“Our Villainous Past” & “Blood Tomato” by Sara Renberg

Illustration of man taking photo of a woman in front of a house on fire

Our Villainous Past

First we learned that they were making a movie about our town
and then we discovered that we were the villains.
I piled the prawns into the back of the stew while you sat at the table,
your mouth set to the side. There it was, in the newspaper,
a description of the plot and a casting notice.
"I didn't think we did anything really bad," you said.
I said, “I think we did some bad things.”
A tomato fell to the floor.
"But not anything worse than anyone else," you said.
We agreed to show up at casting and see where our instincts led us.
I got a small non-speaking role as the postmaster
and you were cast as me.
Day after day I waited for my two scenes to be shot
while you spent hours practicing words that could destroy my reputation.
You became chummy with the other actors.
You started talking about "the industry"
and pulled the blender out of the cupboard.
I sweet-talked a PA into letting me see the dailies,
and that's when I realized this movie was going to be terrible,
and also that you were going to be famous.
Naturally, I set about seducing the actor playing you,
and when filming had wrapped,
all three of us moved to Los Angeles together,
where our villainous past grew in legend and stayed with us,
and served to make us interesting at parties.

Blood Tomato

I am waiting for the blood tomato to ripen
even though I know that it is poison, poison
from the night and poison from the shade.
Down by the cemetery is a BBQ truck.
I like to smell the brisket
when they're bringing in the caskets. I forgot
to tell you that I am sometimes a wolf.
I value disclosure.
On my dating profile it says, "I am a wolf, sometimes."
It says, "I know the blood tomato is poison."
There is a gap between acknowledgement and comprehension.
I say, “Can I bite you? It wouldn’t have to mean anything,”
and people always say it won't mean anything, the biting,
and I choose to take them at their word, but then they're bleeding
and it turns out there's meaning in that. For them.
In the cemetery, when all the trees and leaves are green, I forget
that most things are dead. It keeps: vinegar on the wind,
people taking sad walks on purpose. I know
there is meaning in the blood tomato. I’m still waiting.

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Sara Renberg is a Pittsburgh-based poet and musician.  Her poems have been featured in such places as Reality Beach, Poor Claudia Phenome, and SUSAN / the journal. Her third full length record is forthcoming in early 2021 on Antiquated Future Records.  She can be found online at sararenberg.com.

Nicole Rifkin is a Canadian American Illustrator. See more work at nicolerifkin.com.