Wendy Klein

The former Yogoslavia

As we stumbled from the van in front of the monastery,
their fragrance astonished us; the whole hillside,

covered in their dusty leaves, gave up a scent of earth
and herbs, intense even without their scarlet globes –

too early for that ultimate red, the end of their growing,
when they’d surrender to our tongues, our teeth:

the tang of the first bite, the succulence of seeds
that could and would be swallowed.

A woman, her grey veil barely stirring in the midday heat
and so old we thought she could be the last

Orthodox nun, creaked down the stairs to greet us, a girl
at her heels who might be the last novice:

paradise, they said, nodding at one another, at us,
gesturing towards the acres of dusky green,

paradise, paradise, and we never found out whether
they were marvelling at the miracle of their crop

or contemplating their future.

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