In Italian fields you stand in brown assembly.
No longer girasole seeking sun,
You wait for the harvest with heads bowed.
I pass in pilgrimage through this Tuscan landscape
Musing on the passage of seasons begun
In Italian fields. You stand in brown assembly
Like my ancestors in their gravestone portraits,
Lives cut short by war or long years spun
Waiting for the harvest. With heads bowed
We stand, descendants with the dead among the graves
Here in our village home, where your daughters, sons
Left these Italian fields. They stood in brown assembly
On Ellis Island, waiting to be enrolled, to plant
Seeds of beginning. Lives uprooted; familiar ways undone
As sunflowers waiting for the harvest with heads bowed.
Now I’ve returned to find my face, my eyes
Mirrored in such memories and the stories sung
In Italian fields. We stand in brown assembly,
With you we wait for the harvest with heads bowed.
On the lake a sweet green silence floating
Mirrors silver sun-sheen, poised and trembling.
Here’s sharp beauty waiting to be woven,
A warning to sing at the summer’s passing.
As old as rocks, as busted as the flotsam
Poets tumbled here—a cup, a plastic bottle,
A rusted Louisville Courier daily news rack,
Done with vending, wrecked along the lakeshore—
All wait to wake the music of this valley
Where lazy Cumberland has flowed forever.
If I’m not present can I still make music?
A Zoom-bound melody to rant with birds
Complaining high and shrill atop the tree line.
The rumble of some distanced commerce comes,
Norfolk and Southern rattling on the trestle,
Its fading wheels, a litany in labor
Departs the valley, carrying my anger.
The song is slipping with the leaves soon falling
Onto the forest floor in silence. There
Soft rustle and a haze of dying daylight
Will cloak the melody about to vanish
Like the ghost-train’s cargo of resentment.
Where water awaits November’s freezing shock
That breaks into a hundred shards of rock
The cracks of what we always thought was timeless.
I’ll have to shout the song once more, our chance
To give it voice and send it out prophetic,
A final summons, clarion-voiced and calling,
What poets do when lightning lies strike hard,
Displacing lake-love, tree-truth, voiceless songs.
Greg Friedman is a priest, writer and journalist, currently editor of The Holy Land Review, a quarterly publication of the Franciscan Friars of the Holy Land. He currently lives in Washington, D.C., and is the author of five books of non-fiction.
These are gorgeous, Greg! They are beautiful in their very sound – certainly reminiscent in their sound of the sight of the lovely Tuscany landscape. The repetitions suggest the rolling hills, and the elements of travel also pick up the fact that, when in Tuscany, you need to go walking around – and maybe head for Ellis Island in the end. The second poem reminded me of a less known poem, “the song of the Chattahoochee,” by a southern poet I met zillions of years ago – the music of alliteration superbly done to capture the nature of nature. (I laugh – I am so jealous!)