For the Farmer, and for Me: 1913

Dear Christ, To Hell With Lenten Discipline
March 19, 2012
A Retrospective on Winter
March 23, 2012

Somewhere north of the Rhine River, in the fog that hangs between fall and winter, a farmer stirs coffee with friends.

The beer is too bitter, he says. The monks won’t drink it. He drinks coffee, and talks of the harvest with friends. It is Sunday.

“It was cold,” he saddles on slurps and their fawning apologies. “I should have known it would be cold. But if only I had known—”

He punctuates the inevitable with whimpering sighs and a drink. But not too much drink. Not too much coffee that isn’t his. In the war, they would have consumed anything, he thinks. The war was a blessing, whatever the cost. We made the war. And it consumed everything. His friends meet his eyes: But … but you could do nothing. That is what their pocked, grey-teared eyes implore, cataracts aglow. But soundless, and they return to their cups. They drink coffee, these friends. And they speak with their disfigured eyes. On a Sunday.

Out on the land, where the grape vines stretch their spindly backs to meet the sun, the rain begins to sink. It slows across the farmland, gentle; it, too, is apologetic. But it comes. It comes great and gleaming. It catches the moon in one drop, the sun in another. The cups careen against their saucers. The coffee is gone. But the rain—rapping on the sills—will not hush.

“It is dinner,” says the Frau, the dark-browed Frau. It is dinner, and the cups are stacked for the kitchen. The table is set, she slurs beneath footsteps out the door. Malzeit. Let us eat.

The cracked old men stir in their wood-backed chairs. “It is dinner,” the eldest renders out of heavy air. Rap. Rap rap. “Should we go?” The hard oak has heard the question too much, too many. It is not a question that feels for an answer. This farmer, he aches to stir another cup, another field of coffee. But Sunday. And in his chair, he stirs.

Tisch! From the ritual which gave them rise, which too made grape from seed and wine from salty, hand-picked, bulbous grapes, the wood-backed chairs are forced from aft the table.

“It is dinner,” the youngest mourns. It is a meal. Let us go eat, and pretend the casks are aching at their seams. Shuttered eyes blink, quake, quarrel once and fall, once more, to the oak. It is meal, they concur. Let us go and eat it.

And with a man’s wife, in the hollow of a home, on a Sunday, three friends eat stew with a fistful of loaf. And not coffee. And not beer. But water, and wine. Not theirs.

And the rain stirs against the pane: rap, rap, rap. And moon overtakes the sun.


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