A Tomato, Like Love; Balm; Answered by Michael McFee

A Tomato, Like Love,


starts small, a fuzzy flimsy seedling
sneaky worms would secretly undercut.

You could almost miss its yellowish blossom
that becomes a fruit, hard and green at first,

slowly ripening in increasing light,
growing fuller and rounder and smoother.

A tangy air, not altogether pleasant,
and a certain prickliness surround it.

One day it simply falls into your hand,
that thin taut skin barely able to contain

the sticky red juice that wants to burst out
at the slightest pressure of the very tip

of knife or fingernail or tooth or tongue —
oh is its ending as it quickens your mouth,

both meat and drink, a garden miracle.
Nothing will ever taste quite so good again.





Suddenly, the long-prayed-for rain came, hard,
a cloudburst, a frogstrangler, a gullywasher:

I waited with a folded-up umbrella
at the front window for you to come home,

your power-washed little car pulling into
our driveway now a rapid downhill creek,

and hoped you’d wait for me to run barefoot
with my opened dome of taut black fabric

to cover you so we could squeeze ourselves
under its small shaky umbra of dryness

and dash through the squall dense as a waterfall
trying to drown us as we clutched each other,

soaking wet except for our upper bodies—
our chests, our necks, our chins, our parted lips.





His granny tried just about every balm to find some relief
from the rheumatiz—home-made turpentine or kerosene salve,
WD-40 rubbed into the stiff balky hinges of her joints,

store-bought camphor liniment, a pint of cider vinegar stirred
into a hot bath, steaming cayenne-pepper-soaked linens
wrapped around her like a shroud, to sweat the deep smart out,

remedies that never worked for very long because she still
hurt like tarnation and smelled like a gas station or locker room
as does her sore grandson who hated those rank perfumes

but now massages pungent ointment over muscles and bones
and likes it, the groans, the stink, the ripe ancestral glow,
anointing himself with analgesic gels and creams and unguents,

as if by smearing his body with the essence of fauna or flora
he could attain a state of greasy grace unvexed by human aches,
a balmy place where pain is finally soothed, warmed away.

Michael McFee
Michael McFee’s new book of poetry, his eighth full-length collection, is That Was Oasis (Carnegie Mellon University Press, January 2012). Other recent publications include the chapbook of one-line poems, The Smallest Talk (Bull City Press, 2007), and a collection of prose, The Napkin Manuscripts, Selected Essays and an Interview (University of Tennessee Press, 2006). He has taught in the Creative Writing Program at UNC-Chapel Hill for several decades.

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