Fai passare due volte i pomodori
she tells me, connecting the heavy grinders of the food mill
with turquoise-ringed olive hands.
Dopo un po, passare la buccia di nuovo, poi buttala.
I nod and grunt, heaving against the weight
of another tray of tomatoes; sweat-damp, copper smeared.
I’ll leave you. Cri, buon lavoro.
The morning passes, in shaded relief from hammering sun
that tumbles through the walnut trees to the open door.
Deep pink flowers iridescent by the window
make me squint behind the screen,
tapped at by the brown hum of bees.
I wash tomatoes in solitude,
cut them in two;
sniff warily at soft ones –
Va bene –
sing along to the radio,
and smile at the soft, squelching pat
of pomodori, landing
one by one in the pentola.
Only a quarter hour gives rise
to the warm, round sugo smell
seeping into corners,
hollowing my hungry stomach;
Mangiamo la pasta al pranzo,
Then when the sugo cools, I’ll pass the skins.
The gratifying joy of oozing red pulp,
the perfume-fresh, warm smell
and emptied oranged skins snaking from the mill.
Poi passare due volte
and a chaos of crimson spatters
on my apron, my arms, the floor – white tiles, flecked red
and gold in juice
and I laugh as too-hot drops hit my calves and feet.
As I cut tomatoes, every summer,
leaning, gently aching, against the sink
I remember my anxious self in a younger year,
learning nouns – coltello, lavandino
transitives and verbs –
all for food; the language of cooking;
learning myself as tomatoes ripened, deepened, marinated,
learning what was enough – at the start of life.
Questioning certainties over hours
picking warm tomatoes until winter – then home:
to more questions.
It took till now
to learn the wisdom in patient cooking,
to learn what she told me with a bemused shrug;
this woman, questa Contadina –
her head stuffed like peppers
with literature, socialism, travel, four languages,
connecting them all to the supreme enough of a life
con le mane nella terra.
The gentle patience of sowing, growing, cutting, stewing
learning from bringing life forth,
growing children, reaping love,
taking your time,
wresting out each valuable drop of precious pomodor.
and take it home
to feed your whole life.
* Pass the tomato skins twice
* After a bit, pass them again, then throw them away
* Pasta for lunch, hey!
* This woman farmer
* With your hands in the earth
Chris Collins is a Morris dancing, shanty singing, narrowboating English teacher who writes. Previous publications include ‘One for Sorrow, Two for Joy’ (Enchanted Conversation 2019), ‘Beck in the Garden’ in From the Ashes (Animal Heart Press 2019) and ‘Out Damned Spot’ (Cephalopress 2020).