There is a sexual pleasure
in stripping the tomato
to a solo lime-green stalk,
razoring stray, opining
leaf suckers. I condemn
it to stand tall, not crawl.
No loafing the summer;
basking like a pharaoh,
drifting the magnetic sea
of timeless. This training
to tallness is my training.
I take my revenge on life,
handcuff it with tightness
to javelins of rusted rebar,
thrust into the unseen soil.
Ripe breasts, skinned flesh:
I bite with canine incisors;
rip into the seeded caves,
tumble into the vegetable,
and like a sick snow angel,
tangle myself in green vines.
But those spiny marauders everywhere,
bird-beaked rapists, sea urchins scouring
the reefs, scraping at life like old paint,
leaving a greenish snot on the bleached
sea-skeleton of a cocktail hallucination
of the lightning in life– hard to fathom
we let such beauty die—floral reefs,
starved of breath— now face jellyfish,
parachuting in, glutinous paratroopers,
bag ghosts drifting over the battlefield,
lording over our pitted phantasmagoria
Tom Paine’s poetry is upcoming or published in more than seventy international journals, including: The Nation, The Moth (Ireland), The Rialto (UK), New Contrast (South Africa), Poetry Salzburg (Austria), Bangalore Review (India), Volt, Vallum (Canada), Paris Lit Up (France), Glasgow Review of Books (Scotland), Blackbox Manifold (Cambridge), Fence, The Common, Epiphany, Green Mountain Review, Galway Review (Ireland), Forklift, Tinderbox, Hunger Mountain, Hotel Amerika, Hobart, Tampa Review and elsewhere.
Stories have been published in The New Yorker, Harper’s, Zoetrope, Boston Review, The New England Review, The O. Henry Awards and twice in the Pushcart Prize. His first collection, Scar Vegas (Harcourt), was a New York Times Notable Book of the Year and a Pen/Hemingway finalist. A graduate of Princeton and the Columbia MFA program, he is a professor in the MFA program at the University of New Hampshire.