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Weekly Poem: ‘Olives’

By A.E. Stallings

Sometimes a craving comes for salt, not sweet,
For fruits that you can eat
Only if pickled in a vat of tears—
A rich and dark and indehiscent meat
Clinging tightly to the pit—on spears

Of toothpicks maybe, drowned beneath a tide
Of vodka and vermouth,
Rocking at the bottom of a wide,
Shallow, long-stemmed glass, and gentrified,
Or rustic, on a plate cracked like a tooth,

A miscellany of the humble hues
Eponymously drab—
Brown greens and purple browns, the blacks and blues
That chart the slow chromatics of a bruise—
Washed down with swigs of barrel wine that stab

The palate with pine-sharpness. They recall
The harvest and its toil,
The nets spread under silver trees that foil
The blue glass of the heavens in the fall—
Daylight packed in treasuries of oil,

Paradigmatic summers that decline
Like singular archaic nouns, the troops
Of hours in retreat. These fruits are mine—
Small bitter drupes
Full of the golden past and cured in brine.


A.E. Stallings“Olives” is the title poem of A.E. Stallings’ forthcoming collection, which comes out in the spring. Also a translator, Stallings was one of this year’s MacArthur Award winners. She grew up in Georgia and attended the University of Georgia and Oxford. She studied classical languages and literature — training that has greatly informed her work. She’s lived in Athens, Greece, for the last 12 years.

Click here for more poems by Stallings and her recent conversation with Jeffrey Brown.

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