Every year we wait for the summer’s first tomato.
We lived in little sunshine with a thirst for tomato.
Not always red, often orange, black, even chartreuse,
swollen, almost ripe, then rain and a burst tomato.
No plant, however sturdy, can pour enough energy
into more than a few gorgeous, terse tomatoes.
Bred down from horse nettle and nightshade, their lineage
all poison, the sharp fruit bites back, a cursed tomato.
Halloween we’d squeal, toss sulfuric eggs, water-
balloons and a full rotten hearse-load of tomatoes.
I harvest to the very last. My tortured plants,
skeletal, hang by root in dark cellar. Worst tomatoes.
My Walks Were Often Barefoot
We were the only philosophers
the farm town could find.
The course, upper division and by
invitation, was in, we joked,
Applied Existentialism. Fidgety,
we shifted then slumped around
a seminar table in the tallest tower
above a black creek of sweet
shadow. The class project was to
save Professor Tiedeman’s life
or at least stall his suicide until
we met again. Three decades later,
true to his taunt, on credit he bought
a shotgun and returned to his hotel room,
and our incomplete became failure.
Outside, on the path between oak trees, in
the shade along the creek, the goal
of my amateur Socratic Dialectic
was sex, in whatever way she or he
or they might find me. I was in love
with Camus and Lorca and where
they kissed I was born their one child
by sunlight. My brief but lacey
etude with the beauty Melody
was clipped when she cleaved
to a better thinker given to birds
and Spinoza, her logic
like a lilting syllogism. Our study circle
was sure we knew nothing
because of dreams and then
we drank. Often in dreams.
A Golden Age. We were all alive.
Our Arts & Crafts always involved
swizzle sticks. We had no one to mind us.
Tiedeman recited the Scholastics,
chided the Stoics, and in
an Ad Nauseum churn,
an Eternal Return, we refuted
Heraclitus every Thursday
at four as we waded into the same
current, tepid as dirty
dishwater. A boy, I grew bored. Out
the high yet narrow windows,
too narrow to leap, but where I
could imagine walking out onto
the air, I watched, what? Light
dissolve into her grainy elements?
Light disrobe and lay her cold gown
upon the grey Sierra? I would never
remember how night ended, who
invited me over or in, or left the bed
John C. Morrison lives in Portland, Oregon. His first book, Heaven of the Moment, was a finalist for the Oregon Book Award in Poetry. His second book, Monkey Island, was recently published by Redbat Books. He teaches at the Attic Institute and is also an associate editor for the fabulist journal of literature, Phantom Drift.