Sunday Poetry: Love is like red, red wine

Above: I snapped this pic with my Blackberry as I drove across Arkansas, on my way back to Little Rock from Texarkana. I like the way the phone’s camera makes the trees look two-dimensional.

There were a lot of things about my recent sales trip to Arkansas that made me think about one of my favorite poets, Langston Hughes.

The beautiful trees that line Interstate 30 were one of them. They made me think of his poem “Daybreak in Alabama”:

    When I get to be a composer
    I’m gonna write me some music about
    Daybreak in Alabama
    And I’m gonna put the purtiest songs in it
    Rising out of the ground like a swamp mist
    And falling out of heaven like soft dew.
    I’m gonna put some tall tall trees in it

Above: In Arkansas, they’re very proud of their tomatoes. For lunch, I ate Tomato Aspic — tomato jello stuffed with mayonnaise.

Wine appears more than once in Hughes’s poetry. As a child I was fascinated by his poem “Lament over Love,” which I read over and over and set to music:

    I hope my child’ll
    Never love a man.
    I say I hope my child’ll
    Never love a man.
    Love can hurt you
    Mo’n anything else can.

    I’m goin’ down to the river
    An’ I ain’t goin’ there to swim.
    My true love’s left me
    And I’m goin’ there to think about him.

    Love is like whiskey,
    Love is like red, red wine.
    Love is like whiskey,
    Like sweet red wine.
    If you want to be happy
    You got to love all the time.

    I’m goin’ up in a tower
    Tall as a tree is tall,
    Up in a tower
    Tall as a tree is tall.
    Gonna think about my man
    And let my fool-self fall.

Above: Turnip greens in Arkansas were also really tasty.

Many of Hughes’s poems were adaptations of blues songs. As a teenager, I was also fascinated by his autobiography, The Big Sea, which I read over and over again. The chapters devoted to his time in Europe were heavily dogeared in my paperback copy (I wrote about his visit to Desenzano here).

Above: In North Little Rock where I spoke at a wine dinner, I slept at the Baker House, a Victorian home listed in the National Registry of Historic Places. The man who built it was not allowed to live there because of his color.

Life in Arkansas is certainly different than New York, California, or Austin. I’d never been there before this year. People were very nice to me and I had a lot of fun pouring and talking about wine. I certainly can’t complain.

    Though you may hear me holler,
    And you may see me cry
    I’ll be dogged, sweet baby,
    If you gonna see me die.

    Life is fine! Fine as wine! Life is fine!

    (from “Life is Fine”)

Above: I sold Barolo and Barbaresco to Tom’s Jug Shop in Texarkana. You can buy beer and liquor there at a drive-through window. They give you a cup of ice with your order, if you want. You wouldn’t think it from the sign and facade but they know their wine there.

Life is certainly never boring and as much as I miss Tracie B when I’m away from Austin, I love the travel and the new places I get to visit (Louisiana is next). As Langston Hughes wrote in the epigraph of The Big Sea:

Life is a big sea full of many fish. I let down my nets and pull.