This unavoidable pilgrimage is my self-portrait:
Wandering through poppies in the Provençal fields,
I heard spades sink in gravelly ground, an old woman digging
Turf. In the furrows, a flute fallen among sunflowers.
I played peasant songs for plates of boiled potatoes
To commoners and wanderers in the shadows of a cypress.
Night painted no moonlight on the road, only a cypress
With a star—how beautiful yellow is for an honest portrait
Of a child, one raised on the taste of potatoes
And the long furrows of green corn in the fields,
Eyes opened to the almond groves, like sunflowers
Hung from the walls of Troy. I am digging
For images of peasants in coarse blue linen digging,
Sewing, weaving on black looms, clearing cypress,
Building turf huts and farmhouses, sowing sunflowers
And irises in asylum gardens. But this portrait,
Instead, is of two women bent over a dark field
In a dumb fury of work groping for potatoes.
Athena’s flute made the world a still life, a bowl of potatoes.
My music brought the attention of Apollo; the god ceased digging
For gold. I met him with his kithara in a blossoming field
And challenged him to a contest beneath the lone cypress
And lost. I was tied to that very tree, a portrait
Of pain, a dog lapping red paint, and Apollo a garland of sunflowers.
My limbs were stiff like four cut sunflowers.
I saw the color of hard labor required to pull potatoes
And go down and down for the good turf. This portrait
Wears bandages, shows butcher’s blades digging
Into flesh bound upside down to this cypress,
Alone in harvest time, the pallid gold of fields.
I see haystacks, the high yellow note of fields
Swathed, illuminated like a row of sunflowers,
Then eclipsed in the shadow of a cypress.
He flays the flesh from my chest; in the cold smell of potatoes
Molding, skin curls like flourishing irises. He is digging
Behind my eyes, to what I see in this portrait;
Almond blossoms, I say. The poverty of potatoes. A vase of sunflowers.
Rows of poplars, peasants digging into Roman graves. Aloft over wheat fields,
Crows in blue fire. The portrait, an empty chair. Swirling like dark flame, the cypress.