Primitivo Negativo

James Hoch

We are out of wine. And that’s a problem

whether you are in Puglia or Pittsburgh.

Watman has a seawater risotto on the stove

he’s feeding dandelions and periwinkles,

and has the look you see in the Pacific

Northwest — Totemic, ocean facing,

as if to send the monsters back to the deep.

Skoog is picking a Stanley Brothers song

about sinfulness on the banjo while waiting

for the okra in his gumbo to break just right.

He’s singing about the hills of Virginia

but somehow predictably the flotsam of

Bywater and Katrina float into the verses.

Got a good thing going when Genoways

shows up, a wild boar in the bed of his pickup:

The only sustainable operation this side

of the Poconos, but smells like frack sluice.

We’ve been at it since late morning

and the day’s rolled geologically along,

our loved ones scattering themselves

on the nervy periphery of this story,

because the evening feels immortal

and it is ours to let come. And we love them

enough to forage from the keel and underbrush

of our lives this good meal as our friends

ply us with jars of drink and stories

about other people sitting around a fire,

another circle, their songs as good as ours.

It isn’t true, of course, but that’s not the point.

The truth is we are out of wine and someone

needs to make a run and scavenge the deli’s

racks of the underwhelming but drinkable.

Stay close to God is the kind of thing you hear

before you head down mountain roads,

where you count the car-bludgeoned trees,

It won’t be me, because it’s my dream.

And in my dream, why should I get out

of my boxers? Why should any of us

answer the warrant? No one will wander

farther than earshot: Kitchen, porch.

So we can holler and laugh and grow

serious regarding missed cheese,

corked wine, a goat being lovingly

slaughtered in the yard, if love and brevity

and mercy are delivered workman-like.

There are facts not to tinker out of:

Tar Sands. War. Water … We know this

though we’ve never been in the same room

together, just figures floating in the ether

of our making. Stay close to God

No one’s really a believer, but we believe

what wine says to glass, this blessing

of knives and rafters, shank and catgut,

the body’s comings and goings, prayers

that return our friends wonky but whole.

Let us loll our heads to the clonky god

of togetherness, these simple pleasures

laid out on a lead-heavy door converted

to a table, the openings and closings,

a lifetime of sentences and alibis.

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