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.