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Tomatoes

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After breakfast of coffee and slice tomatoes
– grinds on his shirt, seeds on his pants –
every day my father drives to the farm stand
where he cradles more of the fruit, each red cheek
plump with the weight of the summer sun,
diving the possible geysers of juice

held richly under the skin like oil (juice
of the earth). My father likes his tomatoes
absent of flesh, the insides turned into a sun-
spun pulp he drinks so fast he pants,
his blood sugar rising in a blush to his cheeks,
the fix almost more than his body can stand.

In our backyard in New Jersey, stands
of tomatoes, encouraged by the twin juices
of clouds and compost, blossomed – my mother’s cheeks
under praise. She raised five kinds of tomatoes,
three kids and two dogs until the husky, panting
on the lead line, dug holes to escape the sun

and exposed the roots of the plants, spelling sun-
down for the garden. My mother couldn’t stand
the waste and installed still-green fruit among the pants
and shirts in the utility room. Inhaling the juice
of spin-cycle, all autumn bleached tomatoes
jiggled in the pantry next to the Red Cheek

apple juice cartons; they danced cheek-to-cheek
with aloe plants on the windowsill, sun-
stained hardly at all by the winter light. Tomatoes,
by spring, had been brought to a stand-
still, fried green or cured whole in pickle juice
that could never be washed out of breath or pants.

Then, again, the season of short pants,
Fields of Big Boys and Beefsteaks. Cheeks
bright at the thought of fresh-squeezed juice,
my father sharpened sticks to plant under the sun
until my mother pointed him to the local stand.
“Who wants to come with me to buy tomatoes?”

he calls now, loosening his pants. His wife and son
give him the usual cheek, but I stand
with him, just as juiced for tomatoes.