Les Roches Fleuries

After moonset stars shine more brightly in the still air,

Earth turns slowly rolling into day,

the great fly-wheel spins, stars drift around the pole,

western mountains rise against my feet


and in the east the long horizon falls.

Onward she rolls, vast galleon

pivoted upon her pole, time in empty space sits still

watching the moving day line on the planet's rim.


Slowly, from the dark mass of brooding hills,

the vineyards and the running brooks appear,

dry, white rocks pierced by cypresses,

grey to old gold the distant hills, sunlight greeting the trees


yellowing the parched land.

Last owl poops it's hidden cry,

with hesitation first cicadas trill,

breathless the air hangs waiting, the landscape unfurls.


Heat collects, stirs in the rock strewn valleys between pines,

spills over, pushing the air around.

Now under the baking sun

breezes fleck silver the olive trees waves


ripple over the lines of vines,

toss in sudden squalls domed planes.

Shuttered farms close inward

keeping cool their dark interiors, the light hurts.


Crowning the hill top, Notre Dame de Graces

sits in her oak groves, shadowy pines, short terraced gardens,

crumbling walls for lizards, nooks for images.

Resinous airs linger in the shade dark oaks incubate.


Wind in the tree tops heralds an afternoon's mistral.

Nobody about, empty the tables set with chairs

upon the terraces, empty the gardens,

pine shaded courts - the only discord here must be my own.


Nothing moves in the stone mind of the old centurion,

guardian of the gates, stone is still, inactive information.

A mason gave this rock a life that touches mine,

these questioning eyes, forbidding gaze,


"What are your credentials that, passing me,

you wish to tread the steps to the sanctuary?

Many there are who pass within making their noise

polluting the quietened atmosphere.


Go slowly now and make

these few steps sure a pilgrimage. If rock has voice

consider well the silence in the stone."

Not any wood would do -not any hill.


Although I do not share the simple faith

of these crude images

I understand their transformations.

Cicadas purr in your stone head as well as mine.


Outside time you stand here guardian.

Whoever comes may read your face,

your right to question, forbid frivolity.

I come neither on my knees nor aesthetically sampling


the handiworks of another age.

I sense the stillness of your stone time;

cicada cry among the oaks; wind drift resin in the wine;

the hill top sacraments of fragile immortality


where form and substance interact in history

and shapes, frail in time's mistral, bloom.

I bow in gratitude before these crude configurations

constant recurrence, same place and time, here, there,


somewhere, hands carving the connecting minute

one arrow hits another in the air and all is gone.

Swallowtail curves a brief trajectory

above the jagged aloe spears.


Images flicker among breeze quickened leaves

"Defence d’allumer du feu!" Why disturb a still pool?

Endlessly spreading from still centres of place and time

Cicadas call, circles radiate and disappear.


One man only, peasant with a fruit basket

has passed this gate in an hour of musing.

A door slams along the hill;

a breeze shifts leaves yet nothing moves;


the air falls dreamlike into insect time.

Ants make pilgrimages, flies from time to time

alight on table top. The Virgin in the rocks

hasn't moved and no birds sing.


High above and passing a raven calls.

Under a cone-covered fir where the path turns -

a wide-armed cross without inscription

backed by the heavy foliage of an oak,


bare wood, sun dried, rock the soil in which it’s driven.

The figure moves among the trees beckoning

no words - a total statement. Death and time and history

deep rooted in a believing land, the saviour's instrument.


Where the lines cross the trail begins.

Old lady coming from the house

does not look at me, composed

she passes by leaving the stranger quiet beneath the trees.


All but the desert plants wilt in the heat

roses struggle along dried up terraces.

Beyond the Cross the hillside drops away,

the great view looms.


Forests, rock cropped mountains, far distances

jagged and curved. What is a World ?

Down there the motorways exude the roar of cars,

polluted air, the sea crazed industry generates


its violent rhythms. Airplane flies

along the coast dragnetting for customers

"Patron - et trois Duvals."

Crowding the beaches people are purchasing the sun.


At Notre Dame de Graces almost no one.

No price on this commodity -

silence tuned by insects and the warm wind.

A summer of opposites perhaps -

within such silence human insects cry.

What is a World that contains all this?

Here in the wilting rose garden

the hardened plants need rain.


Wind falls with the fading light

gold to slow silver the rising nightline comes.

Day lingers greying the land, cicada silence,

hill crest firs collect the remaining breeze.


Down in the valley among the olive trees

shutters open from white walls

lights glimmer in dead houses, the troglodytes emerge.

Under deep well-heads dark water lies.


Cotignac. To HR. Revised 26 December 1993. 11 June 1996 and 2003