Monday, March 15, 2010

Volunteers: Tomatoes















In January, using compost he had brought to Florida from Massachusetts, J. potted up a juniper plant and set it on the balcony. Today, three months later, he moved the pot from the floor to a table. He was clearing the decks to sweep.















Trailing out from under the armadillo's paw was a green fringe. Not Juniper. At first I thought it was a weed. I lifted the fringe and caught the pungent minty smell of tomato plants. The fringe, composed of at least a dozen and a half tomato shoots, had grown in the compost from a discarded tomato. With a small sharp spoon I pried it up in one clump. The leggy plants had been reaching for more sun.

I wish I had taken a picture of the tangled shoots. Stem, roots, leaves: all tangled. They grew from one small clot to which, on one side, clung a frail papery, pale brown skin. The skin of cherry tomato. Would the stems come apart? Taking care not to break them, I eased the stems away from each other. None wilted. I picked out the largest plants--about five inches long--and planted them up to the hilt. Tomatoes send out roots from the stem.















Some I saved in water.















The rest went into the compost container John will take to our allotment in the community garden.

If I had tried to sow tomato seeds, would they have sprouted so luxuriantly? I don't know. But I treasure these volunteers and will try to grow them on. They will come north with me in April in my carry-on bag.

Right now, after having had a stretch of poems, each quickly generating the next, I am waiting for another poem, waiting longer than I'd like. The tomato seedlings have been growing for two and a half months without any help from us, except water. We didn't know we were watering them. Some fragment--word, dream, memory--I've tossed away may sprout into a delicate fringy green with long white roots. Perhaps I should think of myself not as a poet but a rescuer of poems.

8 comments:

  1. ohhhh..so many of my favorite things in one post, mim.
    tomatoes, poetry, miracles...

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  2. Perhaps it's time for a tomato poem?

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  3. Thanks, Susan!

    T. Clear: I wrote a poem about the volunteer seedlings; the next poem may be about a tomato. I bet you have wonderful tomato recipes.

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  4. This post makes me ridiculously happy. Our landlord dug up our driveway and tomatoes spang up from the cracks for no apparent reason and they were the best tomatoes I ever didn't grow.
    xo

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  5. Sometimes everything is there already, even if one doesn't know it yet. Sometimes I remind myself on this, when I'm on the search for something. Then I hold my breath for a second, and listen very well and look around with aware eyes, and relax. Quite often the search has an end. You can relax and just wait until you're able to see; everything is just there.
    Mim, thanks for reminding me to mention from whom which picture is. I really feel bad that I forgot about it, and I feel shame about it!

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  6. Radish, I have high hopes for those seedlings; they have been resilient so far. The smallest ones have now been planted; I'll bring those back to Massachusetts.

    Smilla, not too worry. If I had made the New York Times, I'm sure I would have forgotten something.

    The volunteers are my green for St. Patrick's Day.

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  7. Translated from the Chinese: Human good things, it is necessary, such as sponges with water and firmly . . .

    Goodness in us as water in sponges.

    Philosopher Xi Zhu (born c. 1129)

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