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Poetry from the Garden

Cherry Tomato, take one

the pop of skin–

a rush of sweet and sour
to your tongue

like when you bite
your ripe lip


Cherry Tomato, take two

the bite of sudden thunder
a skyful of rain—
sweet relief
tinged with the sour end
of blue skies


I love growing cherry tomatoes. I buy small plants in May, transfer them to large patio pots, and water them every day. For this small amount of work, the pay-off is huge. We get bite-sized red and yellow tomatoes for months. They never even make it into the salad because we eat them straight from the vine.

Before I wrote these poems, I went out to the yard and harvested all the cherry tomatoes I could find. I put them in a bowl next to my computer. I ate them one at a time, thinking: how do I describe the experience of eating one? How do I put a taste into words? I tried a bunch of different metaphors, including the two above. In the second version, I kept going back and forth between skyful and mouthful. Which version of the poem do you prefer? Which word–skyful or mouthful?

I’m happy to be back this week. I’ve missed celebrating Poetry Friday with all of you. Life and parenting has been a little too complicated and time consuming lately for me to blog as much as I’d like. While I was away I had a thought about the poems I post here. I think they’re kind of like sketches–they aren’t first drafts and they aren’t fully fleshed out and polished poems. They’re like the doodles you might find in the margins of someone’s biology notes. I’m not saying whose.

For more Poetry Friday fun, visit Amy at The Poem Farm.

Did you notice my new look? It’s all thanks to Gabe Seiden at Connect4Consulting. Thanks, Gabe!

27 replies
  1. Martha
    Martha says:

    Welcome back Elizabeth. You have been missed and I certainly hope that life and parenting issues are all good ones. Been there and done that as the cliche goes. Love your poems and we have a neighbor who kept us in cherry tomatoes all summer.

    • Liz Steinglass
      Liz Steinglass says:

      Thanks, Martha. Yes, generally all is well. It’s just going to be a very hectic year given the particular ages, interests, and needs of our three kids. We tell ourselves next year will be better and we should enjoy them while they are here.

  2. Amy Ludwig VanDerwater
    Amy Ludwig VanDerwater says:

    Your site looks great, and it’s so good to have you back! I love that we’re both on the tomato wavelength, and honestly it’s a tough call between “skyfull” and “mouthful” – I like each for different reasons. (Sorry not to be so helpful here – keep reading it aloud and you will know!) As everyone says, there really IS nothing like fresh tomatoes from the garden. “the bite of sudden thunder” – yeah. Happy Poetry Friday!

  3. jama
    jama says:

    Your site looks beautiful, Liz! I love imagining you with a bowl of cherry tomatoes beside your computer, trying to describe the sensation of eating one. The first take made my mouth water :).

    • Liz Steinglass
      Liz Steinglass says:

      I find it so helpful to do the thing or see the thing I’m writing about. I can travel there in my imagination, but I think direct experience is better.

  4. Bridget Magee
    Bridget Magee says:

    Love the new look of your site, Liz! I SO understand the complications and time consuming nature of life and parenting all too well. Sending you smooth sailing thoughts on both fronts. = )
    Your bowl of cherry tomatoes next to your computer puts the bowl of Peanut M&M’s next to mine to shame. “Take Two” of your poem is delightful – and a “mouthful of rain” is exactly what happens when your taste buds are met with the “bite of thunder”. Love it!

  5. Tabatha
    Tabatha says:

    I am impressed that you get a whole crop of cherry tomatoes from patio pots! Keeping some next to you and experimenting with how to describe them is a great idea. I like “take two” also, and I am vacillating between “skyful” and “mouthful,” possibly coming down on the “mouthful” side, but just barely!

  6. Linda Baie
    Linda Baie says:

    I do love your new look, the little pictures remind me of the poems you’ve written, Liz. I’m glad to see you back. I read your poem with both words, and see the dilemma; they’re both good! I don’t grow them, tomato worms scared me away a few years ago, but I certainly get them at the Farmer’s Market! Thanks for such a nice visit at your re-decorated blog!

  7. Keri Collins Lewis
    Keri Collins Lewis says:

    I love the cheery orange banner and intriguing collection of photos. Isn’t it fun to reinvent the way a blog looks? Have you ever tried “husk cherries” or “ground cherries”? They have a unique flavor and are fun to pop in your mouth!

  8. Joyce Ray
    Joyce Ray says:

    Liz, Aren’t cherry tomatoes the best? I like Take 2 with the extended metaphor of rain, thunder and blue skies. So I’d choose the word skyful, as you have. And I like that all of those images helped create those delicioius bites!

  9. Heidi
    Heidi says:

    I love the new look, too, Liz, but I’m getting 2 rows of photos and having trouble seeing enough text. Wonder if that’s just my machine?

    I like both poems but the first is much more like it feels when I eat a cherry tomato–I get that delicious pang of bitten lip, a feeling of regret that the little tomato’s round perfection is sacrificed to my mouth’s enjoyment….

    Nice to have to back on Friday! (See how my Poetry Friday lasts all weekend? It’s how it is with all those pesky kids and their passions…and we chose them.)

  10. Michelle Heidenrich Barnes
    Michelle Heidenrich Barnes says:

    So, so late to this housewarming…er, blogwarming party. Love the new look! (If you haven’t already, you should tell Heidi she needs to make the window full screen in order to see a single row of photos. I had the same problem at first.) Your website now reminds me of a sunny, country kitchen. What a comfortable place to sit around and read poetry! I also love your fresh, margin-doodle approach. I like both versions of your poem, but can’t get over the first version’s comparison between the taut tomato skin and the ripe lip (brilliant!). In the second, I think I prefer mouthful because I know my salivary glands would be going full throttle. So nice to see you posting again, Liz!

  11. Laura Shovan
    Laura Shovan says:

    Hi, Liz. I love the blog makeover. Looking sharp! Your poem made me miss the days when we had a backyard garden. There’s nothing better than sun-warmed cherry tomatoes, right off the plant.


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