TOMATO AND KNIFE
after the painting by Richard Diebenkorn
How easily the tomato obeys the knife’s command,
falling into ripe halves, unequal to the whole,
and the knife, once it’s tasted red flesh, is willing
to slice again this tomato holding onto its seeds.
The knife bleeds in the glass of water
rinsing away its sharp act.
What blade cleaved my parents’ marriage?
The sum of the parts of their union fell
into negative numbers, or so my mother
grew to think. The knife, sharply pointed.
Her anger clung to the blade.
The knife in that glass never came clean.
My mother is half of me. My mother is half
of my sister. Yet when our mother dies,
the halves we are will never equal her.
No matter how close we might get, she
will stand between us like a knife blade cleaving
our closeness as we fall into unequal halves.
My sister’s half, the ability to talk back,
to be direct, to discount. Mine, the ability
to be hurt effectively and efficiently. At least
this is what my sister tells me as she slices
the tomatoes for the salad of Thanksgiving.
She smiles. The tomato releases its seeds.
Juice runs down the blade.
—from Rattle #28, Winter 2007
Judi K. Beach: “In the ’60s I fell in love with John Donne’s passion and Hopkins’ delight in language. In the ’70s I read Gibran for his spiritual wisdom and Piercy for her relevance to my life. In the ’80s I was dumbfounded by the honesty of Sharon Olds and the way Billy Collins found revelation in the ordinary. In the ’90s I opened myself to what the Universe would have me write. Somehow, I want all that to collide in a poem. I’ll keep writing until it does.”