Monday, December 19, 2005

secret language of tomatoes

This is a poem by Nicole Blackman. I keep thinking of it and thought I’d share. It seems like a fitting tribute to the beautiful mother, sister, and woman my mother was.

ALL WE HAVE


You grew sunflowers and swept up magnolia leaves on the patio. Left me notes on how long to roast the chicken. Made me a Batgirl costume for Halloween. Introduced me to Eloise and Bob Fosse. Took me on the Orient Express. Paid me a $5 allowance for the Sunday manicures and never said the polish slipped off when you did the dishes later. Stood by me when I decided to sue the Girl Scouts. Didn’t get upset when I was suspended for drinking vodka on a school trip, and never told Dad. Said the other kids were shit when they made me cry.


Here’s to the secret language of tomatoes.

Here’s to your leather boots that I wore in the snow and nearly ruined.

Here’s to the clippings we send each other, the same articles crossing each other in the mail, marked Did you see this?


You got the first phone calls. Mom, they don’t want me…Mom, he doesn’t love me enough… Mom, I just don’t know what to do… I could hear your voice twist over the phone as mine gave out, shredding like paper, my throat burning. Oh, I wish I was there right now… and we listened to each other breathe for a while. I still listen for your breath.


Here’s to the last-Christmas-present tears that the rest of the family will never understand.

Here’s to stealing the bathrobes from that hotel in Paris.

Here’s to the keeper of stories.


On those brazen summer nights when my father stormed the house and shouted You’re just like your mother, I always smiled with a secret glow. I have you in me. I always will. When I dressed up for a party, he would softly say You look just like your mother, and I floated out the door in bliss, wearing your skin.


Here’s to the jellybean hunts when you carried me in your arms because I was too small to find them on my own.

Here’s to the notes you leave for us in the boxes of Christmas ornaments in case you aren’t there for the next one.

Here’s to the aprons, the recipes, the sugar.


I was too small to remember your mother’s passing. At your father’s funeral you wrapped a black lace scarf around your head and said quietly I’m an orphan now and I held you close. We slept with a knife under the pillow, afraid of the black cars that waited on the street outside, watching the house. We counted the shadows on the wall where the stolen photographs used to hang. We drove home with anything precious strapped to the roof and as you finally slept on my shoulder, the cord gave way and the wood box crashed behind us, spitting stamps like snow across the highway. We picked up your father’s life in tears until the state police told us we had to stop, and led us away.


Here’s to I love you, I love you too, I love you three…

Here’s to the warm hands that lay down the dying.


I don’t want to burden you, I just don’t have anyone else to talk to. Last night was really bad. The doctor says it’s between two weeks and a few months, but no longer than six. He cries a lot. I’m getting myself ready. I’m going through the photographs with him and writing everyone’s names on the back. I’m trying to be gentle but I’ve got to get everything ready. He says he doesn’t want a funeral, he says he wants a party. He told me to leave him alone. that he’s busy dying. I’m trying to be strong.


Here’s to a late delivery. At nine months I could not leave you and stayed inside for one more. I have never been far from you since.


You once told me you hoped you’d be the first to go, that you could not bear to lose me. I thought I should go first, that I could not bear to lose you. Now I understand it differently. If I die first, you will be without parents, husband, child. If I die first, I know how cold your days will be, how long the nights. I love you enough to let you go first. I love you enough to bear the cold. I love you enough to be the last one. I love you enough to turn out the light. I love you enough. I love you enough.


I send this poem to tell you of my love. I send it to you on paper. I send it to you on air. It’s all we have.

1 comment:

inkandpen said...

Crying on my keyboard. If death is inevitable, a part of life, how come I find it so terrifying? Not my own, really, but anyone else's. Anyone I love.

Sending you hugs.