September 2017

Back to Issue 2

The Mouth is a Door

By Natalie D-Napoleon

The mouth is a door,

a pop and burst

as I strip a stalk

of seedless Thompson

baby grapes

in my mouth at the

Farmer’s Market.

A sweet welcome on

the tip of my tongue,

bitter skin slides

down the lazy flesh

of my tongue’s sides

telescoping me back

to the grapes growing

on the trellis

by the waves

of the asbestos fence

in my baba’s backyard,

the ones she

pollinated by hand


one bunch

of grape flowers

to brush against

all the others

open with



During the school

year my deda

tended the gardens

of Guildford Grammar School,

kids in shirts and ties

called him “wog”

and, maybe, he called them

“red-faced Inglese

under his breath.

He came from a country

where he’d been

Italian, British,


and Yugoslav

in his lifetime

but in this country

he would always be

one thing,

from somewhere



In my grandparents’ hometown,

on the island of Korčula,

nobody knows

how long grapes

have been grown

and cultivated;

is it 2000 or 2500 years?

And who even knew

what the Illyrians grew

before the Greeks

and Italians, then Slavs

came to take

their land?


As the family moved

into the red

double-brick house

in the suburbs,

the backyard trellis

of grapes

was abandoned

for the pinpricks of roses

and the paper cuts

of buffalo grass,

the grape vines

left to the babas

and dedas

to maintain,

keeping that door


a crack.


baba (Croatian) = grandmother
deda (Croatian) = grandfather