Sleeping with Tomatoes
by Wong May
I who won’t look at tomatoes
Now can’t look past tomatoes.
Tomatoes that taste of nothing much.
Now I say beware of tomatoes,
Those that taste
58 Chinese ‘nationals’ breathed
Their last with packed tomatoes
In a sealed van from Zeebrugge
You think in the dark the tomatoes
To ask, in the dark.
x58 in a van on a ferry
Travelled for better living conditions
“Dying to come abroad”,
xxxxxWith tomatoes for company—
xxxxxUntil the driver, amps up the radio—
Like a closet-smoker
It’s still 6 hours to Dover.
He needs sit back in the lounge, kill time.
When the sealed van opened
The living piled put
The living were tomatoes,
& the dead too.
700 crates, rank
by serried rank,
The awful lot of Man.
58 thought they arrived
xxxxxxxin the United Kingdom.
They don’t travel well,
They were deported
In a fish van.
xxxxxxxxxxxxTo be fair
It isn’t so long ago
They were burning people.
Now they deport bodies,
& burn furniture.
Just a few dead Latvians
On another P&O;
In Dover they burnt the Ikea flat-packs
xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxfor two days.
Burn furniture by all means!
Spare the van.
The van has a future.
xxxNow your tomatoes may
xxxxxxtaste Zambian, Romanian
xxxxxxxxxxxor of the Kurds
With a hint of coriander
:Chinese, as the case may be,
They know where the rest are heading
After this Extra/Extra-ordinary Rendition
xxxxxxxxxxxxxxto give just what you want
You who won’t look at tomatoes twice
See how they come, these
Moulded like chairs
xxxxxxxxRed/’wiped clean’ factory plastic,
xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxAs near odourless
xxxxxxxxxxxxxIn closed vans
xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxthe long haul, by sea
xxxxxxxx& land,xxxxself replicating
xxxxxxxxThese shall inherit your kitchen,
xxxxxxxxGrill them as they come
xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxThey are no different
xxxxxxxxFor the same difference
xxxxxxxx& you who couldn’t even begin to hear/to see
xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxStand by tomatoes you couldn’t now hide
I don’t pretend it’s either human
Just add flames,
(no added sugar)
These know your coming hither
xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxEven as your going hence.
xxxin time to taste of nothing again.
Reprinted with the publisher’s permission, “Sleeping with Tomatoes” is first published in Picasso’s Tears: Poems 1978 – 2013 by Wong May (Octopus Books, 2014).
Wong May was born in 1944 in Chungking, China. She was brought up in Singapore by her mother Wang Mei Chuang, a classical Chinese poet, who taught school & wrote short stories. After graduating from the University of Singapore, she joined The Writers Workshop, at University of Iowa in 1966. Harcourt Brace & World brought out her first book of poetry in 1969, followed by two other books in 1972 & 1978. In 1972 she was a visiting writer at the Literarisches Colloquium Berlin. She is married to an Irish physicist & has lived mainly in France & Ireland. They have two sons. Dublin has been her home since 1978.