Friend! This year the olives will be late, it has been cool.

            Cool? I’ve never sweltered like this.

No. This is what cool means. We pick by hand, putting in ventilated boxes in the shade to press that very day. We know what Abbas Ibn Fadhl thought he knew conquering Qasr Ianna but did not know losing Castrugiuvanni. You wait. Don’t force, don’t cook, don’t ripen in brine, don’t throw stems in the press. 

You pick when you feel the fruit is tender?

No. Ripeness we know with our eyes, a particular emerald, not as you say touch or taste or smell and not even, but almost, by the sound the fruit makes on the right morning.

            And I taste your oil on this bread?

No. This you eat with beans. The flavor blooms in warmth, in just-simmered fava. Don’t put salt. 

            So …?

No. Don’t say. I’ll tell you. The invaders didn’t call these cultivars nocellara etnea e Moresca and Biancolilla as we do now but it is what kept them here, wave upon wave, until we did not know the difference between them and us.

Judith Baumel

Judith’s previous books are The Weight of Numbers, for which she won The Walt Whitman Award of the Academy of American Poets, Now, and The Kangaroo Girl which was named a top five poetry book of 2011 by The Forward. She is Professor of English and Founding Director of the Creative Writing Program at Adelphi University. She has served as president of The Association of Writers and Writing Programs, director of The Poetry Society of America and a Fulbright Scholar in Italy.

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