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.
This is a poem I wrote four years ago, reprinted for dVerse Poets Black History Month.
To see the prompt,,.. go HERE.