Seedlings

Behind the double glass in my south-facing windows, rows of cut-down milk cartons sit in trays on folding tables, full of dirt and small green sprouts, luxuriating in the indoor warmth, encouraged by increasing hours of light, already a garden in my mind. All leg and a few leaves, they lean toward the light and I turn the trays around every day, trying to keep them straight. There are far more tomato plants coming than I can use, but I couldn’t deny every seed in a packet its chance for growth and glory. Also, I am greedy for tomatoes.

And they have good names. Is that a career path, thinking up names for new plant varieties? There is Black Pearl, a dark and early cherry tomato that begs my fingers to steal it from the vine; Supersteak, bursting out of its big red cape to leak all over the bacon and lettuce in a sandwich; Mortgage Lifter, enormous, prolific, cash crop leader; Black Krim, out of Ukraine and suited to a short growing season. An entire sonnet cycle, or maybe a biography, lurks in the pages of the Burpee catalog, with so many more that I had no room for. Pablo Neruda has already written them an ode: the tomato, he says, “sheds its own light.”

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