Aunt Lou’s Underground Railroad Tomato



Reading through a heritage seed catalogue can be a bit like reading a Reader’s Digest of adventure and human interest stories. Take, for instance, the abbreviated tale of how one tomato variety came to be saved and how it got its name. Above is an excerpt from the Southern Exposure Seed Exchange catalogue that tells this tale. Below is the poem I wrote, prompted by this entry.

Aunt Lou’s Underground Railroad Tomato

So many acts of bravery lost
to history, but at what cost?
We concentrate on acts of war
in spite of what we fight them for.
Patriotism is what we say
we’re fighting for, while day by day
young men die for corporations
and win postmortem decorations
Their sacrifice of life much praised
so profit margins may be raised.

Consider, then, the other hero
whose decorations number zero.
This hero’s grave we’re loath to mark.
The soil above his grave is stark.
His collar bore no decoration,
His passing earned him no oration.
Unnamed, unlauded, he took a train
his life and freedom to regain––
pushed up from darkness like seeds to light,
by those engaged in a selfless fight
for fairness and equality.
One more man saved. One more man free.

Those who aided him also lost––
their names like ashes lightly tossed
to fertilize the soil wherein
small shafts push up where seeds have been.
Those seeds he carried his only fare,
passed to a woman who helped him there.

The fleshy meat––tangy and pink,
its juices running down the sink
a child stands over while eating it––
teeth tearing flesh, his face well lit
by sunlight streaming in the glass
where once a hand was seen to pass
a pocketful of tomato seed––
a humble gift born out of need
to somehow give a small bit back.
Those seeds he’d carried in his pack
saved now for posterity
by one man peacefully set free.

The Prompt: Spend some time looking at the names of heirloom plants, and write a poem that takes its inspiration from, or incorporates the name of, one or more of these garden rarities.

I think this poem is also appropriate for the WordPress daily prompt of Contrast.

11 thoughts on “Aunt Lou’s Underground Railroad Tomato

  1. hirundine608

    I too have some tomatoes similar to that. Also named an heirloom variety, though I doubt that they have that type of provenance? Still they are both delicious and plentiful when grown. How is it seed companies, consider they can improve? Cheers Jamie.


      1. hirundine608

        Not entirely sure? Might have been one of these? Pretty sure it was this company anyway. Bought in Nelson B.C. Through the local Farmer’s Supply. I now live Vancouver Island district of Victoria. Maybe next year for a garden? Depends on where I’m living then? Also whether i’m then married? Right now we’re engaged and she is an avid gardener. So, good chance we will. Cheers Jamie.
        I might have a picture on my website ? I think the header, cut them off? J.Later, if you really want to know? I can dig out a proper picture. J.


        1. lifelessons Post author

          No.. Just thought if you knew the name that I’d try to find the story of it. I’m not really a gardener, except for trees, succulents, flowers and bushes. I do have a pineapple that will be edible in a month or so. The third I’ve grown from plants. Your photo is beautiful.

          Liked by 1 person

  2. hirundine608

    Fairly sure it was the Genovese variety? They were huge and sweet. Best tomato I’ve ever grown, better than Sweet 100’s. Living in an apartment is a far cry from the gardens of mine in the past. Still at least the back is in good shape … and the knees. It will all work out I am sure. Cheers Jamie.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Pingback: NaPoWriMo – Day 4 – “The Truth In The Triviality” by David Ellis | toofulltowrite (I've started so I'll finish)

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