Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Plums For Ingrid

Ripe and succulent, plums not only add beauty to a plate of fruit but also convey a spiritual sweetness. Marie-France's "Tendres Plums de Septembre" make the eye and tongue crave this sense of mellow satisfaction. I kept thinking about their flavor and also, a certain symbolism that arose from watching a television interview with Ingrid Betancourt,the woman who was held hostage in the Colombian Jungle for over six years.

While discussing her sub-human living conditions, she talked about the lack of fresh fruit, even the dream of tasting it. Upon her release, she resumed a normal life and frequented the produce aisles of the supermarket. She wanted to hold all sorts of fruit, taste their goodness and learn to appreciate the garden's miracle in a new way. This simple yet profound idea inspired my poem, Plums for Ingrid, along with this stunning painting.

My verse focuses on a freed woman standing in her own garden. The foliage wet and overwhelmingly green, reminds her of the rain forest, of her captivity in the jungle. She is disturbed by the memory yet recalls how a prayer to taste blue plums, to simply feel their sensation on her tongue, preserved her humanity. Her plea to The Virgin Mother, Our Lady of Guadalupe, strengthened her faith and resolve to survive with dignity and grace.


The leaves are still green, too green
and wet from the recent rain.
They remind her of the jungle's roof --

sharp light
falling through the trees
like machete blades
her captors held
and often threatened
to hone against her frail neck.

She longs for Autumn
to blush the garden ripe
with deep and soft colors.
The fruit on her table
partially grants this wish.
Plums, peaches and grapes
smell sweet; and when eating them,
she lets the juice seep
into her palms
as if it were a saint's blood,
rare and blessed.

Even the pits seem desirable,
stones to stone dreams
of too much rice and beans,
arroz y frijoles
served day after day
with the rattle of a padlock
and hunger itching more
than her insect bites.

While she ate, a rubber band
held her long hair in place,
and a prayer asking
to taste blue plums
kept her humanity intact,
tender -- - Our Lady of Guadalupe
sustaining her soul then
and now as the marble patroness
of her garden.
Note -- Arroz y frijoles is the Spanish term for "rice and beans", and serves here as an echo of painful drudgery each day of survival incurred.

This painting along with other beautiful works by artist, Marie-France Riviere can be seen at her website gallery, www.griviere.com/expo2000.

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