redstart (female)
flitters nervously through the underbrush,
cleaning her feathers in the stunning evening light.

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