Olives Poem By Catharine Savage Brosman

Olives Poem By Catharine Savage Brosman

They are, we know, an acquired taste—
something for adults, just like martinis,
truffles, caviar, asparagus, or sweet and thoughtful
sex. Imagine someone who has never seen
or eaten one: where to begin? With a taxonomy
by shapes or size, or color, ripeness, flavor,
oiliness, consistency? (“… and darker
than a Muscat grape when they are ripe;

when green, looking a bit like alligator pears,
but smaller, although ovoid, like a pebble
or a robin’s egg—smooth in the Spanish
style, wrinkled as a prune in Greece.”) And then
there are the place of origin, the age of groves;
one could evoke the ancient art
of growing them, the holy trees of Palestine,
the rocky hillsides of Provence
(and say how trunks are sculpted, almost into stone,

as van Gogh saw them in the fields near Arles).
Or one could tell the name of the estate,
and gesture toward imagined slopes,
or sound the wind that soughs among the leaves
at evening when the fruit is taking shape,

and paint the moon as honeyed
as it hangs at harvesttime. Or should one classify—
explaining, first, the part about the seed, and how
the olive may be pitted, filled
for further flavor—classify the things, I say,

by stuffings: anchovy, pimiento, pearly
onion, almond bits? And what about their uses—
surely what we make of things
is what they are? Describe Italian salads,
canard aux olives, a relish dish with radishes
and celery and olives, stuffed? and then
back to martinis, which I started with, when you
stirred up a pitcher, cold and rolling suave
upon the tongue, and kissed me with a hint of brine,
because, while you were mixing,

you had cheated, finding that a pickled olive,
plump, savory, and salubrious (do not forget
the good cholesterol), could wait
no longer to be tasted—so, enticed it and the latent
aspects of its being from a bottle,

out into the actual—a bite, a crunch, another bite,
a pleasure on the palate. But I found you out,
a prestidigitator and a surreptitious
hedonist, now trying to amend
the matter with an extra olive for me, also. Is this
the essence of an olive, of a man—
best when surprised, when serendipitous, with salt?

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