by Ruth Eisenberg
August again, the tomatoes are plump
and squirt with each bite.
In my kitchen, I measure redness
and think of Pop standing in the garden
with a salt shaker in one hand,
in the other, a tomato ready to split.
He needed no knife to split
that red skin. He would heft the plump
fruit with his hand,
polish it on his shirt, salt, then bite,
and seeds would spurt all over the garden.
In a ripe tomato there is redness
that nothing else can match. The redness
is not of the skin alone, for split
the fruit is just as red. In the garden
he grew beans too, and radishes, plump
as Christmas balls which he could not bite
when pulled. Instead he'd hand
them to Mom to wash. She'd hand
them back, their dark redness
shining, stems and roots cut, and he would bite
into their white sharpness, his teeth splitting
each radish leaving a plump
half moon. Back he'd go to the garden
the 8 by 20 victory garden
in which with his suburban hand
he grew vegetables. Plump
he'd bend over the weeds, redness
flooding his cheeks. We thought he'd split
his pants, but no. There was no bite
in him then, a joy of earth. No bite,
no malice. A business man in his garden
growing tomatoes 'til they all but split
their skins. He'd lift them with his hand
as they turned from green to pink to redness
that outshone the sunset. That red and so plump.
From such plump memories, I take nibbling bites
in ripe redness the best of my garden
fondled with time's hand, whole memories not to be split.