Hurricane & Old Tomatoes
by Laura Burkhart
Before this autumn wind
Even the shadows of the mountains
Shudder and tremble.
I wake to that kind of solemn sky
pale premonition of snow
low hanging clouds that brood
Like a prairie farmer kept too long
indoors by blizzards. Here
mynah birds order each other around
in preparation until all I hear
is wind that rattles even these
and I imagine the ocean
spitting waves onto the shore
watch them climb the rocks
spill over land to meet
water flooding from the sky.
This one called Douglas whips
branches from bamboo screams
through palm fronds fury forgets
the source of all its rage. Lest we take
for granted this fragile potent earth
it could sweep us off its surface
hand brushing a mosquito from its face.
Like a persistent toothache
in a dream the wind batters
rain into red Kohala earth
memory of volcano
the sun a distant past like the corner
of a first-grader’s drawing.
In Puna earlier this year
we walked to hot tubs heated
over steam vents and felt
the warmth of lava flowing
only three hundred feet
beneath our bare soles.
I’m saying that the earth is not
to be trifled with
that it can be a pressure cooker
left untended for too long
that it sends us these reminders
to recollect our place in the larger
scheme of time and space. Today
we are three little pigs
huddled in our huts of straw and sticks
hoping that the bricks will hold
praying for protection from our foolishness
while we embrace our human folly.
The vine wraps itself around my arm
while that aroma, Proustian,
carries me back to fall on the farm.
Where did she find the boxes to fill with
vine-ripened fruit, her back aching at the end
of the day and she, only in her twenties?
When she returned from birthing the youngest
the kitchen floor had sprouted a new pattern
of boxes spilled over with tomatoes
that cried for her care while waiting
for the juicer, Mason jars, canner, freezer,
and she, with none to give, burst into tears.
He told her she should be grateful for god’s
bounty, no acknowledgement of partnership
(her hard work, a nod from god). His mom
was right: he should have been a priest.
Decades later, the youngest with a garden
of her own, I water and pick ripe tomatoes
from only one plant. It’s all I need, even if
I include the dog who loves those cherry heirlooms.
This morning while bathed in that ancient
scent, it occurred to me that often she disliked
him. It was best they went their separate ways
before they made life worse for each other and
the children. Toward the end he’d crack
a beer at 10:00 am and stare at her
with puppy-dog eyes. Even though she
believed she was the cause—you’d drink too…
even then, young as she was
she let him be the martyr.