Plum Amazing

Last year I realized the delights of plums for the first time, thanks to the effervescent, generous, and utterly lovely Kristy Matherly of Sunrise Bakery. One morning Kristy added five of her mother-in-law Nancy's backyard plums to my regular Saturday cheese plate. Right there on Main Street, my lifelong plum apathy rolled over and died. Without knowing the first name of the small, red, perfectly sweet-tart fruits on my plate, I knew they were spectacular, and I knew they would grow well in Lexington.

Kristy called Nancy, and we learned their name: Methley. I started researching plums that afternoon, and earlier this year, The Gardener planted four young plum trees, including one Methley. The young'uns are flourishing in the cool, rainy 2013 weather.

Plum surprises continued this year. A week ago the London Ferrill Community Orchard's human grapevine reported "LOTS of plums in the Orchard." Oh yes, lots.

These are not Methley. Again, I don't know their first name. They are sweet, juicy to the literal bursting point, free for the taking. One four-year old tree holds hundreds of them. Lexingtonians: go to the London Ferrill Community Garden and Orchard space in the 200 block of E. Third. Look for the large tree with dark purple leaves near the E. Third entrance. Watch out for the hundreds of honeybees: I speak from pained experience.

As cherries make me think of D. H. Lawrence (more on that in my upcoming book), a plum poem runs in my head when I stand inside the branches of that laden tree or lean over the sink, careless of the brilliant juices. You know this poem, probably by heart: This Is Just To Say, by William Carlos Williams. Here's his voice on YouTube, reading all 18 seconds of it himself.

Like most readers, I always assumed Williams the person was the same as the "I" in his poem, the sensualist confessor who ate the sweet, cold, plums an unseen other was probably saving for breakfast. Wikipedia's entry on the poem, in addition to a fair amount of dry, English-major analysis of why the poem is a poem, suggests something entirely different. Williams may have made the poem from a note Florence, his wife, left for him. That changes things, a little, no? Makes a majestic jewel of a poem fresh again, even more interesting.

My English major self, once I discovered this poem, longed to enjoy plums—and all the great life of the senses they seemed to represent—as much as the persona in this poem surely had. And now I get my wish. I had to wait to taste real plums, grown nearby. No grocery store plums in my experience ever came close to poetic greatness. Now the plums I'm eating, and the ones I anticipate from our small trees, solve this intellectual puzzle.

Rona RobertsComment