Today I am returning to a theme I’ve often written about in previous posts: food and drink in poetry. I’ve mentioned my surprise at the relative scarcity of poems written on the subject. They may be few and far between, but occasionally you come across one that is exceptional and becomes an instant classic – like “This is just to say” by William Carlos Williams, which I cannot resist quoting, again, in full:
This is just to say
I have eaten
that were in
you were probably
they were delicious
and so cold
I’ve always loved tomatoes, and wondered if I could write a poem about them. I remember hearing an Italian pop song, a few years ago, that was called something like “The Tomato Song” and seemed – as far as I could gather, from my poor grasp of Italian – to be saying “Wouldn’t it be lovely if life were like a tomato”. Perhaps it was that song that first prompted me. Anyway, after many false starts and struggles along the way, here is my attempt at the subject:
Emissary of the blood-red sun.
It is compact, perfect, smiling within.
You must taste the music of encrimsoned
spheres; hear the juice fizzing through its veins.
Its rubicund flesh, its genial spirit,
spurns brutality. Bite it, like a barbarian,
and it bursts into violence; a spiteful
rebellion of spray, spatter and stain.
Place it, whole, in the mouth; the caged bars
of teeth cannot contain the uproar
of slivers and seeds. It imposes civility;
the clemency of cold steel. Slice it,
chop it into quarters, and it accedes
to its fate. Its lips peel back, revealing
Its vibrant vessels and capillaries;
Its valedictory seedy grin.