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  • Ellen K. Reichman

A Tomato Grows in Brooklyn

Updated: Jul 28, 2023

Originally published in Common Ground Review, Spring/Summer 2020 Vol. 22 issue 1

Rows of homes attached to one another

All Exactly the same,

Each with their own fenced in yard

My father planted one tree


Mostly there was cement

Adjacent to the tree

Was a scant bit of soil

Where by grandma attempted to grow tomatoes

From seeds


she walked down the wooden steps from our porch to the “garden”

using her cane to guide her.

the clothesline hung right over her head

Her black and white cat Shrimpie followed close behind

muted green housedress clung snugly to her round body

Zipper in front; big pockets

shmutz around the collar;

kerchief tied around her head

covering thin, silver spaghetti strands of hair

tied neatly in a bun.

handkerchief rolled up in her sleeve.

Glasses smudged and falling ever so slightly off her nose

Cheeks as smooth as porcelain

black wide heeled shoes and support stockings tied below her knees

when I closed my eyes at night

she came to me, the way an angel does

to comfort and lull me to sleep

Her words were garbled due to a lifetime of mini strokes and tumors on her brain;

One side of her face was paralyzed

couldn’t read or write

was it her Hungarian roots that made her so strong willed

Never understood how she knew how to care for those seedlings

Maybe she watered them just enough

Or sprinkled Shrimpie’s food as fertilizer

Or said some Hebrew prayer

Nothing ever grew;

She didn’t give up

one day

she carried up a tomato.

Red and ripe

followed by another day

and another tomato.

Pretty soon

they were bountiful

all different shapes and sizes.

Do we eat them or bronze them?

She still comes to me, the way an angel does

To comfort and lull me to sleep

What I wouldn’t do to be able to visit that yard, forty years after her passing

To capture and bask in her essence


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