Darcy Cummings


Trenton, 1944

All summer we’ve lived on the garden,
on canned goods and beans and broken cookies.
Now the tomato plants are eking out
their last green globes, and the garden
is buried in dry weeds. My mother has put away
her oils forever, covered the unfinished
clay figures with layers of damp canvas.
Along the edge of the hot day,
a cool breeze stirs. Come with me,
she calls, this is a good day to paint
kitchen chairs, a good day to weed the garden.
We are hiding in the hot garage, waiting until
the hard edge in her voice fades. We’ve built
a town, roads and stick houses in the sandy floor
that smells faintly of chickens and sick cats.
“Look what I’ve found,’ she cries, and slowly we leave
the dark stink. She is standing in the garden, holding
a glowing eggplant that was hidden in the weeds. It is
a sign, she says, too beautiful to eat. Only one, an omen.
She lifts the eggplant above her huge belly.
The afternoon light shines around her, in her red hair,
in the purple fruit. We know she can protect us
from the faint buzz of planes and submarines
off the New Jersey coast. We are safe because
she is in her garden holding this eggplant. See how it glows,
she says. How beautiful, like love, like a shining
magnificent bruise. We laugh uncertainly,
crowding around her. I touch the purply-black
surface and a small hand rises from the center of
the egg. She sets it down in a nest of weeds.
“Sit down,” she says, “We will paint it.”
She brings pastels and paint and spills them
on the ground. The pastels smudge our damp hands.
Tomorrow we will paint the chairs, but now,
she says, we will look at the eggplant, we will
paint this sign. It glows as if all the reds
and blues and greens of a hundred jars
of stewed tomatoes, chili and picalilli,
her summer labor, are concentrated in one place.
She touches us each lightly with her brush,
one two three four, then squeezes the first
slash of color on her palette, pulling all
the light of Trenton down on us.

Darcy Cummings’s poems have appeared in journals in the United States and England, including Poetry Northwest, Journal of New Jersey Poets, Carolina Quarterly, Negative Capability,  and Timber Creek Review. Her chapbook, Singing A Mass For The Dead was published in 1996. Her book, The Artist As Alice: From A Photographer’s Life won the Bright Hills Press book competition, and was published in September, 2006. Cummings has received fellowships from the New Jersey State Council on the Arts, Yaddo, the Virginia Center for the Arts, and the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation. She teaches writing for the Critical Writing Program at the University of Pennsylvania, for the New Jersey Writers Project, and for the Visual Poetry Program of The Public Arts Project at Rutgers University in Camden.

Published in: on April 14, 2007 at 10:29 am  Comments (2)  

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2 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Darcy, Absolutely wonderful.

  2. Darcy, Loved both the poem and your reading – I could close my eyes and visualize the picture painted by your beautiful poem.

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