When we first moved to the mountains, in this rural area, we were delighted to find a man who sold fresh tomatoes off his truck. He parked by the lake near our home. We loved tomatoes. Nearly every day we stopped and bought tomatoes from this man. We began to call him the tomato man. This poem was one of the first poems I wrote after moving here fifteen years ago. I entered the poem in the annual poetry contest sponsored by the Clay County Historical and Arts Council. To my delight, the poem won first place and I was asked to read it the night of the award ceremony.
Several years later, I was honored to be asked to judge this contest, and that night I read a number of my poems. I hope you enjoy this poem and let me know what you think.
Ruby tomatoes in small tan baskets
beg me to buy my lunch.
Overalled and raisin brown, he sits
slumped on the tailgate of a rusty red pickup,
his floppy hat a shade against the burning sun.
Will the two dollar baskets buy
groceries to take home to the waiting wife
who helped him pick the plump fruit?
Or will he go by Bernie's Quik Stop,
buy a six pack or two, and cigarettes
that stain his teeth, tar his lungs?
He thanks me for my business, but his faded
eyes belie a mind that's somewhere else.
Today takes care of today. Tomorrow
he'll be here again, the tomatoes
redder, softer, a few fresh ones
sprinkled in, to appeal to people
who smile, and speak,
From Now Mighty as Well be Then, Poetry by Glenda Council Beall,
published by Finishing Line Press, 2009