Ripening – Raye Hendrix
That year, the first tomato
to ripen was useless at its peak:
deceptively red, life-swollen,
but within it, nothing—save
a bloody, worm-eaten pulp.
All summer I stayed in the sun
checking still-green tomatoes
for worms until my skin was close
to the hue I hoped they’d grow into,
until my hands, deep in the thick
of leaves, became fruits
on the vine, waiting to be worthy
of use. I learned to photosynthesize.
Learned to love the birdsong
and the rain, forgot I was not
a tomato, that I was able to let go—
didn’t have to wait for rot or
bug-hunger to take me first—and still
I clung to the stalk like a white-
knuckled lover, more fearful of releasing
than the distance to the ground.