Vintage Song by Anne M Carson

St Andrews, Victoria

Grapes move inexorably towards ripeness. Inside the berry,
behind its fleshy walls – the mechanics of veraison. Acid

levels fall, sugars rise, the flesh dehydrates, phenols and
tannins grow fat with flavour. Little factory, humming with

alchemy, broadcasting musky perfume into the autumn
air, wave after waft of sweet enticement. The aromas are

streamers the fruit unfurls into the atmosphere, festooning
the vineyard with the intoxicating odours of harvest. Once,

grapes were blessed before vintage, a priest in regalia
sprinkled holy water over the vines. Vestiges remain of the

blesséd grape; mythic presence, thrum of spirit. Festivities
celebrate the crop – laden tables adorned with grape-leaf

foliage, glasses boasting previous vintages, friends proposing
toasts. Happiness to have the harvest home. Before the feast –

the delicate balance of sugar-levels and picking-friendly
weather. Humans are on hand with measuring devices and

daily readings; instruments and science pick the exact moment.
Birds fly in early with special picking teams, preferring their

grapes on the tart side of sweet. They discern the perfect timing
for their forays with only fragrance to guide them – fine natural

viticulturists, regardless of weather. Scores of Silver Eyes find
tears in the nets, waiting in orderly aerial queues like planes

in airport landing patterns, co-operative and collision-free
without traffic control. Bird after patient bird flies through

holes smaller than a child’s fist, keeping entries separate from
exits. Vociferous local Gang Gangs troupe in for the day,

return home to roost each night. Pied Currawongs become
familiars in daily-ness, arriving en masse to take up temporary

residence. Their vestments are formal. They decorate dusty paths
with brilliant blood-red splats studded with ruby gems; startling

splotches of colour which brighten the dull dun and tan bush.
They announce the season, the readiness of the crop. A single

bird initiates the call, anticipates antiphonal response. It rings
out onomatopoeic; currrawong, currawong, currawong.

Volleys of sound echo the valley; dawn greetings warbled
into pristine cold mornings, chansons chanted into crisp-

skinned days, solos sung into the descending chill of dusk:
beautiful, haunting. Each phrase tapers to eerie vibrato,

finishes with rising intonation. In secular times, the birds
offer the vineyard the simple grace of choral benediction.

Vintage Song by Anne M Carson was commended in the Sentinel Annual Poetry Competition 2015 judged by Afam Akeh