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Beneath The Dead Tomato Plants

When I was nine years old,
my father told me
that the old man next-door
was chopped up by an axe-wielding murderer
in his own back yard
and that after the dismemberment,
his mangled, lifeless hands were buried
beneath the dead tomato plants in winter.
I was gullible.
He also told me that bleeding, splintered fingers
would scratch their way out
from where they were interred
to crawl around darkened doors and windows
in search of the assailant.
I was going on ten,
slept with the lights on at night,
shaking inside the blankets and sheet-
I can still feel the earth move
right under my feet.

For my father, F. Sidney and in memory of
Old Man Sheridan, 1974.

16 Jan 14

Rated 9.5 (9.4) by 4 users.
Active (4): 10, 10
Inactive (18): 5, 7, 8, 8, 8, 9, 9, 9, 10, 10, 10, 10, 10, 10, 10, 10, 10, 10, 10, 10

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Mine too.
I like this starr. :)
My dad often told me true lies as well.
I wish I had a heart like yours <3
 — 9

i think you forgot 'an' in L4
wow, your dad is nuts. lol. but this is great.
i think it would end well at L16.

now i am picturing sweet little 9 yr old starr... :(
 — mandolyn

Hey Starr,
if you don't put "an" in, in line 4 it sounds like pigeon English if you get my drift
and it's wielding. Thank you for your open support the other day on my pigeon English effort - appreciated more than you realize. Your poems good and if my Dad did that to me I'd be scarred for life. I lived in a really old creepy house and I lived in constant fear of all sorts of evil shit - that would have been the end of me. Enjoyed it a lot. ~ Scott.
 — scottnoidea

Hey everybody!  Glad u like this!  9, you're soooo awesome and I think u have a beautiful heart already.  Mandee, thanks 4 the read.  I like what you're saying about ending it on L16, but don't u think it kinda stops abruptly if I were to do that?  I kinda like it tho.  Anyone else feel what Mandolyn's suggesting?  And scott, you're sooooo welcome.  I like your style a LOT.  Also, I've been scarred for life since my father told me this story.  I have all kinds of fears about death/dying.  Thanks, y'all!!!!  xo
 — starr

p.s.  I was writing this at 2 a.m., so thanks 4 catchin' the couple of minor missspells, etc..., guys.  :-)
 — starr

cool poem.
 — JKWeb

Thanks, JK.  Love u, buddy and Mandee, see what'cha think about the revision I made to the last two lines.  Hope u dig it.  I kinda do.  Love u2, sista!  
 — starr

i like the ending a lot better. :)
i just think it has a more powerful punch like that.
 — mandolyn

respectfully disagree with mandolyn 'bout the ending.  I liked it as was.  clever and I liked the rhyme bits.  jus' my 2 cents.
 — JKWeb

The ending you removed was the best part :(
 — 9

seriously, i know nothing about endings. i just personally like it ending at 16 without anything else but that is just me. :)
9 and web are probably right about the previous ending.
 — mandolyn

Thanks, guyz!  I went back per 9's and JK's hints that the original rhyming ending was better.  Thanks, too, Mandee tho!  :-)
 — starr

This is good
 — unknown

Thanks, unk.  Glad u dig it.  :-)
 — starr

Very fine poem, though I find it horrifying a father would do this to a little child. It has one foot in fury at your father, and the other in a kind of rueful forgiveness....at least that's how I read it.  Well done!
 — PatriciaSan

Thank you, Patricia!  Glad u like it.  Yup.  Fury & forgiveness, but to this day, I have a fear of death/dying.  I'm 50 now.  :-(
 — starr

Hah! Great little read :)
Nice to have such a huge world so well concentrated into high juice poetry.

When I was little, about 8 or 9, one of my favourite places to bird watch and wander about with no destination in mind .. was the sewage silage fields behind the sewage treatment plant a few miles from where I used to live.
It was a lot less security conscious back in those days, and it was a true haven for wildlife, like Badgers and Foxes, birds and wild flowers.

The reason I mention this is because it was also the place I used to gather and eat what I thought were wild tomatoes growing there.
I didn't really careless when I was told where those tomato seeds had 'come from'.

Those were the sweetest, tastiest tomatoes I had ever eaten :)
 — jenn

Jenn!  What a great story!  I used to have a fav'rite place in Salem!  The seawall that bordered the main street my street ran off of.  There's a huge power plant that looms over the inlet (the cove) and I'd sit there for hours on summer nights and just watch the power plant flashing its red lights at me, listening to the tides coming in/going out and of course savoring a spliff (joint.)  I LOVE your tomatoes!!!!  Thanks 4 reading, rating, commenting and sharing!  xo!
 — starr

Hey starr - yeh I know the kind of place you mean. There's a part of the west coast here that has a huge nuclear power plant very near the shore line. It's a bleak and windy place that I used to love visiting :)

I wonder, would you take a look at my new poem and tell me what you think? It's called The Salinger Profile :)
 — jenn

I have an attraction to bleak, stark places like you, Jenn, apparently!  And I aDORE your new poem btw!  It's BANGIN'!!!  :-)
 — starr

Not sure how necessary |9 is, but, you know, I loved this.
 — Virgil

Hey, VIRGIL!  Nice 2cu here!  Been AGES!  Glad u dig this and w/o L9, it would jsut read:  "buried under the dead."  What choo talkin' 'bout?  LOL!  :-)
 — starr

i want my big toe! i waaant my big toe.
 — zoso_obscene

You can have MINE, zoso!  ;-)
 — starr

all the way to Mexico.
 — zoso_obscene

Had to read this beautiful thing again starr <3
 — 9

Thanks, u guyz!  SO GLAD u like it, my fav'rite 9!  :-)
 — starr

You do a great job of describing to me a scene in your life.  But I am curious. I want to know more
about what the ten year old did with the story in making more story that was no longer your Dad's but now your invention. Include feelings (of the 10 year old). find imaginative ways to express what you wanted to do with those feelnigs....
 — whburling

Thanks for the read, WH.  What did I do with it after it was my father's story?  Good question.  Actually, it gave me an unrelenting fear of death/dying which is why in the last line, "I can still feel the earth move right under my feet."  My fathers' story also included a part where the body scratched its way out of the coffin, but it chilled me to even write about that part, so I let it go.  But yeah...it pretty much gave me a lot of anxiety (as a child) as well as an adult.  This is one of those childhood moments that you carry with you for your entire life and it never goes away.  I can add the coffin part in and see how it feels/looks/reads.  :-)
 — starr

i love this poem and i believe you may have had this posted some time ago because i seem to be remembering it.  anyway, it's really lovely, a backyard glimpse of childhood with a great narration.  

i have read this a few times and i still feel that the title could simply read "under the dead tomato plants".  the "in winter" feels like it's about to fall off anyway, and you could leave that part for the poem. ?

nice writing Starr, xo
 — jenakajoffer

Thanks, Jen!  I'm SO GLAD u like this.  I think you're thinking of "Old Man Sheridan," the poem whom this poem is further based upon.  I took off the "in winter," per your suggestion.  I love u, Dawgstess of my heart!  xo!
 — starr

wow, brilliant and creepy starry-man -- that could be an episode of serial-killer Arts series, Hannibal --
 — AlchemiA

LOL!  Thanks, Alch!  Glad u like it!  Yeah...pretty creepy!!!!  :-)
 — starr

Love the new title!!!

Tomato plants is so damn visual for me. I am in awe and love with your imagery here.
 — jenakajoffer

LOL!  You ROCK!!!  Quite honestly, I wrote this, the whole time thinking that it sucked and it's done amazingly well.  I haven't hit the Top Rated in AGES!  Love my dawgstress!  xo!
 — starr

. Lil bit clinical for me but I'm more afeared of nightshade. Tomatoes are a relative though.
 — bettalpha

Clinical?  Sob sob.  Sniff sniff.  :-(  Yeah...nightshade and tomatoes are buddies!  Thanks, bettalpha 4 checkin' it out!  :-)
 — starr

I really like this, but I am confused by L15 - "in search of an assailant." The assailant is the person who does the harm. So are they searching for the person who harmed them? If so, should the line be "in search of their assailant?" Or, are they in search of a victim - not the assailant. Otherwise, beautiful story.
 — poetofark

Thanks, poetofark, 4 checkin' this out!  Glad u like it!  I changed "an" to "the" in L15.  The fingers are searching for the one who chopped them off (the axe-murderer.)  Hope this helps clarify.  :-)
 — starr

The second paragraph was my favorite.

Well, the last paragraph was also very good.

The rest of it was not so good, in my opinion.

Yes, it looks like a lot of work went into the first paragraph. But, well, you know...
 — wolflarsen

Thanks, wolf.  Y'know...myself, I'm not a fan of this one.  Others are tho and it surprises me that it's still sittin' up here in the Top Rated for the past 6 months.  I think it kinda sucks.  Take care.  :-)
 — starr

not bad. your breaks are all wonky though. like line 2. why not on me? i think if you read it out loud to yourself, youd feel the ends better. words are good.
 — noodleman

Thanks, noodleman!  Tightened up the breaks throughout!  :-)
 — starr

I really liked this. The conversational tone is pleasant, and the language is rich and vivid without becoming verbose. The rhythm is almost perfect, apart from the completely unnecessary (in my opinion) double-description of the fingers (L10). "Bleeding" or "splintered" by themselves would do marvellouslyl; there is no need to use both.
 — akshatbhuta

akshatbhuta, thank u SO MUCH 4 your comments and 4 the suggestion.  I stuck with "splintered."  Take care!  <3
 — starr

 — aforbing

Yup. This is Starr's best poem that I've read for sure. It's also his longest I think xD
 — unknown