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Tomato High Priestess
Violet Nesdoly

She had her tomato liturgy memorized
knew by heart all the articles of faith
how you seeded them indoors
six weeks before the last frost
moved the neophytes into the garden 
when soil was warm, sunlight glorious.

She watered them religiously
from the bottom
and had her own ideology
of pruning and tying
sprawling and caging.
Her credo of cutworm collars 
assured them all salvation.

In the evening they had sweet communion.
As she picked plum, grape, and cherry 
their leaves and stems anointed
her hands and arms with their incense.
She fingered the fruits like rosary beads
before popping them into her mouth.

Already in August her kitchen 
was font and altar
for tomatoes and toast
tomatoes and cheese
tomato salad, tomato soup.

And how those nightshade fruits
those luscious love apples
answered the prayers
of an empty pantry
filling it with jars of canned tomatoes
bottles of ketchup, jugs of relish
stocking its freezer full of tomato sauce.

My mother was a superior 
tomato high priestess
though she never did
convert me to the faith.
I remain agnostic
after several heartbreaking 
summers of tomato blight. 

This poem first appeared in FellowScript (November 2011).
Used here with the author's permission.


Violet Nesdoly lives near Vancouver, B.C. When she's not working at various writing projects she enjoys reading and walking local nature trails with her husband, camera  in hand. Her poems have appeared in a variety of print and  online publications (Time of Singing, Prairie Messenger, Utmost Christian Writers and Your Daily Poem, among them). She has also published two books of poetry—Calendar (2004), Family Reunion (2007), and a novel, Destiny's Hands (2012).  Visit her on the web at



Post New Comment:
Thanks so much for these lovely comments. It's always an honor to be featured here at Your Daily Poem! May the rest of your summer and fall be full of tomatoes.
Posted 08/04/2013 09:17 AM
This was a delicious read and write. Well done! We have tomatoes (and a variety of other garden miracles) coming out of our ears, here in upstate NY.
Posted 08/03/2013 05:56 PM
"...the prayers of an empty pantry" it! All we grew this year is tomatoes and basil. The little tomatoes are just edible now with the large ones starting to redden near the bolting basil. Lovely poem!
Posted 08/03/2013 02:46 PM
Wilda Morris:
When I lived on an acre in Indiana, I planted oodles of tomatoes and made ketchup, tomato sauce, etc., and ate a lot of fresh home-grown tomatoes. I have a much smaller place now - and the weather hasn't cooperated the last few summers. I miss having a big harvest. Thanks for the memories, and the fine poem.
Posted 08/03/2013 01:28 PM
I call it 'wonderful'; looks like you had a great time playing with all of those marvelous words:) Judy
Posted 08/03/2013 12:01 PM
The last stanza (actually, since the lengths differ, I hear it can be called a paragraph) makes a perfect ending to this poem.
Posted 08/03/2013 08:57 AM
Wonderful, wonderful poem! Thank you.
Posted 08/03/2013 08:43 AM
I love this poem. I also love your Poet's Classroom column on Utmost Christian Writers website. Thanks for all of it!!
Posted 08/03/2013 08:36 AM
I depend on the Farmers Market but remember the days of old when Jersey Tomatoes were the size of two fists and the sweetness unequaled by anything I find today. Thanks for this delicious poem.
Posted 08/03/2013 05:56 AM
Oh, the shift in the last stanza, when "she" turns into your mom and you reveal your loss of faith! I am not quite agnostic, but I am rather casual in my faith. I left the tomato faith and went all basil for a couple of years because of blight. The "sweet communion" straight off the plant always brings me back!
Posted 08/03/2013 04:36 AM
Ross Kightly:
In my case, Dad was the grower and Mum did all the cooking and preserving - typical division of labour for a 1950s Australian household I think - lovely poem, this: thank you for the scent of tomato into today!
Posted 08/03/2013 04:25 AM

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