Saturday, October 6, 2012

Poetics: seedSpilt of burstTomatoes

Nuyorican Poets, NYC

it's not the same if not summer
      but given the ingredients & implements
      you can find, this side of the after, a now in the soil,
      seeded with rain, a stone to suck, cutting the parch
      & make tomato sandwiches like my great uncle taught

first, fruits chosen with care, flesh firm, not hard,
     giving way in a squeeze, between finger and thumb,
     kiss the contours

with just the edge, let the blade do the work
cleave thick slabs---the width of one digit
     measured knuckle to knuckle, same as your great uncle,
     the summer spent in his shop---learning grain, honing wood
     learned manhood & watching dis'solution of life

     the smell of sawdust & machine oil,  gasoline,
     acid on my lips from eating too much, but
     that was all he asked for lunch, a last rite of waning

Toast the bread, smear mayo & salt, pepper to taste  
      & as his gums push through, the juice fills crevices
      in his chin & rewards a smile, un-dead & a twinkle
      his eyes behind glass, death losing another  

     day in the living, the bell out front the house
     i never heard ring, but keep an end table  
     that bears his initials like runes, same as my son   
     autumn turns & he's gone

Sit the porch, as summer sun fades & find peace    
     with his memory, a stone i keep
     under my tongue,  
     turn as fall comes

     & draw spit
     when water is sparse   

Over at dVerse Poets, Claudia has us contemplating food - fresh or in a recipe a and with all the things with my FIL this week, my thoughts have rang with death and thoughts of other men i have lost in life...this is my great uncle Lawrence whom I spent one of his last summers with, watching him & caring for...i usually write about him once a year or so...any way, go write your own food for thought and bring it at 3 PM EST.  

My FIL is home and on meds to help him heal now...

76 comments:

Claudia said...

am i first..? ha

Claudia said...

smiles...this is a beautiful piece..full of warmth and close relationship...love how you weave in the scents of machine oil...so close together...the work, eating the simple things (that are often the best anyway) and precious time spent with someone you love
(cool pic as well..cool perspective...but where are the poets...? smiles)

Dave King said...

Superb write. I love the style of the opening stanza, slightly teasing -- and then the warmth which Claudia mentions. So much in this took me back to my childhood and the things I was told then - and my grandad with the juice running down his chin. Thanks a lot for this.

Rene Foran said...

This is so jubilant, a lusty ode to the tomato. btw a Tom on toast over the kitchen sink is my own private wild heaven.

Grace said...

I like the weaving of summer you spent with your uncle, into autumn...the texture of food from the taste of tomato sandwich to machine oil...the touch of death lingers long

An interesting prompt as I have been writing about food poems ~ I am happy to read the update about your FIL ~

sonny said...

you can be in a hurry and yet you come up with this !
i have a book you know...its called a gift of water melon pickle...full of poetry...

ayala said...

Brian, I love this. Life..love and death. So hard to lose someone we love..great write..the end table that bears his initials same as your son...the stone under your tongue. FIL is home. Best wishes for his recovery.

RMP said...

I never understood the whole tomato sandwich, but then I don't care much for tomatoes (especially in the raw). a lovely memory you have here written within your recipe.

kaykuala said...

Make tomato sandwiches like my great uncle taught first, fruits chosen with care, flesh firm, not hard,giving way in a squeeze, between finger and thumb,kiss the contours

Just the way to choose a tomato. A tomato sandwich is food very apt for lunch. One can go without any other! Good to have a mentor when young. Nicely Brian!

Hank

izzy said...

Oh yummy Thanks! for the big bite! I had a steak and tomato not long ago- that squished out to fill all the crevices!
Yes longing around those gone now- and sitting on a porch in warm light, waning or otherwise! thanks again, glad
the week ended in healing. The Bell
does ring in the halls of memory tho
reminding us that we never really get very far from death-

manicddaily said...

Very pretty poignant poem. Tomatoes, gums, machine oil,, manhood, mayo, a lot of juices flowing and heart strings pulled. K.

Ps great prompt and, of course, great response to it.

King of New York Hacks said...

A salted tomato on toast...the cherished warm moments of yesteryear that find their way into our daily routines are what keeps the whole journey we're on that much more special...well versed and very moving my friend, wishing you the best for you and yours..cheers bro.

Mary said...

A touching write, Brian. So true, I think that certain foods remind us of certain experiences we have had with them and certain people with whom we have had these experiences. A touching write, Brian, about your great uncle.....and tomatoes...and more.

Daniel said...

Man, I do love a good tomato sandwich. Needs a slice of American cheese for completion! Hope your day is great.

thecourseofourseasons.com said...

Beautiful tribute to your uncle - wrapped in the sacred sharing of food - wonderful - so happy FIL is home - continued prayers for healing. K

Laurie Kolp said...

YUM... you really make my mouth water here... great times to cherish... so glad everything's somewhat OK with FIL.

Susan said...

"death losing another
day in the living"

I understand this from the years when my grandmother was approaching 103 and something--maybe good tea--lit her up in a smile. And she would talk about food she missed from her chair in the horrible home we put her in--quail (we think it was pigeon) and hard German bread.

So here, brilliant, the little stone--I used to have a jar labeled "sucking stones" through the garden's one last tomato to tell the son with the same initials about that wonderful uncle carpenter machinist who showed you the perfect way to carefully slaughter a tomato for the sandwich in the same place where he did the manlier things--but it's all one, isn't it? Simply do not limit life. Suck on the stone. Pass that on.

Syd said...

He must have been quite a fellow. A good remembrance to someone who meant so much to you.

Jenny said...

Brian, this is beautiful. We remember .....such a wonderful tribute to your uncle...glad your FIL is home and hopinh he fully recovers

Mama Zen said...

This is gorgeous, Brian. Really.

Pat Hatt said...

Glad all is well with your FIL
Certaintly a great verse you were able to draw
Food can surely be a reminder of things
For me of such woes in my wings haha

farawayinthesunshine said...

Great news about your Father-in-Law :-) I am praying for a quick recovery

...the juice fills crevices...
nothing compares with the tomatoe juices on your chin, especially when freshly picked from the garden on a late afternoon :-)

hedgewitch said...

The stone that is memory not always pleasant to suck on, but in this case it releases a sweetness of shared love and connection. Great to hear your FIL is home and best hopes that his treatment yields quick healing.

Dana Dampier said...

I love these types of poems... almost like tiny memoirs!

I'm so happy to hear your FIL is at home! I do hope he continues to heal.

Myrna R. said...

This is so tender. Nice to honor your uncle this way, with a gift of poetry, that may reach him even in death.

Glad FiL is home. Healing is easier there. Have a good week end Brian.

Sheila said...

enjoyed reading of your memories with your uncle. You seem to have had so many great role models when you were a child. I am jealous (smiles). Hey, I revised my snake charmer poem. If you have a chance let me know what you think. Thanks!

http://shewriting.wordpress.com/2012/10/05/another-funeral-poetry-the-snake-charmer

Hilary said...

A shared meal or recipe is a wonderful way to honour someone.. your connection with him. And what a mouth-watering way you chose.

Magpie said...

I am out of touch, but will read back to catch up on what has been happening with your FIL. Praying the healing comes quickly. This is a lovely tribute to your Uncle...I love tomato sandwiches also. I sometimes add a slice or two of avocado. :)

Susan Daniels said...

Wow, Brian--this is so powerful...draw spit when water is scarce--I like that. Wonderful memories of your great uncle, too. Enjoyed this.

Gloria said...

Love tomato sandwichs my favorite! lol
sounds delicious!!
Im happy your Father in law is better huggs to all of you especially to T!:)

Daydreamertoo said...

Precious memories Brian.
I love raw tomato sandwiches or fired tomatoes on toast but, hate ketchup and tomato soup... weird eh!
Your great uncle taught you well. You are a lovely man Brian Miller. :)
Chloe best (boy) friend is gay... lol But yes, he's a lovely kid and, he's a keeper. ;)

festivalking said...

If this were a competition Brian... I'd be hitting my head against a red hot stone by now! ... Awesome writing! :)

Steve E said...

Nothing is the same as summer, except summer--that means not next summer

...and cheating death by one more day, night, week, month, year...used to be scary for me, no longer so.

It is good for me to read about others' close, sometimes loving relationship. at young age with family. My closeness was with my horse (My Friend Flicka, book 1941) and "Lassie Come Home", my big purebred Collie.

Thanks to your Uncle from me--for he nurtured and left for us a great peep, a teacher in many ways other than in school.
Bye!

Soraya said...

Fantastic. I really liked the way you used part of a recipe at the beginning of each stanza to introduce a memory. Such a warm piece... I could taste the tomatoes. You write skillfully and with maximum impact. Excellent! :)

Who Is Afraid Of Miss Lovett? No, Mrs.Lovett... said...

"Sit the porch, as summer sun fades & find peace
with his memory, a stone i keep
under my tongue,
turn as fall comes

& draw spit
when water is sparse"


Hi! Brian...I like reading your poetic words this Saturday afternoon as you weave and interweave Claudia's prompt with thoughts [or memories] Of your great Uncle...[as you contemplated food in your poetic words.]

[personal note: You touch a human emotion with me...through your poetic words today.]
Tks, for sharing the image and I'm so happy to read these words:

"My FIL is home and on meds to help him heal now..."
deedee :)

John (@bookdreamer) said...

Its good to remember the men who shaped us in the silent ways not always noticed like woman's love

sm said...

beautifully written

Seasideauthor said...

Still! One of my favorites!
Such bad luck this year.
First try in 20 years,and
minimal harvest. I think I
will try again next year and
maybe from better seed.
Not 'Wally world'.Totally enjoyed your sandwich! And the ones from
the new markets I have found!
Thank you so much...

J Cosmo Newbery said...

A really interesting and complex work. Lots of memories.

Eva Gallant said...

I can almost taste that tomato sandwich!

Jan Mader said...

The way you used your senses to make your poem so rich was wonderful!

Leovi said...

Excellent poem, I love the method to choose fruits.

Glenn Buttkus said...

our garden is lousy with tomatoes this long sun-soaked year. I decided to make a toasted tomato sandwich, slicking the maters nice and thick, sprinkling salt on the fruit, slathering mayo on the toast, adding red onions to taste, but should have bibbed up since most of it splurished out on my shirt.

miso-happy said...

That was touching and raw. I like that about your writing, it's on the real. :) Great write, Brian

Alice Audrey said...

You remind me of my great great aunts. I used to chase a horse all over the pasture just so I could proudly ride up to their back fence to visit. They let me play with tiddly winks and Lincoln logs. Decades later, I still think of them.

Serena said...

This is a beautiful poem Brian, yet it made me feel a bit sad, kind of regretful. We grew up far from extended family so I have no experiences like this. You're very lucky. When I first read this I was blown away... your writing is marvelous.

Kristina said...

A good way to remember your uncle. I like "death losing a day to the living" or however it went. :)

hiroshimem.com said...

I loved it! Your "dis'solution of life" is brilliant. Interesting how food and life/death, and our memories of them, are interrelated. Very touching story, combined with vivid images (and taste!) of a tomato sandwich. Mmmmm.

lori mcclure said...

Love that first stanza, and this made me think of my Uncle Charles - one of the last of a dying breed of men, hardworking men who are impossible not to admire :)

Anonymous said...

I like the knuckle to knuckle just like my great uncle...cool! I was an adult before I liked tomatoes, yours is a right of passage. gardenlilie.com

Sharp Little Pencil said...

Brian, the stone under the tongue, I've done that... the tomatoes, the sensual slicing, Grandpa's gums getting through the layers. Such a sweet poem, so honest. Peace, Amy
http://sharplittlepencil.com/2012/10/04/little-lajwanti-lost-brothels-of-india/

jane hewey said...

this poem shows an older you. one who has written for decades on end. it is wonderful. deeply engaging and honed to a point.

Fred Rutherford said...

excellent piece Brian. Metaphor is amazing. Love that you organized it into recipe form. superbly done. Thanks

Madeleine Begun Kane said...

Delicious verse. Of course all your poems are tasty. :)

Valerie said...

How can I feel sad and happy at the same time, but I did feel both as I read this piece.

Beautiful.

Good news that your father in law is home... I hope his recovery is painless.

Nilanjana Bose said...

So poignant and tender and yet luminous with a quietly warm happiness....beautifully combined. Best wishes to you and family for your FIL, glad to hear he back home

Pam Rosep said...

This is laden with texture and warmth - associations from one realm to the other. It's a beautiful thing to read.

pandamoniumcat said...

Terrific poem I love how this comes together, you give us a real glimpse of your uncle, the simple things that make up the man. I really enjoyed this...one of your best!

Arian Tejano said...

I learned a lot from this poem. Quite an original work, Brian. Love it to bits!

Marbles in My Pocket said...

A touching and very vivid write, Brian. Drips with melancholy and tomato juice. Nice.

The Empress said...

What happened to your FIL, B?

I tried to look back through posts, must have missed a mention.

I hope he's all right ... he's the grandfather of little boys ...

Sending prayers, as we speak.

xo

CiCi said...

What a recipe! Wonderful.

Sabio Lantz said...

Your uncle is always your teacher, your friend -- yet another great tribute!

I finally figured out "FIL" -- may he heal up well!

Monkey Man said...

this reminds me of my gram, our time on her farm, tomatoe sandwhiches and all she taught me....brilliant piece miller :)

Raven said...

There is nothing like a tomato and mayo sandwich. That was good, but sharing the love that you had for your uncle, now that was a blessing. Thank you.

vivinfrance said...

Memories of food are bound up in the people and places of our past. I love the sound of your Great Uncle, and this is a wonderful tribute poem - to him and to the humble tomato sandwich.

PS Good news about your FIL.

my heart's love songs said...

this is one of my favorites, Brian! there is so much love coming through whenever you write about family. i'm happy to hear your FIL is home.

i just bought a big bunch of tomatoes on the vine ~ think i'll make a tomato sandwich. {smile}

Lydia said...

This makes me miss your uncle, a man I never knew. He was special, I can tell. And now I have his recipe! Yum.

(continued good thoughts for FIL as he heals at home)

Lydia said...

Forgot to say, Brian, that I adore everything about the title.

sage said...

A tribute to your uncle and to my favorite sandwich! Only I don't toast my bread and use Miracle Whip instead of mayo and add plenty of pepper

Tigerbrite said...

Lovely tribute to your uncle and homage to the wonderful tomato which I love:)

thejuliebook said...

More tomatoes! But mine were the sugary sweet ones; yours have that touch of acidity that makes them so enjoyable yet sometimes biting. Great write--great tribute to your uncle--great story for you to hold onto now that he's gone. Thanks for sharing--and for the visit!

Tara Miller said...

great write, my love! And a sweet way to honor your great uncle. And now I really want a tomato sandwich. ;)

Katherine Krige said...

I love the stories of your great uncle and his tomato sandwiches. You create such life in images so simple. Sometimes that is all that we have. Sometimes that is all that we need.

Katherine Krige said...

I love your tales about your great uncle and his tomato sandwiches. You create such a vibrant picture of life in the telling of them.

Sometimes that is all we have.

Sometimes that is all we need.

k

Jules said...

We come to certain memories, once a year...I like this...Tomato Sandwiches...I think that when times were tougher (more so than they are now) - one ate with delight what one had. (New) Jersey Beafstakes are the best tomatoes...they were anyway, very acidic. My Father-in-law (blessed be his memory)also loved tomato sandwiches. But then he also ate tomatoes like one would eat an apple.

Thanks for your visit...and nice comment. Pencils are still very much alive. :)