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Wine Making to
Marion Williams Singing

Mela Kirkpatrick

Selected by Eleanor Bourg Donlon, Assistant Executive Editor

When it quits working, seal the jar tightly and store in a dark place.
—The Foxfire Book of Appalachian Cookery

Swing low, sweet chariot

the gushes of juice,
slurping between our fists
sunk in hundreds
of purple-red grapes,

indiscriminately splatter
our arms, faces, counter
tops and bare feet—
out of time with the choir.

I looked over Jordan, and what did I see

the overripe are easy
yielding their water
under a firm thumb
and hooked forefinger,

a band of angels coming after me

but the others, we have
to grind between our palms
until the translucent
glop is squeezed

coming for to carry me

from its filmy skin,
the juice, peel and neglected
bits of meat sifting sweetly
between our tired fingers.

Swing low, sweet chariot

when all our grapes
are crushed together, we
gauge, pour the sugar, wonder
how long we can wait

coming for to carry me home.

Mela Kirkpatrick is currently an instructor in the Writing Seminars at Johns Hopkins University, where she received her MFA in poetry in 2010. She studied Art History and Creative Writing at UNC-Chapel Hill. Her poems have been published in Agenda, The Carolina Quarterly, Hot Sonnets, and Measure.


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