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William Doreski

Tomatoes

Why were women called tomatoes
in the Thirties when depression
shrouded the rumpled continent?
We watch too many old movies,
their gray shades overlapping
and their dialogue too brittle

to ape in ordinary life.
The actors died so long ago
their photo-imagery has thinned
to one dimension, their contracts
expired in dusty sighs. Sporting
your tomato-red parka, you stalk

to the frozen river to watch
for eagles returning for spring.
Too early. The windy part of March
arrives tonight, banging trash cans
and snapping tree limbs to kill
the power and douse us in dark.

We might waste a day or two
with the generator whining
so loudly we can’t think aloud.
No one in old movies worries
about windstorms toppling trees
onto their sound-stage housing.

But in every film some chubby guy
in a bowler calls some woman
a tomato, and no one objects.
We wonder why that vinous fruit
rather than an orange, a squash,
a grape, apple, or cauliflower?

We don’t grow tomatoes anymore
because of the blight that rises
from the soil every year, a ghostly
infection that strips the plants
and leaves the bold fruit dangling
in a dismal world of decay.



Jardin des Plantes

Folded into an envelope,
you mailed yourself to Paris.
How lean you must have felt,

evading the global quarantine.
Roaming the fifth arrondissement
with your spider senses tingling,

you settle in the Jardin des Plantes
with croissant and a fistful
of latte to warm you while daylight

enrichens over limestone blocks
teeming with students too young
to have tasted the many pastels

painting you into this corner.
I’ll never hear from you again,
but expending yourself in books

in a language you’re just learning
numbed you to New York memories
perpendicular to everything

you believe about the course of life.
We couldn’t live together with
those verticals intersecting us

every time we stepped outside.
The restaurants swayed like shipwrecks.
The bookstores offered raw text

too dense for us to process.
No wonder you thinned to slip
between horizontal layers

and land with finances intact
in a far more flexible city.
Having finished your latte,

you roam among the Alpine plants,
a tangle of competing stems.
Already spring has so advanced

that pink and purple flowers
demand that you identify them.
You want to lie naked in the mat

of vegetation, but even
in Paris someone might notice,
and some officious gendarme

might refold and mail you back
to the city of shadows you left
to enjoy more primal dimensions.


William Doreski lives in Peterborough, New Hampshire. He has taught at several colleges and universities. His most recent book of poetry is Mist in Their Eyes (2021).  He has published three critical studies, including Robert Lowell’s Shifting Colors.  His essays, poetry, fiction, and reviews have appeared in various journals.


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