Monday, June 29, 2009

Ode to Tomatoes - Pablo Neruda and Erica Jong, My Teachers

I wanted to write an ode to the Tomato, goddess of the garden, today after picking that blue bowl above almost full of them from my little garden, my first harvest. This is my first good crop of tomatoes in over 4 or 5 years, yes years! I don’t know why they did so well this year. It could be the four egg shells I put in the earth below each plant to ward off blossom drop, or it could be the saltwater spray I made and sprayed them with, which, according to my sister-in-law’s grandpa is a magic potion that both fertilizes and keeps bugs away.

Some have told me it’s because I planted Basil with my Tomatoes. I think the new soil and new spot may have helped because the old place I used to plant them had black spot disease in the soil. I like to attribute it to love and lots of water and good soil and me watering them, often, with my own salty tears.

I gave up writing my ode (well, I'll still write it, but later) when I remembered that the mighty poet, Pablo Neruda, had already written one and I could never touch the level of his genius. I also recalled that Erica Jong, whose writing turned me on to Neruda, loved to write about fruits and vegetables. It was her writing that taught me to write about the ‘ordinary’ things in my life.

So, humbly bowing in gratitude to these, my teachers, I post a quote by Ms. Jong, a site where many of her poems are posted which you can read at your leisure, and two beautiful masterpieces by Neruda, "Ode to Tomatoes" followed by his magnificent, untouchable "Poetry".

“If a woman wants to be a poet,
She must dwell in the house of the tomato.”
~Erica Jong, from ‘Fruits & Vegetables’

Happy Summer to you all! Blessings, ~Marion

Ode To Tomatoes
By Pablo Neruda

The street
filled with tomatoes,
light is
like a tomato,
its juice runs
through the streets.
In December, unabated,
the tomato
invades the kitchen,
it enters at lunchtime,
takes its ease
on countertops, among glasses,
butter dishes, blue salt cellars.
It sheds
its own light,
benign majesty.
Unfortunately, we must
murder it: the knife sinks
into living flesh,
red viscera a cool
sun, profound, inexhaustible,
populates the salads of Chile,
happily, it is wed
to the clear onion,
and to celebrate the union
we pour oil,
essential child of the olive,
onto its halved hemispheres,
pepper adds
its fragrance,
salt, its magnetism;
it is the wedding of the day,
parsley hoists its flag,
potatoes bubble vigorously,
the aroma of the roast
knocks at the door, it's time!
come on! and, on
the table, at the midpoint of summer,
the tomato,
star of earth, recurrent
and fertile star, displays
its convolutions,
its canals,
its remarkable amplitude
and abundance,
no pit, no husk, no leaves or thorns,
the tomato offers its gift
of fiery color
and cool completeness.


I can't even think of Neruda without this poem coming into my head. I've probably posted it many times before, but I never tire of reading it. Enjoy!

By Pablo Neruda

And it was at that age ... Poetry arrived
in search of me. I don't know, I don't know where
it came from, from winter or a river.
I don't know how or when,
no they were not voices, they were not
words, nor silence,
but from a street I was summoned,
from the branches of night,
abruptly from the others,
among violent fires
or returning alone,
there I was without a face
and it touched me.

I did not know what to say, my mouth
had no way
with names,
my eyes were blind,
and something started in my soul,
fever or forgotten wings,
and I made my own way,
deciphering that fire,
and I wrote the first faint line,
faint, without substance, pure
pure wisdom
of someone who knows nothing,
and suddenly I saw
the heavens
unfastened and open,
palpitating plantations,
shadow perforated,
with arrows, fire and flowers,
the winding night, the universe.
And I, infinitesimal being,
drunk with the great starry
likeness, image of
mystery, felt myself a pure part
of the abyss,
I wheeled with the stars,
my heart broke loose on the wind.



Kelly said...

I am SO jealous!!! Even our "round two" of plants is struggling! (we did do the eggshell thing. I'm starting to think it's the soil....)

Love the Neruda ode. The other is good, too, but I'm drawn more to the tomatoes. Must be the added visual. : )

Marion said...

I knew you would be, Kelly. When I read in my research that black spot stays in the soil for years and years, I just had Ray till me up a new little garden in a place where I'd never grown any veggies. I'm sure that's part of the success. I've got to find out a way to get that black spot mess out of my soil. It even killed my Oleander bush!!!

Thanks for stopping by and I'm glad you enjoyed the Ode to Tomatoes!

Rikkij said...

Marion-I always feel like such an outsider on tomato posts as, (gulp) I don't like em. I like ketchup does that count and Neruda! and Cat stevens. but maybe Guy Clark's Home grown tomatoes would have been the more appropriate tune.Oh! and I like you and your posts! ~rick

Marion said...

Rick, I'm shocked!! You don't like tomatoes??! LOL! Thank God you don't.

You've probably saved yourself countless thousands of dollars from trying to grow them! Once you eat a homegrown tomato, you just cannot eat those plastic-tasting ones from the supermarket. At our house, eating the first homegrown tomatoe is akin to a religious experience.

I grew up on a farm and well, I've spent my life growing 'maters. In fact, one year we planted 50 plants. We lived on Lake Bistineau where I got pregnant with my 2nd daughter (it was the real tin roof on that ratty cabin by the lake that knocked me up---) but anyway, we had one of those pumps you toss in the lake and it pumped water to our garden. I was like Forrest Gump. I made tomato sauce, ketchup, spaghetti sauce, hot sauce---you name it! It was hilarious. I went off them for a few years after that, but it didn't last. It's an addiction...incurable.

Glad you did enjoy the tunes. I like you, too, buddy. I'll have to check out Guy Clark's song. His name doesn't ring a bell. Blessings!!!

Pam said...

LOVE the photos! I can't believe you haven't let me borrow your garden yet!!! :(

Also love the poems!

Can't imagine not liking tomatoes.

Marion said...

Hey, Pammie! I hope you're feeling better. I have a blog friend in Australia (Delwyn) who is wearing a moonboot, too.

You can come over any time and borrow the garden. I was OVERJOYED to get RAIN today---finally after almost two months! We got a real thunderstorm this afternoon. I stripped down in the backyard and did a joyful rain dance. It felt amazing!!!

Glad you enjoyed the poems.

Rikkij said...

see, Marion-I'll catch hell now like crazy for not liking em! This is the link (I think) to you tube. I can't actually you tube-only link and wish. (dial up)
There seems to be several variations if this one don't work. I'm sure you'll love it. Guy Clark is oh so cool! ~rick

Marion said...

Dear Lord, I don't know when I've enjoyed a song so much, Rick. Thanks for turning me on to it! I added his CD to my Amazon Wish List so my progeny can buy it for me for my birthday next month. LOL! It's gonna be my new Summer Theme Song. I'll post the lyrics here:

Homegrown Tomatoes
by Guy Clark

Ain't nothin' in the world that I like better
Than bacon & lettuce & homegrown tomatoes
Up in the mornin' out in the garden

Get you a ripe one, don't get a hard one
Plant `em in the spring eat `em in the summer
All winter with out `em's a culinary bummer
I forget all about the sweatin' & diggin'
Everytime I go out & pick me a big one

Homegrown tomatoes, homegrown tomatoes
What'd life be without homegrown tomatoes
Only two things that money can't buy
That's true love & homegrown tomatoes

You can go out to eat & that's for sure
But it's nothin' a homegrown tomato won't cure
Put `em in a salad, put `em in a stew
You can make your very own tomato juice
Eat `em with egss, eat `em with gravy
Eat `em with beans, pinto or navy
Put `em on the site put `em in the middle
Put a homegrown tomato on a hotcake griddle

If I's to change this life I lead
I'd be Johnny Tomato Seed
`Cause I know what this country needs
Homegrown tomatoes in every yard you see
When I die don't bury me
In a box in a cemetery
Out in the garden would be much better
I could be pushin' up homegrown tomatoes.

Delwyn said...

Hi Marion

I am planning on buying my first Pablo Neruda collection - can you suggest which title I should go with?

Thanks for a tomatoey day


Happy Days

Margaret Pangert said...

Neruda's tomatoes are unlawfully lascivious! and yours are the crowning glory. Then there's Allen Ginsberg's stroll throuth "A Supermarket in Califoria": "What peaches and what penumbras! Whole families shopping at night! Aisles full of husbands! Wives in the avocados, babies in the tomatoes!--and you, Garcia Lorca, what were you doing down by the watermelons?"

Rikkij said...

Marion- so glad you liked it. Yep- a real garden song that almost makes me like the suckers! ~rick

Marion said...

Delywn, I have several of his small books of poems, but I highly recommend the one I go back to again and again: "Five Decades: Poems 1925 - 1970) translated by Ben Belitt. It's a bilingual edition with the Spanish poem on one side and the English on the other page, but most of his books are. I've actaully taught myself some Spanish with his poems! This one has 425 pages and comes in paperback. OH, y'all say tomaaaaaatoe like they do on Boston! I'll have to remember that. Of course, here in the deep South, we say eeeevveerythhhhing slooowwwww. It's the drawl. I think the heat & humidity makes us talk so slow! Blessings!

Margaret, I love every single poem you referenced and even have the books!!! (I keep a list on Excel and am up to almost 200 books of poetry, my treasures!!!) Thanks for the visit and the trip to the grocery!!! LOL!

Rick, yes, I'm ruint, but it was well worth it to discover such a super country singer. He's going on my 'new favorites' list!!

Woman in a Window said...

Marion, do you ever feel a convergence is afoot? I do.

I never heard of Neruda until this year. How is that even possible? I've always loved poetry and I was a lit major at University. And yet a special friend gifted him to me and I to another. And here you are with one of my favorites, the second, although the first is a slap the forehead perfection.

I'm so glad I've met you. Just thought I'd say so.

And what's up with rick NOT liking tomatoes? Sounds pretty peculiar to me.

Marion said...

Erin, I came to Neruda later in life, too, from reading Erica Jong, just like I said. (Hell, she was so popular with her book, "Fear of Flying" that it was years after I read it that I even knew she wrote poetry!

When I read "Poetry" by Neruda I fell instantly in love and began reading every word I could find he'd written. Those HOT Spaniards! Sigh.

Anais Nin comes to mind, too, with her hot self bopping old Henry Miller and all those sweet young things back in the 1930's.....she was so far ahead of her time!

Have you read her prose poem, "House of Incest"? It's a masterpiece, a wonder. And just for the record, it's about her being in love with HERSELF, not being abused (that's a whole 'nother story there). Here are the opening lines which always blow my mind:

"The morning I got up to begin this book I coughed. Something was coming out of my throat: it was strangling me. I broke the thread which held it and yanked it out. I went back to bed and said: I have just spat out my heart. There is an instrument called the quena made of human bones. It owes its origin to the worship of an Indian for his mistress. When she died he made a flute out of her bones. The quena has a more penetrating more haunting sound than the ordinary flute. Those who write know the process. I thought of it as I was spitting out my heart. Only I do not wait for my love to die." from: "House of Incest"

I think Rick has redeemed himself because, even though he doesn't like tomatoes, he DOES love a SONG about tomatoes. LMAO!!! You go, Rick!!!