Collaborative Close Readings
This poem strikes me as an example of the process many of us go through in accepting when bad things happen that feel out of our control. First, the speaker is angry, although the bitterness is slightly tempered by the pseudo-formal tone of the first part. Phrases like “In your extended absence” and “return on investment” sound dispassionate and businesslike, but the emotion behind the words is betrayed by phrases like “my heart broken” and “terror we bear” later in the poem. The speaker, at the beginning of the poem, is blaming the Creator for allowing her to plant tomatoes in an inhospitable climate. This reminds me of the denial of a teenager who, after crashing the car, blames the parents for allowing her to drive in the first place. It is an immature, yet human, reaction to taking on a responsibility and seeing it fail.
However, the speaker, who seems to view the Creator as omnipotent if not omnipresent, still acknowledges “on the other hand” all the things that she contributed to the process. She planted the seeds and watched them sprout, but was heartbroken at the first sign of a problem with the crop. She indicts the Creator for its indifference to life and death and its apathy in the face of clear signs that the plants won’t prosper. In the end, despite the anger and denial, she comes to the point where she can accept and proclaim that SHE in fact is responsible for “these vines.” Similarly, in times of adversity, many of us realize that after the anger and denial, the cursing of nature and chance, that we alone bear (and should accept) the responsibility for the actions we take and the seeds we plant.