the one thing - Uncharted
The One Thing by Shari Green Voyage YA

the one thing

By Shari Green

the world is on fire and my mother

is planting tomatoes


we sit down to dinner—like a proper

family my mother says, even though

we are mismatched, even though

my so-called brother is rarely

proper; my step-dad turns on the tv news

scoops up beans, meat, corn

while catastrophes blare

from across the room, and I lose

my appetite


the world is on fire and yes, my mother

has planted tomatoes


after dinner I stumble from the table

fall into homework, head aching

from the strain of searching

for answers I can never find

in a textbook, and in the distance

the sounds of war scream

from our fifty inch flat-screen

and in the greater distance

the sounds of war scream

in someone’s backyard


on my knees

in the basement, pouring out

anger and fear and love for this world

onto neon poster board

with wide-tip Sharpies, praying

the only way I know how, clinging

to the wild hope that my voice

will be heard, that my words

will wend their way to the ears

and hearts of those in power


next day I take my sign, gather

with friends and strangers in a mass

of bodies and voices, hope

rising in cool morning air like mist

dissolving our despair; later

I tell my mother she should’ve come

tell her I could feel the power

of the people pulsing

through my veins, power

bigger than us all, as if justice

and mercy were oxygen

breathed in and bound

to molecules in my blood;

she tells me she stayed home

to tend the tomatoes


the world is on fire, and my mother

is obsessed with those damn tomatoes


weeks later, I’m on my knees again

Sharpie in hand, surrounded by the inky stench

of hope as I flee the horror served up

during last night’s dinner, determined

to do the one thing I can do

in the face of so much hate

and pain, and my mother comes downstairs

crosses to the cupboard

where she stores her preserves

takes two quart-jars of pasta sauce

another of salsa

to add to the basket

she’s filling for the man across the street

who lost his wife in a car wreck


the world is on fire, and my mother

is dousing the flames

with tomatoes

About the Author

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