‘Where the Zinfandel Pass Their Seasons in Mute Rows’
A Poem by Jane Mead

From To The Wren

August 26, 2019  By Jane Mead

The night Ed died, my father
wrenched his own
cracked, yellow molars
from his mouth and went
crashing like a wounded deer
over the ridge and down,
five miles through the brush,
into Soda Canyon where the cops
found him wandering, spent,
around the burnt-out dance hall
and brought him home.

Bandaging his brush cuts,
I noticed how he is becoming
the sharp-bodied boy he was
when he ran these hills
until he knew them better
than he knew his own father,
who knew them better than
the shape of his father’s hands.

Then I watched him bend into sleep—
embryo of the king bed,
fetus with dust guts.

On the day of Ed’s funeral
he gave me those teeth
“for earrings” he said, “no good
to Ed, or even to me, now.”

We buried Ed with manzanita
and bay, those plants
he loved most—our own wish
for something to hold forever,
some way to be, in the end,
anything but alone and incomplete.

This dawn I walked
the red mud, looking
for something I could know
would never leave me—
out through the vineyard
where my father tempts life
from dirt to wine in a habit
of seasons stronger than love.
Setting my palms into the mud
at the base of a gnarled vine,
I pressed them together
and whispered “speak.”
But the vine’s silence just grew
into the silence of the dead
who once tended it.

Then I saw exactly how
it was beautiful—
how it held its world whole
beneath its fog-slick bark,
while the things we ask
to hold us leave us
spent. My handprints in the mud
filled with water and melted
away and my palms—done with prayer,
held out between the earth
and the sky—were empty
and red, and drying into a map.
I flexed them. The rivers widened.


From To The Wren: Collected & New Poems 1991-2019 by Jane Mead. Featured with permission of the publisher, Alice James Books. Copyright © by Jane Mead.


Jane Mead
Jane Mead
Jane Mead is the author of five collections of poetry, most recently World of Made and Unmade (Alice James, 2016) which was nominated for a National Book Award, as well as a finalist for the L.A. Times Book Prize and the Griffin Prize in Poetry. Her poems appear regularly in journals and anthologies, and she’s the recipient of a Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship, a Whiting Writers Award, and a Lannan Foundation Completion Grant. For many years Poet-in-Residence at Wake Forest University, she manages her family’s ranch in northern California. She has taught as a visiting writer at Washington University, Colby College and most recently, The University of Iowa. Currently, Mead lives on her family’s farm in Napa, California.

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