A fellow poet invited me to join a group of poets taking on the 30/30 poetry challenge for the month of April. That’s writing a poem a day for 30 days. Here’s my first in the series for April:

Early Boy Tomato (Alt. titled, Matt’s Wild Cherry)*

Early and determinate, you grew on me fast, fixed
On finding beauty the night before the solstice in June.
We guttled my homemade cole slaw out of the same dish
And I knew we were going to be fools when we finished;
You took root in my soils, amidst weeds, and intersilient,
Instead, you picked an heirloom hourglass, a bit too soon
Untrusting, feisty and resilient, I wanted the real you:
What seeds we planted that summer, to “come true”
The next growing season. I noted the telling signs
(Friends might call “red flags”) all your fine lines.
We ripened, sun-drenched and swam in the lakes.
You flowered my mind, diamantigerous and shiny
Fantasy floated like lily-pads hiding water snakes;
Braided and possessive, our stems became vines.

Now I’m not that unreal, glistening mermaid like I told you;
A gardener with tenacious gloves, how steadily I hold you.

At the local farm stand, where I worked one autumn,
No one wanted the so-called “tomato job,” a daily chore
Of sorting through the display bins, seeking slimy scum,
I’d ferret out the leaks, turn the big berries in the store,
Inspect the gorgeous orbs: meaty, firm, rutilant and ripe.
The customers’ main desire—perfection. I recalled my friend,
Ramah’s advice: “the flawed ones provide the most nutrition.”
If I shared this insight with a shopper, the discriminating type,
Wearing hip clothes and flawless make-up, she’d maybe listen,
Then say, “but this one is beautiful.” At each closing, the farmer
Invited me to take home an imperfect specimen. So I did,
But preferred a pint of plump cherry toms, popping each
Tiny tomato like a cinnamon fireball in my mouth. I savored
The sweet squirts against the inside of my cheek.

By the time you returned from two months away, you craved
My cooking: we grilled fajitas with homemade salsa; you split
Juicy red “maters,” as you call them, cilantro and lime. We slaved
Over soups and chowders, tossed salads with balsamic vinaigrette.
In the kitchen, you get sensual around all that’s aromatic: thyme (for love)
Fresh basil, rosewater in my hair, whatever’s simmering on the stove.
Your eroticism becomes automatic—the forceful fork and knife-play
To the surf-like sounds of the dishwasher, then we spoon at night.

Once the snow fell, we began to talk of a garden in spring: “let’s build
Raised beds,” you said, and then studied the almanac for planting dates.
You researched soils and nutrients; we don’t need the seavy plot tilled.
We talked of heights, rows and depth, whether to construct tall gates,
To keep out the deer. I visualized assorted herbs, potted tomatoes,
Bright pink ranunculus and tipsy cosmos; I mapped next summer’s
Garden on graph paper, suggested we plant clover somewhere
(To satiate the deer). Sometimes you allow my chaos, my whims.
I pictured your perfect angles atop the voluptuous slope of my yard.

You like a “fresh-from-the-garden” flavor, a truly Taurus nature,
Preferring cool climate, you are tactile, geometric, earthy and hard.
Rooted beneath your compulsive need to keep things in order,
Your wild Sicilian lineage, exotic sea-blue eyes, Italian-hot
Temper and sun-tolerant skin—next to my fair complexion,
Blondish curls, bulldozer-bossiness, and Scottish self-taught
Preservation, my drifty sense of direction, and cool ardor—
We make an intriguing hybrid and cultivate our best traits:
Our shared resolve survives any blight, the full moon fight,
Historic storms, and meddlesome wormlings.

Now I’m not that perfect “early girl” you wanted but I still nourish you.
If we endure the winter, we will make tenacious gardeners,
If we grow our own tomatoes, surely we will flourish, too.