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
On a loop
An undone tongue
An unsung lung
By the acidic brew
But do you rue
The fate you stoop
In the tomato soup
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
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.
Ode on a Campbell Can
“Blood thou didst thirst for: take thy fill of blood.”
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.
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.
Here’s the real confessional:
I don’t even like tomato soup that much.
It probably wouldn’t even make my top ten soups.
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.