Wednesday Poem

La Tache 1962

—for Michael Cuddihy

Pulling the long cork., I shiver with a greed so
pure it is curiosity. I feel like the long muscles in a
sprinter’s thighs when he’s in the blocks, like a
Monarch butterfly the second before it begins mi-
grating to Venezuela for the winter—I feel as if I
were about to seduce somebody famous. Pop. The
first fumes swirl up. In a good year the Domaine de
la Romanée-Conti gets maybe 20,000 bottles of La
Tache; this is number 4189 for 1962. In the glass the
color is intense as if from use or love, like a book-
binding burnished by palm oil. The bouquet billows
the sail of the nose: it is a wind of loam and violets.
“La Tache” means “the task.” The word has impli-
cations of piecework; perhaps the vineyard workers
were once paid by the chore rather than by the day.
In a good year there would be no hail in September.
Work every day. Finally, the first pressing of sleep.
Stems, skins, a few spiders, yeast-bloom and dust-
bloom on the skins. . . . Now the only work is wait-
ing. On the tongue, under the tongue, with a slow
breath drawn over it like a cloud’s shadow—, the
the wine holds and lives by whatever it has learned from
3 ½ acres of earth. What I taste isn’t the wine itself,
but its secrets. I taste the secret of thirst, the longing
of matter to be energy, the sloth of energy to lie
down in the trenches of sleep, in the canals and
fibers of the grape. The day breaks into cells living
out their secrets. Marie agrees with me: this empty
bottle number 4189 of La Tache 1962 held the best
wine we have ever drunk. It is the emblem of what
we never really taste or know, the silence all poems
are unfaithful to. Michael, suppose the task is to
look on until our lives have given themselves away?
Amigo, Marie  and  I  send  you  our  love  and  this

by William Matthews
Sleek for the Long Flight
White Pine Press, 19722