Good Tomato

by Janice Northerns



She took the purity pledge (Sweet Baby Girl,
Super Snow White, Artic Rose),
fled the grasp of Big Beef and Better Boy
on a Southern Night and, baptized
in hydroponics, gleamed waxy
and vapid under a fluorescent gaze.
She was a good girl (Beauty Queen, Gum Drop,
Mighty Sweet, Sugar Plum, Pink Champagne),
a tidbit on the tip (Flaming Burst, Solar Flare,
Razzle Dazzle, Roman Candle)
of his tongue (Lucky Tiger, Top Gun,
Tough Boy, Sun King).
She was Plum, Pear, Grape, and Cherry,
because one thing is always like another—
like a wad of chewed-up gum, tasteless
and shriveled on the marriage vine
after she turned Early Girl
and gave it away too soon.
She was a Jezebel (Shady Lady,
Spitfire, Perfect Flame),
hot to the touch, steeped in dark earth,
sun-soaked, bright tang bursting
in the throat. A little dirt
on the tongue never hurt anyone.



Note: “Tomato” was a popular slang term for a female, c.1930s - 1950s.
Thinking about that, along with fascinating gendered names (Beauty Queen, Sugar Plum, Better Boy) of many tomato varieties, led to “Good Tomato.” Italicized terms are all names of tomato varieties.

As featured on
The Daily Gardener podcast:

Words inspired by the garden are the sweetest, most beautiful words of all.
Janice Northerns
Janice Northerns

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