Alysa Salzberg

Alysa Salzberg
Paris, France
December 31
Writer, copy editor, translator, travel planner. Head servant to my cat.
A reader, a writer, a fingernail biter, a cat person, a traveller, a cookie inhaler, an immigrant, a dreamer. …And now, self-employed! If you like my blog and if you're looking for sparkling writing, painstaking proofreading, nimble French-English translation, or personalized travel planning, feel free to check out


Alysa Salzberg's Links

AUGUST 28, 2010 7:54PM

Weekend Tomatoes

Rate: 5 Flag

This post is totally off-topic, no political rallies or dust-ups here, just a little creative writing.  

My blog's title mentions fiction, which is a very dear part of my existence (if you'd like to check out my short stories, and/or have a look at Beguile, the literary ezine I've founded, please scroll down the left-hand column for the links).  So here's a short, hopefully tolerable piece I wrote a few years back.

Actually, the more I think of it, it's not really fiction, just a description in free verse, I guess.

About ten years ago, I was inspired by some cherry tomatoes in a salad someone was eating at a table near mine.  

Recently, under totally unrelated circumstances, I discovered Pablo Neruda's gorgeous and far superior poem on the same subject (tomatoes, not staring at people eating salads...though who knows what Neruda did when he wasn't writing marvellous poetry).  

 Here's Pablo Neruda's poem "Oda al tomate" in English:

 Here is Neruda's "Oda al tomate" in the original Spanish:

As for my own work, if you're inclined to read it after I've referenced such an amazing piece, here it is.  I apologize in advance for the clumsy title, but since it's old, I feel bad changing it.  There are other things I'd like to change, but I'd feel bad changing them now, as well.


Tomatoes in a Girl’s Salad in the  Dining Hall

               Red and bedecked with glistening stars shining burning calling out loudly amid lettuce fronds and the sounds of a million people laughing  Some are dry and dully glowing like a starburst jewel in a lady’s ring  If red could sing you’d sing redness you’d tell me how you’ve drawn stars down from the heavens  Such a dream of fruit such a teetering between fruit and vegetable like looking in a mirror and seeing no reflection – or seeing it, but knowing your real body is different

How lovingly did the cafeteria worker’s gloved hands touch you, how lovingly can my eyes gaze upon you now as you sing and blaze bravely, about to be devoured

by a girl

who never

                   looked at you twice

 And the water's all drawn inside you  
    and mingles with acid like blood in
the mouth every puncture of the fork a four-speared torture, 
you are the victim of the primal drive to eat, to
fill something….
                             …but we’ll never catch the light of the stars.

  © Alysa Salzberg 2010



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Hope these tomatoes are refreshing, for those of you in hot weather!
For those of you in hot weather, I hope these tomatoes are refreshing!
Definitely! glad to see you get into the spirit of Repost Saturday. Lots of us pull out old stuff, tweak it a bit if we want, then send it up again for a second wind. Nice read Alysa. How is Paris tonight? (delicious, bright and glittery... duh).
Hi Abby, thanks for reading and commenting, and for letting repost Saturday. Last night, Paris was cool and calm after a beautiful but mercifully not too hot sunny day. Everyone is returning from August vacation and I think people just want to relax before work Monday. Hope things are beautiful where you are, too.

Thanks Snoreville!
Oh my dear what a marvelous ode to one of my favorite fruits! The tomato really does seem to capture the glory of the Sun's benevolence in its luscious scarlet body, does it not?
I find it interesting that you both came to use star as an image in speaking of the tomato. That would not have occurred to me. But I liked it.

"by a girl who never looked at you twice"

Very cool transition. Very nice.
Monsieur Chariot(!!!) and Brassawe, You are both such kind gentlemen to read and respond.

Brassawe, it is strange the star thing. But I swear, if you look at cherry tomatoes in just the right light, the light reflects off them like stars.
heres some weird trivia/factoids/"strange but true" about the tomato that is not known by many. [am pretty sure it is not merely a legend. heard it from one of my teachers at school but havent seen any more substantial reference.] the new world settlers in north america, possibly the pilgrims, avoided tomatoes because they thought they were poisonous. one wonders if they would have been healthier and avoided some starvation if they included the tomatoes.
oh yeah, the teacher said they thought they were poisonous because of the "bright red color". I am not making this up. the teacher really did tell me this. anyone, feel free to prove me wrong, Im sure itd be very educational.
Hi vzn, from what I've learned, you're absolutely right. People in Europe were very wary about new-fangled New World vegetables. And not just the tomato: when they brought potatoes to France, the King knew the people would think they were poisonous. So he had his gardener set up a "special" potato plot that was heavily guarded. These delicious vegetables were for the king and the court's consumption. As planned, once the people saw how valued the potato seemed to be, they started stealing them from the plot (this I guess was sort of permitted, under the circumstances) and they began to discover and fall in love with the potato themselves.
Hmmm with Monsieur talking about lucious, scarlet bodies, I may need a cold shower. I love tomatos. I adore the color red, and I am absolutely mad about Pablo Neruda.

Thanks Alysa, for a Monday morning treat.