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I may have moved to a condo in recent years, but I still have a wonderful little hanging pot of tomatoes on my back deck. I might have ventured into a few more things (I sometimes get a little carried away at greenhouses with visions–with little basis in reality– of myself as an urban gardener), but I had two visits from marauding raccoons in early summer and that made me wary of becoming too attractive of a food oasis.
In fact, my summer has been taking up with “growing” things: I taught a summer school class, full of lovely students, who were ready to engage with a big stack of books written by women that asked questions about our histories, our loves, and our futures. And I’ve been working with an all-campus team to think about how our college is going to grow into something new.
It all reminds me of this poem by Louise Glück–where the growing of tomatoes is a metaphor for all we risk in trying to cultivate things: all the joy, all the fear. The responsibility is huge, but the tomatoes taste all the more delicious because of it.
In your extended absence, you permit me
use of earth, anticipating
some return on investment. I must report
failure in my assignment, principally
regarding the tomato plants.
I think I should not be encouraged to grow
tomatoes. Or, if I am, you should withhold
the heavy rains, the cold nights that come
so often here, while other regions get
twelve weeks of summer. All this
belongs to you: on the other hand,
I planted the seeds, I watched the first shoots
like wings tearing the soil, and it was my heart
broken by the blight, the black spot so quickly
multiplying in the rows. I doubt
you have a heart, in our understanding of
that term. You who do not discriminate
between the dead and the living, who are, in consequence,
immune to foreshadowing, you may not know
how much terror we bear, the spotted leaf,
the red leaves of the maple falling
even in August, in early darkness: I am responsible
for these vines.