After Looking at Minoan Fresco of the Saffron Gathers, Circa 2000 BC
Once when I was seven, I buried a fallen wren,
set it on an altar of moss
and draped the moss with lilac hulls to make a noble mound.
My fingers were stained violet
and reeked of lilac.
All my people were alive then.
Now I see oblivion in the carpet of ocean,
the coast’s ragged jaw,
the gorge a maw stricken open.
Earthquakes and past civilizations silence me.
Goats graze through the ages, their heads down.
Only the spill of rock claims me.
I am less than small.
All the people I love
are less than small.
Here the saffron gatherers persist.
Two young women four-thousand-years old
work a field with baskets,
gather heaps of purple crocuses.
The saffron gatherers dance through the meadow,
absorbed in their harvest,
clutching flowers in both hands.
The crocuses push through the earth each spring,
three stigma strings inflamed.
The women’s fingers must be stained orange.