Sport 26: Autumn 2001
Ingrid Horrocks — Fruit
Figs do not grow on trees on my side of the water,
no perfume tells the tale outside.
First there were paintings
of delicately placed leaves,
then, writing which hung lives
from a fig tree's branches.
Later, I read of my grandmother eating
a large dish of exquisite small green figs.
She was leaning from a window in Italy
listening to church bells sound.
My first Italian fig is served at breakfast
disguised in green-brown skin
wet and cool from the tree.
I eat it slowly with a silver fork.
The next, months later, is sweeter,
plucked by my sun-darkened arm.
I squeeze it open with fingers
and devour the pink flesh.
In Japan this fruit was peeled by a mother,
cut into four and placed on a china plate.
It was almost round with skin bright orange,
its leaves folded back in a four-tongued collar.
I was given a toothpick to ear with,
a napkin to wipe juice from my chin.
I learnt that this sweet food was named kaki—
date plum, Chinese apple or persimmon.
In Italy the fruit comes to me from the hands of a woman.
It is half green, half orange, with twings still attached.
Tartness fills my mouth.
I ask a name, she gives me kaki.
The local orange plum, diospyros lotus,
has been grafted with the Japanese.
This tree now grows beside her house,
together we feed the bruised fruits to the chickens.
These are no cacti for the windowsill,
they are green and ten feet tall,
their plate-sized leaves pin-cushioned,
their fruit—swollen eggs turned yellow.
I have seen her eat and I go to try myself.
I grasp the fruit and hack it from the plant.
The prickles are small and puncture my skin,
I do not dare to bring them near my tongue.
The next time I watch how she selects a softer plant,
how gently she holds the cactus, slices it from the stem
then slits it open with two neat strokes along its skin.
She feeds me first an orange fruit then one that is a purple red.
Cactus marmalade would perhaps be tasty,
with the prickles safely removed one by one.
Cactus wine is said to be sweet and smooth.
But with her I can drink directly of this heady fruit.
Without our olives we feel
like a paper in the wind.
—A Jenin merchant quoted in Mort Rosenblum, Olives
On that first day I'm awkward with my axe,
she watches anxiously as I learn to prune.
After many meals of pasta and sweet wine
I can swing an axe while watching butterflies.
The trees stand in lines,
grow heavy as the leaves turn red.
The sour, pungent taste of olives between the teeth
is a taste as old as cold water.
In November, the nets are spread
to catch the olives as they fall.
The hard fruit is soaked,
or stored then pressed for its juice.
For a time we two eat black olives after dinner,
climb onto the rooftop and talk across the evenings,
shelling walnuts, beans and chickpeas.
I take a bottle of green oil when I leave.
She gathering from a bowing tree a ripe Powngarnet, tooke
Seven kernels out and sucked them.
—Ovid, Metamorphoses, 1567
On the outside it is a difficult fruit,
pale green, knobbled, and awkward to hold.
You are tempted by no promised sweetness,
it is easy to resist,
Let me spilt it for you.
You see, honeycombed in this bitter green fruit
are cloying pink droplets.
Take a seed, break it open on your tongue.
Now you have eaten
you will stay.
You will leave your mother
in her wooden sea-view house.
I may let you return for some months of light.
But even when the days are windy bright
and your lips taste of salt and oysters,
I will be with you.