The Poet Longs for Summer Tomatoes
Phoebe Reeves
Tomatoes speak to us about fate—
whether it is to bush out
upright or tumble headlong over
whatever rises in front of you.

I always did prefer the tumblers,
their abstract sprawl
easily bent to my gardener’s plan,
the trellis, the stake, the tomato cage.

But let an escaped seed take root in the flowers
and the vine’s long fingers will feel
their way through the peonies, the pinks,
the geraniums, leaving clusters of yellow fruit

like trail markers in their wake. Now,
in the barren February garden, a few
frost-rotted vines remain like the stained
shreds of a lost party dress. I would

mortgage my inner ear, half the colors
of my sight, for one ripe August tomato,
plucked warm from the plant, brimming with sun
and earth and air, sweet-stinging acid on my tongue.

Hot house tomatoes inevitably fail to please,
unable to counterfeit the late summer
alchemy of long days and humid nights,
of sudden thunderstorms flinging new-set fruit

to the ground. I wish I had put some up,
canned or sauced, the way my grandmother would,
working in the hot, close kitchen
over pans of boiling water, to trap the season’s

taste in a jar, imprison the lush red textures
behind the glass and line them up in the root cellar where,
when she was gone, they remained, sentinels guarding
the memory of summer and her hands’ work.
Phoebe Reeves earned her MFA at Sarah Lawrence College, and now teaches English at the University of Cincinnati’s Clermont College in rural southern Ohio, where she advises East Fork: An Online Journal of the Arts. Her chapbook The Lobes and Petals of the Inanimate was published by Pecan Grove Press in 2009. Her poems have recently appeared in The Gettysburg Review, Hayden’s Ferry ReviewDrunken Boat, failbetter, and Memorious.


more by Phoebe Reeves:
The Poet Wrestles with Kale
The Poet Licks Salt Off the Corners of Her Mouth