Chapter 16
A Community of Tennessee Writers, Readers & Passersby

"17 Tomato Haiku"

John Egerton is an independent journalist and nonfiction author who lives in Nashville, Tennessee. His books include The Americanization of Dixie (1974), Generations (1983), Southern Food (1987), and Speak Now Against the Day (1994), for which he received the Robert F. Kennedy Book Award. His only work of fiction, Ali Dubyiah and the Forty Thieves, is a political satire.

17 Tomato Haiku


Organic mother,
Fill my senses to the top
With crimson goodness.

Beefsteak behemoth,
Cover my entire sandwich
With a single slice.

No other Bradley,
Not even Bill the hoopster,
Could ring my bell like this.

Bursting, sensuous,
Your beauty’s more than skin deep,
Drown me in your flesh.

Who’s the tomato?
She’s hot, no doubt about it;
Not a Better Girl.


Bacon, mayonnaise,
Lettuce, bread and kosher salt,
Tomato. Sublime.

For my last supper?
Tomatoes from the field, cooled,
With coarsely ground salt.

Three wishes, Genie?
Just so: Creativity,
Love—and Tomatoes.

July, you’re a woman,
Ergo, unfathomable.
Fire-engine red bliss.

Tight skin, red as fire.
Can’t keep my eyes off of you.
I worship your orbs.

Without tomato,
All sandwiches are feeble.
Kick it up a notch!

Not much to look at—
But any way you slice it,
Heirlooms are the best!


I’d give wealth, riches,
To have Tennessee home-grown
Tomatoes in March.

Tennessee Williams
Couldn’t hold a candle to
Tennessee Big Boys.

Were I a vegan,
Tomatoes would be my meat—
And my potatoes.

Tomato worship—
A Tennessee mainstream faith—
Called pagan elsewhere.

Forced to choose between
True love and ripe tomatoes—
Don’t push me that far.

Illustration credits, from top:
Untitled, by Billy Renkl, collage, 2009
Tomato Communion, by Lesley Patterson-Marx, acrylic ink and graphite on found photograph
Untitled, by Leslie Collum, pastel, 2009