THE NOONDAY MEAL
The autumn has come
and the fields must be burned today to prepare
for spring seed.
I go to the fields...the workers do not understand me.
They think I am insane...the master of the house
wanting to toil in the fields beside them.
I sweat in the fields with the men,
set my torch down to the dry grass
and watch the tongues burn.
I wipe the sweat from my eyes with the sleeve
of my shirt.
None dare to speak to me.
I am the master of the house
and I have come to the fields.
I look at them, wishing to have them understand
that I wish to be as them
and not live in the great house of Aretino.
They do not understand
that I wish to cast my name away
and be a humble man toiling in the fields.
I turn to pick up my coat.
Still, they say nothing...silence.
I begin to walk away and feel a hand on my back.
There is a man with a scythe
and his fingers on my shoulder.
I turn to him...
He takes his hand away and says,
"Thank you.... needed another in the field today."
He turns to the silent ones.
I am surrounded by the others.
There is soot on my face
and my shirt smells of smoke.
It is time for the noonday meal.
I know there is a fine meal
waiting for me in the villa.
The men gather around me...
invite me to sit with them.
One pours a cup of wine for me,
another holds out a piece of bread,
another splits open a pomegranate with his knife.
The men share their simple meal with me.
We eat together in silence...the men and I.
We finish the meal...I turn to leave.
There is another hand on me preventing me.
A scythe is placed in my hand.
I toil through the afternoon...
to clear the field away
for the spring rye.
Solante' Aretino, age 15, 31, October, 1781.
Lament of the Poplars
My beloved comes to me in the gentle rain of early morning.
The leaves fall from the poplars, stripping the limbs bare for winter.
Autumn is gone and the rains have come.
The silver bark of the poplars is smooth in the rain.
The ground is covered with russet speech as a breeze stirs the leaves.
I look from my window with my hand on the wet sill.
The whisper of the leaves surrounds me…
and the smell of the damp earth is fresh.
The sun has decided not show its face this day.
There is the grayness of winter coming
But the leaves speak with the rain.
I loose myself in a minute, then another.
An hour passes.
I hear Mia Cuore’s voice in the rain of Heaven…
Singing as it runs over the drift of leaves
outside my window.
Another minute passes me
and Mia Cuore still sings.
I stand with my head bowed against the window shutter.
It is just past the sunrise… hidden by the rain.
I have risen from my bed to listen to the fall of rain.
I have lit no candle.
My room is quiet…
except for the rainfall and Mia Cuore.
My fingers caress the window sill…
and reach out into the air of the morning mist.
The rise of the haze from the ground surrounds me.
The rain falls on my hand.
Mia Cuore embraces me with her harmony…
my being fills with her song.
The rain falls through the bare branches of the poplars
with a lament of longing…
I close the shutter and seek my bed again.
I place my hand against my face and close my eyes.
I listen to my own lament in the slow dripping outside my window.
Always does my heart break for the feel of her against me…
Always my arms are empty…
Always my mouth is untouched…
Always my bed is cold…
Always there is no solace for my endless yearning of Mia Cuore.
Solante’ Aretino, age 21, 17, November, 1787.
I look up…My heart runs with abandonment.
The field opens with the passing of her…
Her steps are sure…
Bare feet release the fragrance of rosemary and thyme to me..
The sheep are running before her.
Mia Cuore raises her voice in laughter at them.
Her voice is like the sound of a pan pipe floating through a green valley…
Her voice flows to me and fills my ears.
Her hair falls around her shoulders, drifting to her waist.
Her voice comes through the still air…and up the hill…
She looks up, Mia Cuore…
The sun shines on her face
And the orb of day covers its own imperfection in defeat.
Mia Cuore lifts her face to me…
I cannot speak.
My voice has no echo to answer Mia Cuore’s.
The silenced zephyr of my throat has no comparison for her voice.
The shade of night cannot balance against the darkness of her eyes.
The earth is overwhelmed by her slender feet.
The fragrance of the field is overcome by her perfumed breath.
The sway of the cornflowers is no rival for the grace of her fingers.
The feathered breast of a song bird
can give no answer to the softness of her skin.
There is no counter of nature against Mia Cuore’s beauty.
My heart stands still before Mia Cuore.
I see my own heart quiver, hover, and hear the rush…
My heart stands still…
And comes apart before me.
My heart breaks, casting pieces of me all over the rosemary.
The earth turns under my feet.
The sheep are grazing again.
I can not bear to have Mia Cuore see me cry.
I turn away from the hill I am standing on
And begin to walk away.
I can feel Mia Cuore through the back of my shirt.
I turn around
Her voice is still in my ears.
Mia Cuore is looking at me.
I walk down the hill.
My heart holds out her hand in greeting.
I do not take her hand…
But we sit in the field and watch the sheep gazing.
We watch the sky and count the clouds together.
We watch the beginning stars come up.
I say my regret…that I have to leave her.
She says she will see me at supper…
I ache for the touch of her hand.
I leave Mia Cuore…
Climb the hill
And touch a stone before me.
I turn around again.
The sheep are still in the field.
Mia Cuore is running…
Her father has found out that she has escaped from his watchful eyes.
Her kirtle whips up
Around her knees.
I watch Mia Cuore running
The sky casts a shadow.
I look up…
There is a cloud passing over the face of the sun…
The ice in the high clouds forms into wisps of vapor…
My heart casts itself within me.
Solante’ Aretino, age 13, Upon first seeing Mia Cuore. 19, June, 1779.
THE CITY OF DESOLATION
My soul is in despair.
I am so far away…with no hope to be by my beloved’s side.
The coal smoke chokes the skies of the North.
The streets are crowded with the masses of people hawking.
The City never rests…
The City swallows the light of day and crushes it into blackness.
The chill seeps into me…I am trapped in the City.
The streets of the City have no beauty.
The sewers stink with offal in the gutters.
Not even the rain can cleanse them…
A storm cannot purify the street gutters
of the refuse of suffering humanity.
So many miles between... the Sea of Meditation is lost to me.
I long for the blue sky and the clouds of my homeland.
I wish to see the harvest of my body and Mia Cuore’s.
I wish the mission to be done.
I weep…God has denied me my prayer
To aid Mia Cuore in her trial.
I am trapped in the City.
It tugs at my coat.
It thrusts its stink upon my clothes.
I long for the bread and wine of my homeland
I long for Mia Cuore.
She will cry for me as I cry for her.
But the City has me in darkness.
I am denied the touch of her fingers.
I am denied the birth of our child.
I am denied any hope of leaving this City of Desolation.
The City denies me…
refuses to open the gates
So many miles between... the Sea of Meditation is lost to me.
My good friend has tried to comfort me in my sadness.
but even his close company has failed.
He is helpless in this…
I cursed God this evening.
My good friend has tried to console me this night.
We went to the theater…to see a play.
I hid in the shadow of the box.
He took me to dinner.
I could not eat…
He took me to my lodging…saying he would stay.
I asked my friend to leave.
He has his own despair…
Hides it well.
He refused…always stubborn.
He lies on the floor, beside my bed.
He refuses a room.
He lies on the floor.
I have put a cover over him to keep him warm.
He would not leave.
I drugged the wine he drank
knowing he would rise if he heard me in the night.
He is asleep now.
He will not feel me have him taken from before the fire.
He will not hear that I have called for someone to carry him to a bed.
He will feel nothing.
My good friend has spent all the day, in cost to his own anguish.
He has spent all the day and half the night
Ministering to me.
My good friend knows of no boundaries to his heart.
We clasped hands one day.
We had fought.
Neither of us had won the day.
I had turned to him in fearfulness.
He answered two servants’ questions with the greatest lie I had ever heard.
My good friend lied and protected me that day…
my good friend knows heartbreak and knows when madness begins.
He has protected me this day, as well.
He knew I had been locked in my room.
He had come in the morning…
My good friend saved me this day
And spent his valuable time.
He had me dragged out of bed…
and struck me across the face.
He was cruel, harsh in his words…
I fell to the bedroom floor.
He whipped his hand over my cheek and
called for a bath to be brought.
I had drunk too much again…in sorrow.
He shouted at me…that I would never
have him taken from my side when I was in need.
He had discovered himself in an unfamiliar room.
He was angry with me.
The brother of my soul was angry.
I could hear the hot Spanish of him coursing…
He stripped me out of my nightshirt…
His hand was on the back of my neck.
The City is defeated by my brother’s care of me.
He was pitiless…unforgiving…as he should have been.
He told me I was weak.
He was right…my good friend knows just the spark to set me free.
He burned down the shadow gate of my mind
and plunged my face forward into the bath.
My good friend was merciless...again...today.
He saved my mind today.
He had a tub set in the bedroom.
I couldn’t see it.
The water was cold.
He picked up a bucket and poured it over my head.
“You think life has abandoned you!
There is nothing colder than the Ice of Hell!”
He had a bucket of snow.
It had snowed in the night.
I rose up against him.
He looked at me and said…
“…so do you think you’re ready to break my nose again…Sola?”
I looked at the snow melting before him.
My good friend held out his hand to me and lifted me up…
…out of the City of Desolation.
I had broken his nose once…he dared me to do it again.
He had a tub full of ice and a bucket that he scooped snow in.
He was prepared to fight…
He was ruthless…he knew I hated the cold…
And he was freezing me with the elements of it.
I rose from my knees and struck him across the face.
He said…”Good…do it again…”
I struck him again…
My good friend stood
with no defense against my fist.
He stood as though his feet had taken root in the floor.
I stuck him again.
He set down the bucket.
And said…”So…are you awake now, Sola?”
I was helpless before him.
He had withstood all of my blows.
I shook the hair out of my eyes.
I answered back…
My good friend kicked the bucket away with his foot.
I looked at him…I hadn’t even noticed…
I had hit him square.
He knew that even in unthinking that I could direct my fingers.
I apologized and put a piece of tape over his nose.
I thank God and the Holy Mother and the Trinity which holds together.
I will be forever thankful for my brother, Miguel Eapana
Who never fails in a hard task set before him.
I will always thank God and ask for his protection for Miguel.
I pray that God’s love will always shower mercy and love
on a man born in the black mountains of the Spanish Pyrenees.
Solante’ Aretino, to Miguel Eapana, 23, October, 1800.
“To my dearest friend, my brother of abiding friendship, my heart and hand and soul will always stand with you…at all cost to myself...this is my dedication to you.”