Windmill on the Coast of Portugal
Whistle and whoosh come from the aged acrylic, old plywood behind, the building white and blue, though the eight arms stretch suspended and still, hung on my wall in a frame, and I remember these thirty years yet. Clack . . . Clack . . . Clack . . . round and round turned the granite circle stone, heavier than heavy, lifted once with a wooden windlass crane to the third-floor attic where eight men heaved and pushed and positioned this stone atop another: only the upper stone turned. And the clacking stick jiggled the chute and the wheat stones drip-dropped into the center and ground and gristed into white farinha powder to mix with water and yeast and salt and oil to ferment and bloat into the steaming aromatic crisp and chew of bread. The noise of fitting wood cogs and turning and grinding stones heavy as mountains and the incessantly clacking stick, and outside: the sails, four of them, white canvas, catching the Atlantic and whooshing wildly around with insistent hurricane power, and I knew if I stood errantly and a long arm struck, I would be flung clear to Madeira. And the jars, those terra cotta jars, an angry orchestra of clay shrieking in thirds and fifths and octaves as they led the sails and followed the circling sails. I did climb the stone stairs inside the round stone walls to watch everything spinning, the cogs and the wheels and the stones and the central beam – even the roof rotated to bring about the sails – with clouds of choking kernel dust – that central beam one foot square pointing a mile toward the sea, the great roiling ocean of Magalhães and Vasco da Gama and Bartolomeu from whose ship sterns the lusty homesick men watched the sails shrinking and waiving interminably, the shrieking jugs weakened to whispers and then gone, the tiny sails waiving in circles to the big caravel sails on the sea.
(Title painting by Erin Baker)