The tomato plants I put in pots rather later than intended this year seem to be growing reasonably well. They are tall and leafy, although bushier than they should be, as I missed a few side shoots.
We don’t have a lot of space and, as I said, it was a bit late before I got my act together to buy seedlings, so there are only three of them: one Gardener’s Delight and two others, which the ironmongress couldn’t remember the names of. I reckoned we could just call them Tom I and Tom II, as they weren’t likely to answer anyway.
All of them are flowering. The blossoms are much bigger than those I would have expected for tomato plants, and for some reason they make me think of Little Weed. Perhaps the two nameless plants should have been Bill and Ben.
I haven’t seen many bees around the yard, so of course even healthy plants with flowers don’t guarantee a harvest.
So far only one of the fruits has set. It looks quite impressive in the photo, but is currently only about the size of a marrow fat pea. Even though this post is titled something to look forward to, I really am not at all convinced it will survive the vagaries of an English summer. Even if it grows to be big enough to pick, will there be any sunshine to help it ripen?
I don’t have many tomatoes in my poetry so, bearing in mind the inadequacies of the season, I have chosen to look back as well as forward: digging deep into my files, I’ve found an unpolished draft from sunnier climes, as well as a photo from the same location:
Straw frays from the brim of his ancient hat and he mumbles
the squat stub of a cheap cigar. I fall into step beside the donkey
whose mis-shapen paniers bulge with plastic demijohns
filled at the village fountain. We toss phrases back and forth
about the weather and agree: es lo que hay; complaining
never brought the rain. He says he’s seen it worse: the river dry,
the fuente running brown; we’ll cope again this year.
Walking my poems into shape each day, I keep pace as he rides
to the field alongside the olivar. He tells me that for 60 years
he’s tilled this same patch of earth and raised his annual pigs.
At the year’s turn, he rebuilds the pocilga‘s shanty roof and tacks
new nails into mud-spattered planks. When the sun climbs higher,
he follows the broad equine rump, guides the iron plough
back and forth, breaking heavy clods: this land holds no surprises.
He tethers the burra knee-deep in meadow flowers as he banks soil
over potato shoots or dibs in pepper and tomato seedlings, courgettes,
a melon or two… The land dries and the donkey grazes scrubby grass
in olive shade while he tends a low tangle of vegetables. Neighbours
bring windfalls para los guarros; they sit and gossip while el Zarzas
pulls a penknife from the pocket of old blue overalls and pares the fruit
or leans on the sty wall, scratching the broadening haunches with a stick.
Pumpkins and sandías swell and sprawl on their dusty bed
of straw-dry weeds. Two pigs fatten under the chestnut tree:
one for el Zarzas’ daughter, one to divide among los vecinos
who share their own land’s generosity. On the feast of the Virgin,
men gather in the olive grove with ropes and knives and metal pails;
a brazier’s lit, the donkey led down-wind. A sound of shouts,
and pig squeals shrill. Then silence. Thin smoke scarves into the air.