She had her tomato liturgy memorized
knew by heart all the articles of faith
how you seeded them indoors
six weeks before the last frost
moved the neophytes into the garden
when soil was warm, sunlight glorious.
She watered them religiously
from the bottom
and had her own ideology
of pruning and tying
sprawling and caging.
Her credo of cutworm collars
assured them all salvation.
In the evening they had sweet communion.
As she picked plum, grape, and cherry
their leaves and stems anointed
her hands and arms with their incense.
She fingered the fruits like rosary beads
before popping them into her mouth.
Already in August her kitchen
was font and altar
for tomatoes and toast
tomatoes and cheese
tomato salad, tomato soup.
And how those nightshade fruits
those luscious love apples
answered the prayers
of an empty pantry
filling it with jars of canned tomatoes
bottles of ketchup, jugs of relish
stocking its freezer full of tomato sauce.
My mother was a superior
tomato high priestess
though she never did
convert me to the faith.
I remain agnostic
after several heartbreaking
summers of tomato blight.
This poem first appeared in FellowScript (November 2011).
Used here with the author's permission.