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SELECTED POEMS FROM “ENTRE-DEUX - TWO FRANCOPHILES IN ALAIGNE”*


VENDANGES

Beware blue giants raiding
Languedoc hills in autumn.
Straddling rows of seasoned vines,
they open wide precision jaws,
rip clean with teeth of steel.

They gobbled 1000s of hand-
pickers, sent foremen to work
in towns, made horses redundant,
closed cafes and shops, spawned
village ghosts without a sound.

The dregs of a people remain,
their trailers dripping still,
though with grapes not as good,
say the workers of old, now
their days are not easy to fill.

But they who blended old with new
and who stayed where their kin are
buried – like the Girards
of Alaigne – still make
premier crus like the Neri*.

*A special wine (featured in Le Guide Hachette des Vins) christened 'Neri' by the
Girards in honour of their son Philippe who shares his birthday with Saint Neri.


AUTUMN IN ALAIGNE

Changes seep inside you, breaking surface
now and then: greens fading to gold, fading
to copper, fading to rust; vine leaves
are having their tips hennaed. Only when you climb
the hills, the great cloth of the Aude
spread before you, are your eyes fully opened:
as if overnight, the alchemist
has emptied his crucible on the landscape,

the magnesium glow of vineyards
his most startling transmutation.
Sunflower land is now neatly combed –
tanned scalp flecked with flint-sharp bones. Giraffe
plane trees stride the road to the village, roofs and spires
fast turning rose. And the black silhouettes
of cypresses? Cathar warriors
guarding the peace in the place of the dead.

You want to embrace it, make it a part
of you, this fleeting slot between extremes
that greedily swallows summer warmth,
gulping down whole chunks of daylight
to regurgitate amazing vibrancies.
Under a fading Languedoc sky
you try to capture it on film, on paper;
the result is always a lie.

Like an arrow in flight, this unstoppable, heart-
stopping mettle that is autumn, has you
scanning your internal landscape,
targeting truth.


A FIRST CHRISTMAS IN FRANCE

18 degrees – is it really December?
No Christmas songs on the radio,
not a jarring jingle in the shops,
not a decoration to be seen,
and only 24 days to go.
Behind the high Corbières,
clear winter air lifts the curtain on a new
horizon: the snow-capped Pyrenees –
your first Christmas card. So yes,
the stage is set, December is here.

Fourteen days on, try supermarkets,
this is where tinsel and gloss is stored:
serving plates in gold and silver; lights,
red candles, fancy linen, and more;
oysters from all parts, mounds of fresh foie-
gras; turkey, truffles, traditional
wild boar; crystallised fruit in rainbow
rows, gateaux to die for, chestnuts, hors
d'œuvres, and all to be bought by the 23rd,
with bubbly Blanquette de Limoux.

Music in the squares: Christmas markets,
towns vying for the brightest event.
Holly decked stalls with oil lamps swinging,
tempt you to sweetmeats, toys and mulled wine.
Doorways are dressed with spice-scented fir
trees – no glitter, baubles, tinsel, chains.
The smallest village wishes you PEACE
in strings of lights, white shooting stars
guiding you through. The icing on the cake –
the mighty Pyrenees watching over you.

©Barbara Dordi

Barbara Dordi was born in the north of England . She gained a Masters Degree in Creative Writing from Lancaster University and taught English and Theatre Studies in schools and universities in Kent. Since 2000 she has edited the twice yearly poetry magazine ‘Equinox’ and produced six books of poetry illustrated in colour: Saxons in the Garden, Airing Cupboard, Apple and Eve, Ève et la Pomme, Presences and now Entre-Deux. Her poems have appeared in newspapers, anthologies, on the Internet and in a variety of well-known poetry magazines. She has also won several poetry competitions.

*"Entre-Deux - Two Francophiles in Alaigne” - with over 30 colour illustrations by artist Russi Dordi, Barbara’s husband – can be can be obtained by sending a cheque for 15 Euros or £10 (postage included) to: B. Dordi, rue de la Chapelle, 11240 Alaigne, Aude, France. or to 134b Joy Lane, Whitstable, Kent CT5 4ES United Kingdom.