According to recent studies, those who eat plums are notoriously smarter than those who never eat them. Such information took me not to the greengrocer, but to my library, and there I found quite a few texts about that fleshy fruit with a single seed surrounded by a woody endocarp. I began with Oda a la prune, by Neruda, a slightly impoverished poem that, however, I proceed to transcribe in part: “Since then, / the earth, the sun, the snow, / the gusts / of the rain, in October, / on the paths, / everything, / the light, the water, / the naked sun, / left/in my memory the smell/ and transparency/of plums: / life / ovalized its clarity, its shadow, / its freshness. / Oh kiss / of the mouth / in the plum, / teeth and lips full / of the fragrant amber, / of the liquid light of the plum!”. Anyway. Now recovered from that bitter drink, I went on to one of the best-known and most perfect poems by William Carlos Williams, This Is Just to Say, from 1934, in which he returns to the idea of everyday life as the final horizon, but expressed as an epiphany , never as realism. As far as I know (which is not much: think that I have never tasted a plum), the title of the poem has been translated into Spanish in various ways (“This is just to say”, and “Just to tell you”, which seems to me the most adjusted): “Just to tell you / that I ate / the plums / that were in / the fridge // and that you probably / kept / for breakfast // Excuse me / they were delicious / so sweet / so cold.”
Then I opened, a bit at random, but with the suspicion that there might be something there, Classical Chinese Poetry (Cátedra, Madrid, 2002, translation by Guojian Chen) and I found The Plum Village, by Wu Weiye, written around 1650: “My cabin is surrounded / by a wooden fence / and thick moss. / I got from a friend / bamboo shoots / and flower seeds, / and carefully planted them. / I don’t go out to visit, / but I like that they come to see me. /Because I spend a lot of time reading, / I take time to answer letters. / With the book open, / I hear, by the window, / the noise of the rain. / I go up to the terrace / and, under the lonely tree, / I contemplate the clouds. / Fruits fall from the plum trees, / and the wind spreads their aroma. / Oranges are a delicacy, / and it’s nice to see them. / I take the boat / anchored near the room / and I go fishing”.
Leaving poetry behind, arriving at the narrative, in few writers does food appear with such precision as in Agatha Christie. Of course, also the plums, as in The Door of Destiny, her last novel where, obviously, the detectives Tommy and Tuppence Beresford also appear for the last time. In the old mansion they receive sole fillets for dinner and pudding for dessert. Pages later, the conversation turns to a bakery called Betterby, where they make cakes with a special flour with secret ingredients, along with a type of plum of the Claudia variety (or Queen Claudia), which Christie describes as “typical of that region.” In another of her novels, The Christmas Pudding, much of the intrigue is resolved with the advice given to Poirot: “Don’t eat those plums.”
Luckily (for you) I’m not a poet or a storyteller, but if I were, I’d write a poem about buying plums at a neighborhood market that I had to cross half the city to get to, and how I floated back from there.
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