American Life in Poetry: Column 495


We’re at the end of the gardening season here on the Great Plains, and the garden described in this poem by Karina Borowicz, who lives in Massachusetts, is familiar to tomato fanciers all across the country.

September Tomatoes

The whiskey stink of rot has settled
in the garden, and a burst of fruit flies rises
when I touch the dying tomato plants.

Still, the claws of tiny yellow blossoms
flail in the air as I pull the vines up by the roots
and toss them in the compost.

It feels cruel. Something in me isn’t ready
to let go of summer so easily. To destroy
what I’ve carefully cultivated all these months.
Those pale flowers might still have time to fruit.

My great-grandmother sang with the girls of her village
as they pulled the flax. Songs so old
and so tied to the season that the very sound
seemed to turn the weather.

We do not accept unsolicited submissions. American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation (, publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Poem copyright © 2013 by Karina Borowicz, whose most recent book of poems is Proof (Codhill Press, 2014). Poem first appeared in the journal ECOTONE and is reprinted by permission of Karina Borowicz and the publisher Introduction copyright © 2016 by The Poetry Foundation. The introduction's author, Ted Kooser, served as United States Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 2004-2006.