I was reminded of that day
Before you were even born, when
Snow came to the Basque region. It
Settled with its tents and self-cleansing
Stakes that pierced
An arid lip in the vineyards that lay
Fallow this year (though long before
The wet luxury of choice filled the hearts
And wooden knuckles of the hungry).
Indentations seemed to manifest.
The shape of foot-falls pressed in powder.
Every seventh step bore a fruit, or
The suggestion of a flower – perhaps
A mallow from Albion, or
Bergamots from Turkey. It was early morning.
He soon was noticed, though, carrying a heavy
Twisted staff of Cypress wood, like
Some sort of Saint, he was. Bearded,
Sombre in his movements.
Slow in stature. Old.
It took him a long time
To walk above the sleeping furrows. And
The bent old women, their faces
Many calendars of baking sun shrunk back
Old what were now cold and brittle bones,
They stood up, pulled the shawls
Around their sons, and rubbed the residue
Of March-earth into tiny knots
Between each finger. They watched him.
Presently, the old man spoke. He spoke of change,
Reminded them of things they had all
Vanquished from collective memory.
He spoke of movement, of travel
Between lands, he shook with a sad,
Rehearsed laughter when he saw the boundary
Formed by the valley’s zenith, and pulled his
Coats close around his throat.
And the townswomen soon saw him
Sink below the ridge from view.
Every seventh footstep clearing snow
To make way for that which grows
Beneath the hardest, oldest bark
Or the most aged, tired hands.