Tomayto, Tomahto: Poetic Variations on a Cultivar

“This is perhaps the most noble aim of poetry, to attach ourselves to the world around us, to turn desire into love, to embrace, finally, what always evades us, what is beyond, but what is always there – the unspoken, the spirit, the soul.”

-Octavio Paz, The Other Voice: Essays on Modern Poetry

Poem I

Beep boop

Tomato soup


On a loop


Ottawa, 2020

Poem II

An undone tongue

An unsung lung

By the acidic brew

But do you rue

The fate you stoop

In the tomato soup


Ottawa, 2020

Poem III

               ubi sunt

Where are those who drank before us

From the gilt and ladled scoop

Their verdant busts

Entombed in rust

Withered apples of love

No noble broth

No songs of wroth

Mere shades of souls above

Like withered pageants, spectral troops

The splattered tomato soup


Ottawa, 2020

Poem IV

               To my Scarlet Lady

My mistress’ eyes are something like the fruit

That draws its blush from sundry fibrous roots

And many waters quench its faithful truth

Of dusk-chased lips that hide the tender tooth.

As long as men and chefs have mouths to speak

To taste her fresh and dewy dusted cheeks

The nightshade tang will only serve to shore

Her sun sweet fingers that I do adore.

But fetid time will hound her harvest grace

To strip the garden lustre of her face

My praise to wilt beneath autumnal sky

That bounteous dreams but bids my love to die.

As fresh-grown eyes do join the blighted group

My lovelorn tears will salt tomato soup.

Ottawa-upon-Rideau, 2020

Poem V

               Ode on a Campbell Can

“Blood thou didst thirst for: take thy fill of blood.”

-Dante, Purgatorio

Thou still-condensed ironclad of tart brew,

Thou attic urn of stewed ambrosial red,

What fled passion thy filigreed edges sing? 

What blended cultivar steeps thy stew?

What fonts are these? What seal embed

To gild thy bound betwixt the snow-rose inks?


Tasted soups are sweet, but those untasted

Are sweeter; therefore, fair Campbell, can on!

Wine-hued to the darkling gaze, free of stain

Upon the borders crisp. Logo pasted

Tight on metal sheer, caught by steely yawn

Of factory saw to rend the gourmet pane.


O happy tang, pledged by sans serif name!

Of tomato flushed with teeming summer rains,

Pureed in echo of thy poppy field

That flowers, frolics half thy stately frame.

But tin frame may rusted scent contain

To mark that crimson as bled veins congealed.


A bloodless taste the acid nectar soothes

Though full sanguine the can is to the eye.

Does dual soul tomato soup preserve

Or sight or tongue beguile the carmine truth?

Thy beauty truth, thy truth be fair—to spy

Thy tin-made curves is all I know on earth.


Ottawa, 1820+200

Poem VI


ruby bisque, clam chowder red,

minestrone upon the vine that drips

crème de tomates

upon my vanquished tongue;

these shades are scarlet—the occidental appetite

bleeds by degrees.

it is your orchard,

your conquistadorian pickings,

and my fugitive terrain.


you have your tomato soup;

I have mine:

西红柿蛋汤—persimmon of the west,

clear broth, translucent film,

the beaten egg—dropped like a vow,

an oath I make

to new world laws—

the yolk and albumen, now inseparable.

(in the old country—

in the old country—)

I am a hybrid seed,


hybrid and hungry.

are we shadows? opposites?

you see me in a flicker

of basil on your gazpacho.

you are the seaweed tangled in egg

dragging down to drown

a mingled, hybrid thing,

garnish of two bowls

or of none.


Ottawa, 2020



Here’s the real confessional:

I don’t even like tomato soup that much.

It probably wouldn’t even make my top ten soups.    


Ottawa, 2021

Wenying Wu

Wenying Wu is an aspiring playwright currently studying English, Literature and Critical Theory, and Computer Science at the University of Toronto. Her hobbies include committing grammatical infractions and abusing animal symbolism. She spends her free time theorizing how to romance ghosts, computers, and other inhuman entities.

Join our mailing list to receive the latest posts and updates from our Acta.

You have Successfully Subscribed!

Share This