Muscat of Alexandria
On Temperance Avenue,
Southeast of the city of Fowler,
Is a ten-acre vineyard
Planted to Muscat of Alexandria vines,
In the true sense of the old world.
Near the railroad tracks and old highway,
Raisin packing, and packaging plants,
And their chain-link fences.
Hundreds of solitary vines
Over one-hundred years old,
Judging by the size of the trunks.
Severely spur-pruned canes,
Fingers on arms grasping for the sky.
No stakes, no trellis’, no wires;
Only dark, ragged growth
Standing unaided on sandy loam.
A farmer’s dream, attaining
The largest crop of Muscat grapes
Of the best fruit; large-size obovoid,
With aromatic, scraggly berries,
Grayish-brown, and very meaty
With a strong flavor,
A tough skin and two big seeds.
Juicy, but not watery.
A contrast to the carpet
Of Thompson Seedless vineyards
Across the road, and spread out
Halfway to the Sierras’.
Muscat grapes first appeared
In California in 1856, imported
By a seed company in Sacramento
From North Africa by way of Spain,
For the missions and commerce.
Vines are pruned by late February,
Workers put away their tools,
The Malaga-Maid pruning-shears,
Their blades dipped in machine oil.
Next year, the ten-acres
Of ancient vines could be pulled out.
The land surveyed for streets,
And building lots of a subdivision
With houses that look the same,
Or a local shopping center
And associated strip-mall.
La Porte d’Enfer
“Abandon every hope, who enter here.”
Canto III, Dante’s Inferno.
Auguste Rodin Museum,
At the Hotel Biron,
The flowers in the Jardin d’Orphée
And the Jardin des Sources,
Are washed in sunlight
On a Friday in Central Paris,
After the snowfall on New Year’s Day.
Northeast of the estate
Near Rue de Varenne,
In shadows of the Hôtel de Broglie,
The Galerie des Marbres,
Housing two massive bronze doors
Overwhelming in size.
Commissioned in 1880
By the Directorate Of Fine Arts,
As the main entrance
For the Decorative Arts Museum
That was never built.
The defining work of A. Rodin,
Inspired by L. Ghiberti’s
Gates of Paradise, in Florence,
Depicting the Old Testament.
The theme for the doors
Was left to Rodin, and became
Depictions from Dante’s Inferno.
The Nine Circles of Hell:
Limbo, Lust, Gluttony,
Greed, Wrath, Heresy,
Violence, Fraud and Treachery.
Suffering from above, Three Shades,
The souls of the damned,
Like figures gathered together
With their heads hung low.
From the Seventh Circle of Hell,
The Three Sinners, (Violence,
against others, self, and nature.)
Above the colossal doors, the Poet
(modeled after The Thinker)
Looking down on the Inferno,
Pondering Adam’s ruin of man.
One-hundred-eighty tormented figures,
A chaotic population in agony,
Trapped in ever-lasting struggle
To free themselves from damnation.
The Fortune Tellers
Have their heads on backwards.
Adam and Eve, from Paradiso,
Are rescued from eternal damnation
By Christ on Holy Saturday
In the Harrowing Hell.
Ugolino’s poor offspring
Are dead from starvation.
Contorted figures and fragments
Swirling in chaos, eaten by passions.
A woman rests on her knees,
Back arched, left arm covers
Her eyes, gushing endless tears.
Wailing and blasphemy of the damned,
Punished for an eternity
In a fashion fitting their crime.
Twisted postures of caryatids
Convey a greater sense of tragedy,
There is no hope even in death.
Anguished screams of the uncommitted,
And the opportunists
Concerned only with themselves.
The Rebellion of the Angels
In heaven, led by Archangel Michael,
Against the demonic dragon
And his fellow fallen angels
Who led the world astray.
A portal to the underworld
From the earth’s surface.
Omar Khyamm’s Restaurant in the Sequoia Hotel
“The Food of Good Quality” circa 1935.
Summer nights you were out for a walk
Near the courthouse and surrounding park,
In a condition of late-night heat.
Arriving at the double door
From the sidewalk on Van Ness Avenue
Located in the Sequoia Hotel,
Is Omar Khayyam’s Restaurant,
A popular eating place with Fresno diners
And open this time of night.
Atmosphere, at the restaurant
–a favorite in the valley–
Is that of the thoughts
Of the great thinker, artist,
Connoisseur of food and wine,
Persian poet, Omar Khayyam.
Verse from The Rubaiyat, by the poet,
Is a mural on the wall over the bar
In a decorative motif of the artistry
Of ancient Persia and Armenia.
“A book of verse
underneath the bough/a jug of wine,
a loaf of bread and thou.”
The restaurant advertised
As being of distinctive character
With an enviable reputation,
Far beyond the confines
Of the San Joaquin Valley.
Toward the rear of the restaurant
Are booths with curtains,
For private and secret rendezvous,
Fourteen swivel chairs at the counter.
The Persian poet would find delight
In the cocktail lounge,
An inlaid portrait of himself
Placed at the entrance floor,
Adjoining part of the restaurant.
And the renovated hotel lounge,
A reception-room with a hostess
For waiting patrons of the restaurant.
Downstairs from the hotel lobby
Is the elaborate Persian Room night club
And cocktail lounge, with middle-eastern décor,
Formerly Anoush’s Turkish Bath.
A stairway from the front sidewalk
Was the not-so-secret special entry
To the downstairs banquet room,
With dining, dancing, and special events.
Playing on the stage tonight:
Selections by The Four Rhumba Kings,
Of San Francisco, and John Menan’s
Orchestra of Fresno.
In Omar Khayyam’s Restaurant
Tables are set with elaborate plates
For dining on extravagant meals,
Abalone steak to Shish Kebab
De Luxe, with pilaf.
In the kitchen, on the special broiler,
Charcoal glows with brilliance
Over which the meat is cooked,
Lamb Chops, Veal, and Squab.
An automatic fryer for fresh Halibut,
Sweetbreads a la Omar, on the electric grill.
To insure proper temperatures
No matter what the outside conditions.