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TOMATOES & CUCUMBERS

Susan Smith Nash

 

 

The room is harsh, chlorine

soaking into our pores,

even into the tomatoes and cucumbers

I slice for you.  Your napkin tucked close,

you say nothing, and

the narrative we all know by heart

remains unspoken.  My eyes

search for you inside yourself.  You are not here.

 

Where do I put crepe-myrtle, wild rose,

day-lilies, and backyard chrysanthemums

in my little card-file of memories?

 

I weeded the bean plants,

you swept under the wringers.

You oiled the push lawnmower,

I searched for four-leaf clovers

in the shade of the porch.

 

My mother bought you a dryer for winter.

You drew water for me in a claw-footed tub.

I listened to roosters crow

and the dawn train rattle down the tracks.

 

Magic and sadness.

Grandmother, grandchild.

 

I don’t know why things are the way they are,

why I have to wear this façade of invulnerability,

why I grew out of my blue-gingham smocks, embroidered

with ducks, daisies, and deep blue sky,

and why you’re not here, even though

your hand pushes at the cucumber moons & tomato stars

I see floating on the delft blue plate.

 

Tonight the day fades all too slowly

accompanied by cicadas stuck in their husks

while figs burst open with seed and pulp.