Botany as Desire

A Tuesday in August, Katie brought bags
of bursting tomatoes from her mother’s
farm, ridged and blemished, pronounced too ugly
to be sold, so they came to our waiting
mouths. In the sun we cut thick slices, red
as raw hope, slathered cream cheese on crusty
bread, piled tomatoes high, salt and pepper
on top. Each bite, slices tumbled
back to familiar earth. Red
splashed our fingers, shirts. Katie told of sons,
red-headed, prodding the dirt between rows
of tall tomato plants. I envied them,
still at the age to discover that things
come forth from under our feet, a whole world
of mystery in dirt, black soil birthing
sweet, ugly tomatoes.


Lend me that shovel. I’ll dig a garden
here in October to winter the roots

you left behind. The taste of tomato, the basil
leaf on the deck at Fifth Street, nine-dollar

beers at Fenway in July, your scarred right
ear. Your hand claiming the small of my back

when we stood in line for coffee Sundays,
your Levis, India Quality

in Kenmore. The symphony in winter
and 11:30 walks. The children

we won’t have. I’ll dig the furrows deep,
straight, in the dirt where you are not. Trust

to the earth these last things, these only mine
things, and maybe by spring they’ll surprise me.

Unfold leaves and buds between my bare toes
this garden that won’t even smell like you.

Caroline Tanski edits, writes, and lives in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in burntdistrict, Noctua Review, and Knee Jerk. She earned her MFA from Chatham University and will soon beat a retreat to New England, where she was raised.