We think of basil as Italian, but it orginated in India, as did so many of our herbs and spices. Maybe basil is how Krishna seduced the gopis? No matter. Basil is definitely an erotic presence in this poem.
There in Fiesole it was always fresh
In the laneway where the spry grandfather
Tipped you his smile in the earliest wash
Of sunlight, piling strawberries high and higher
In a fragile pyramid of edible air.
Light down the years, the same sun rinses your dark
Hair over and over with brightness where
You kneel to stir the earth among thyme and chard,
Rosemary and the gathering of mints,
The rough leaf picked for tea this summer noon,
The smooth one saved for pesto in the winter,
For the cold will come, though you turn to me soon,
Your eyes going serious green from hazel,
Your quick hand on my face the scent of basil.
Oh, but I am not in Italy. I am here at home in the Appalachian mountains, picking the last of our basil, having neglected it during weeks of worry about a parent's illness. My hand are laved with the scent of basil. The scent floats through the kitchen, the living room. I rub my nose with it. I rub it in my hair. I would make ink from it and write my own poem with the scent of basil.