Tom Did Not Make It - Poem by Herbert Nehrlich
And it rained so much that Spring day
that all the angels did run out of tears.
Tom was a tiny little tomato plant,
a real runt, cute but with a hunchback,
a rough and tumble looking coat
of tiny hairs, white prematurely,
sprouting from the green stems of Roma.
It was his last chance, parched lips
and withered roots, curled up, in the open
were at their wits' end with worry,
'water' they cried, and a merciful God heard.
Hell it had been, sheer purgatory,
furnace-like Arizona desert winds,
bringing the occasional locust, dehydrated
and pale with fear, but ravenous and cruel
and Tom stood, like a lone soldier
as straight and sturdy as his condition allowed,
among the grasses and the lower class weeds.
Thistles mocked him over his spindly arms,
snails spat their slow-flying slime in disgust,
and male desert rats lifted fat and hairy legs
to spray and mark their territory, God, where are you?
And so Tom had toughend early, he was strong
and he had courage, passed on from the Grosse Lisses,
and he stood there, listening to the endless whine of those
who were really nothing, worthless in the end,
he was fed up and in his desperate struggle,
swaying on weak knees and leaning onto an oleander
for support and for friendship in this time of need.
And now the rain. It changed life as he knew it,
it chased humility into the spinifex valleys,
it woke up all those who had only prayed,
but had not believed, hope was a penalty to them,
and Tom stretched until his joints cracked,
he would survive, yes, the Gods had listened
and had been kind, he would never forget.
And when the rains ceased and only the few trees,
looking a bit worse for wear but upbeat as well,
allowed thousands of drops to roll off their leaves
little Tom, handsome and homely, a real tomato,
began to change, and he started singing softly,
only the tune had changed, it was a new melody,
fit for a new life and for a more fitting attitude.
His eyes swept across the greening landscape
and they loathed what they saw, all had blurred,
and a new clarity taken its place, a revelation.
Grasses and Herbs, Thistles and Weeds,
had tasted from the waters of cockiness,
and they had been poisoned for life, marked
and condemned to the death they had so narrowly
and so righteously and perhaps unknowingly
escaped, and that only by the grace of their Gods.
Tom now despised them and he pushed over,
with visciousness and pleasure the old Oleander,
who was, after all, a cripple no longer required,
he sneered at all those who had prayed with him,
stood with him on their own spindly legs,
he raised his chin to avoid their miserable faces,
yes, the sun was what he now needed, giver of life.
And thus it was that Tom fell asleep, with his chin,
that pedigreed square tomatochin, so colourful,
exposed to the full and fearful rays of the sun,
mind you all, the Arizona Sun, one like no other
and the sun did her best to help him grow in strength,
through photosynthesis and the rays of A, B and C.
And, when sunset came in the desert, it was beautiful
and hauntingly so, only Tom had burned to a crisp
and he never got to see it, and he never ever heard
what the thistles, the grasses and the weeds talked about,
when they looked over at Oleander who was on the mend
and when they talked about the handsome Tom, once their friend.
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