House of the Tomato

If a woman wants to be a poet, she must dwell in the house of the tomato. -- Erica Jong

Regional website for the Wisconsin Fellowship of Poets, in partnership with the Reader's Loft.

GREEN BAY / NORTHEAST

Celebrating, sharing and inspiring poetry throughout Wisconsin.

Bath Night

Weird memories of my mother coming back... she was a wonderful, complicated and infuriating woman...

Bath Night

Mother helps us wrap our hair
in towels like Queens of Sheba.

She stomps the shag carpet in her pincurls
and drifting cigarette.

We half-dry.

Towels belong in the bathroom
or down the chute.

The clean scent of softener on our pajamas,
flouncy babydolls with elastic leg ruffles,
some slinky, newfangled fabric.

We tip over in a pile of girl
with our damp skin, legs and downy arms,
long necks with our hair pulled up.

Mother hands us hairbrushes,
watches us pull at our scalps.

Father, outnumbered, works late.

I know the patterns of both my sisters' tan lines,
their nipples neat as coins.

Our mother reads us One Eye, Two Eyes, and Three Eyes.
Two Eyes is supposed to be the heroine, but Three Eyes uncovers the truth.
Only two eyes close.
The third eye is curious.

"Vaginas need air," says our mother. Light's out.

We kick off our pajama bottoms,
feel the night air between our legs.

She kisses us goodnight,
glancing kisses with her dry lips.

She smells of Viceroy and Dippity-do.

We imagine the ecosystem of our private parts,
part eye, part channel to a hidden chamber.

Family Quilt

Tori- I was going thru an old notebook from 1998. saw some notes about this event, and wrote a completely new poem. I read an interview of Karla where she wanted to write a poem using the word 'Judder" -- I love that word-- so had to use it in a poem. That's not plagiarism--to use one word, is it?   Line, 3, Should I leave the word "scraps" in, or take it out? does it give the idea of blended family? Also 2nd to last line, I took out "of disapproval" and then put it back in. is it redundant (understood)  with the last line? keep? or not?

 

Death from diabetes and influenza
became the patchwork of Mimi-grandma’s life
with scraps of two families stitched together.
To make ends meet, she and her mother
sewed for sustenance. Hard work
pressed into the fabric of their days.

 For this second-hand life
her mother took in washing and mending
from two women who later shook their heads
and clicked their tongues
when Mimi said “yes” to marry their brother
fresh out of dental school.

 Moving to the better side of the tracks,
Mimi hemmed up a prosperous existence.
The spinster sisters-in-law
juddering their lavender heads of disapproval
looking down on the help.

Fork in the River

My great-grandparents lived in Little Suamico. Driving back from Milwaukee yesterday it struck me how close I ended up settling to them. My memories of my great-grandfather are sketchy. But I remember this. And how he died. Too disjointed?

Fork in the River

My great-grandpa Bazi comes in from the pump
with his large hands and whiskered mole.
He ducks beneath the door, a clapboard man
in a clapboard house. He bends down to kiss
my great-grandmother on the top of her head,
frying eggs and hash browns on the farmhouse stove.
Sizzle and sun join up together to make the kitchen yellow.
What is that on my head. I touch my hatless crown.
I see out the window my boy cousin racing for the river
with a fishing pole. Great-grandpa spits towards a spittoon.
Is it a beaver? A rug? I appeal to my mother,
helping great-grandmother lay out the breakfast dishes.
Answer, she motions. I wished I was catching bullheads.
The spittoon gleams. No, not a beaver or a rug.
A skunk? I'm affronted at the skunk question.
It must show on my face. Great-grandpa slaps his bony knees.
Just hair, says my aunt. He wants you to say just hair.
Just hair, echoes great-grandpa, laughing some more,
laughing like the wind in the trees, laughing like the river
named by the Menominee for tail of a beaver.
It's his favorite joke, his bald head speckled
like the egg of a barn swallow, forked tail
like the fork in the river where my great-grandpa
lives and eventually dies, staggering for the river's rocky bed
instead of the hospital's, to become my first funeral card.

No Parade

(Another one in my series.  Sense of place, my position in it, is that OK? We were actually on campus together that year when he came back--he told me firsthand, does that come through?)

When my brother came home from Vietnam,
injured but recovered, we hugged and hugged,
cried relief, he was in one piece. 

We gathered at home around the table,
it was July, windows open,
a summer breeze brushing over us. 

He flew flat on the floor under the table
before I could even blink
when a fire cracker went off outside during supper.

He shouted out during his sleep
in subconscious madness where he
flashed back into some blood-filled horror. 

He enrolled in law school; UW Madison, his alma mater.
Moved back into his fraternity of happier undergraduate days
where he received a diploma, and a low draft number.

His brothers now hissed,
“How could you let yourself go to Vietnam?”
As a grad student, he was spat upon

had his watch stolen
his room broken into, belongings trashed.
War Protests continued on campus.

 They called him “baby killer, war monger”.
He went to class, tried to study but the flash backs,
violence on campus, the stolen things, the spit,  

turned him bitter. There was no parade
no light at the end of the tunnel,
everyone came home alone.

 

Haircut

Haircut

     I sit on a special stool with a low, curved back.
Grandfather fastens a towel around my neck with a silver-toothed
clip. He combs my bangs down smooth, straight.   

     I can see the Teutonic pores in the dark skin of his
face. He smells like the fir trees in the backyard, leaning
next to the pigeon house. I show him my page from a magazine.

     His shiny scissors open and close against the hard ridge
of my brow. He trims around my face in practiced snips.
Grandmother brings him a saucer of coffee from the kitchen,

     blue and white and delft. They keep us for the night,
their only grandchildren. My younger sisters follow grandmother around,
enthralled by the glass bauble percolating on the stove.

     We sleep in the coldest room. I climb to the topmost bunk,
wood planed by our grandfather. Grandmother tucks us in with her
tuberous knuckles, fussing about how fey we are.

     I smile with a lost tooth, ruffling my new hair.
Grandmother brings us milk and windmill cookies. My sisters
pinch me through the half-railing, painted a high gloss like taffy.

     I turn and twitch, imagining fur and forest,
startled birds.  I slip through a gap in the railing, landing on the
rug of knotted wool, fast and far asleep.

     Grandfather hears the thump and bears me
with his faun arms to a lower bunk where I curl up with a sister
already warm. He whispers sleep good to me in German.

     Clippings rain down all the next day
at his barbershop. Grandfather tells the story of how I fell
from the sky and never woke up, so deep was I dreaming.
 

 

 

It Was to Die For

"It was to Die for"...is a phrase that bothers me..mostly it's in reference to someone having a decadent chocolate dessert. As I watched the Vietnam war series...that phrase came to mind..what is something you'd really die for? People interviewed in that series said what a waste it was-- no point in the battles. A line said was " To die for the biggest nothing" -- that stayed with me.   In this poem, is the last line too abrupt?

It Was To Die For
(in response to the Ken Burns Series on the Vietnam War)

 LBJ and Rumsfeldt
knew it wasn’t winnable
kept sending them to Vietnam
for another decade,
so many sons and daughters
mothers and fathers,
dead on both sides,
the innocent, the poor
the uniformed
the uninformed
bloody boots on the ground
bullets in bone
flesh on fire
tirades of air raids
glorification of body counts
quantifying the unquantifiable.
How can you measure a life?
War protestors trying, trying
but killing continued,
even death at Kent State, 
Stalemate.
Leaders hell-bent to save face
while soldiers had theirs blown off,
it was to the biggest nothing to die for.

 

Interior Design

Interior Design

Before she leaves for college
our daughter rearranges
her room, a signal
that things are changing.
The wonder of white furniture,
what she might learn
from the shift of a bureau,
slide of a desk.
Her bed is a nest
of blankets, pillows, and quilts,
even her receiving ones
buried somewhere deeper.
She leaves the shell
of a stereo, castoff clothes, candles,
an empty lighthouse
abandoned on its pebbled beach.
We consider our own rearrangements,
the tables and chairs, beds and curios.
Seesaw of acquire, heave-ho.
Trace of colors in the corners
of all the walls of every vessel,
imbuing the ever-changing circumstances
of joy, frustration, sadness.
The yellow years. The blue.
Who we moved in, who moved out.
These furnishings,
objects we navigate around
like thoughts, aspirations.
We watch our daughter
sift her possessions,
making room for different.

Pears

Ever since I ate a pear last week, I've had this poem percolating. A fresh write, been though a couple edits. It's another in my Vietnam Letters/Poem responses series. The Ken Burns 18-part docu on TV also has me all stirred up.  I guess I am a narrative poet... I would like to work more metaphor and creative nuances in.  The specific examples may work as such?

Pears

When my brother was 10 and I was five,
he would grab a pear from his plate
pull the stem out with his teeth, then pretend to throw it
making hand grenade explosion noises.
He grew up playing war, as boys did back then.
I grew up playing “House” - all things nurturing.

He had dozens of green army men
arranged strategically for war games on the floor
with toy guns, learning to be enemy or aggressor. 
Like his father, uncle and grandfather he would grow up
to serve in the military, though his was not voluntary;
his number came up upon college graduation, 1967.

Basic training, boot camp,
then flown off to Vietnam barely prepared,
with old weapons that hardly worked,
dropped into the jungle. Half his platoon high on drugs,
living in APCs (Armored personnel carriers) aka “tracks”
plowing through rice paddies, past defoliated fields and villages. 

He grew up in Boy Scouts; went out on winter survival bivouacs.
He hunted pheasant, partridge, sometimes deer. He was a good shot.
All that scouting and hunting saved him in the steamy jungle.
He saw his buddie’s brains sprayed across his own helmet,
amputated another buddie’s leg with a pen knife.
Saw arms and legs blown through the sky. One time, someone’s head.

He was never the same after he came home.
Jumpy. Quick to anger. Yelled at waitresses and his wife; a lot. Blamed others.
It was hard to hold a job with a short, hot temper. He was never satisfied.
That trauma and seethe festered until age 44, when it exploded as cancer.
a rare, agent orange-induced lymphoma that he pushed back with
chemo for 15 years until it claimed his life.

He told me, you always had it easier, cuz you’re a girl,
you weren’t forced to go to war.

You didn’t see what I saw.
You never experienced fear like I had to.


I still feel guilty whenever I eat a pear.

                       Annette Grunseth 9/23/2017

Stealing a Strawberry

Rule

Dining Etiquette:
Don’t pick food off another person’s plate.

Stealing a Strawberry

The trees can tell stories
at the oldest golf course in Wisconsin.
They line the narrow fairways,
grand and rickety with a certain
t i m e l e s s n e s s.
We finish 18 just in time
for the fireside brunch.
The miles I feel in my knees.
The maitre'd holds my chair.
A muffled beat is heard
through the round log walls.
A gardener in a straw hat
plays classic rock
while she weeds the hostas
around a fountain on the last hole.
A chef invites us to make an omelette.
We are welcome to the salad bar.
Two couples sit at an adjoining table:
man, woman, man, woman.
I try to guess who is the spouse of whom.
My husband starts to list chores,
signalling the almost-end
to our mini-break weekend.
One of the other husbands is annoyed
the brunch is out of bacon.
A towering grey-haired crag of a man,
shuffling big feet and lumpy knees,
he sits at the table hunched over his plate.
I wonder if I can improvise
the egg casserole recipe,
creamy and savory with bits of
ham and potato. My bearded husband eyes
the last bite on the rim of my plate.
The women point their disgruntled tablemate
to a new bowl of fruit at the salad bar.
He returns with a fresh salad plate
heaped with chunks of pineapple,
slices of apple, orange, green grapes,
two heart-shaped strawberries.
The pert woman at his left snatches
a strawberry with two fingers,
her eyes wide, round "O" of her lips
mischievous but unrepentant.
She eats the strawberry in one bite,
tossing back her dark head,
the fullness of her cheeks
pushing up cat-eye glasses.
The man beetles his brows at her,
biting the other strawberry.
The impulse tells its own story.
Only a wife, I think, would dare.

The "rule" is a bit of a stretch, but I thought it worth the shot.

 

What Matters

Tori--I wrote something different here in response to a piece of artwork I saw last night at the Lawton Gallery: Gender and Art exhibit...what doyou think. Does it make sense?

What Matters

We are made of matter
and it matters
that everyone is someone.
Every someone, matters.

What’s the matter?
You don’t like the color of some one’s skin
or the dress they are wearing,
presenting a beard, converse tennies with a pink scarf?

It doesn’t matter if a man at the beach
has thin new-moon scars where breasts once were
and a beard. But he matters to me,
and whether you know it or not, to you.

Privacy matters, especially at the airport
where a woman pays to board a plane
TSA scans her body, blurts out

“What’s that in your pants? I have to pat it down”.
The woman is weaponless and feels violated.

My eyes matter thinking about this
Listen up, we matter to each other
Every one’s matter is different
I matter
You matter
They matter
We matter

 

Tough as Leather

Hi Tori-- poem draft, trying to get something ready for Triad Contest--theme poem, "use a law or rule in an epigram and write a poem"...  What do you think?   I did a free write on this in 2001, and finally wrote a poem from it.  It's a fresh poem--might need to juggle stanzas or lines, cut extra words?    Will be on the road as of tomorrow 8/2, but can check when I have motel internet.--Thx!-ALG

Tough as Leather

             “Medicare…generally does not cover routine foot care like… clipping of nails…”

 I clutch the terry washcloth, towel slung over my shoulder,
carry a small plastic tub filled with warm water over to his chair

Dad, you have to soak first, to soften the nails.
We sit face to face. He soaks. We talk about
the summer he spent on his grandfather’s farm.
Couldn’t afford shoes, went barefoot to do chores.

 Soles grew tough as leather.
I lift his heel into my palm,
feel the weight of eighty-seven years of walking.
His toe nails are thicker than they are long,
like yellow tree rings expanding with age,
too thick to fit the clippers, so I file, gently.

 Next, I apply lotion, cradle his heel with one hand,
work my slippery thumbs up and down the arch
or, what used to be the arch.
He tells me about the summer his arches fell,
worked as a golf caddie in upstate New York,
to earn money putting himself through Dartmouth.

 He could only afford moccasins with no support,
one of the poor kids at an Ivy League school,
earned a partial scholarship for being first in his high school class.
During the school year he worked the dining hall,
cleaned up after his fellow students.
An economics major, education changed his life,

from waiting tables in the Freshman dorm
to running his own business for twenty-five years.
I work my way up his other arch,
make gentle circles on the ball of his foot.
He is surprised at how good this feels.
As I embrace his warm heel in my hand,
I am surprised too.

 

Feed

At the trough of his disease people with names I can't pronounce, like symbols. He posts daily from his phone. When he loses the phone he posts from hijacked computers at coffee shops, open labs at the college, university, long historic hallways, crumbling stone. Notifications like a tickertape on the unraveling, fraying of his mind, my mind. I don't know how I worked. Or held a conversation. Or managed to get myself to a toilet, that cool cell of isolation. Where I could hug myself. Was I really here? Was this really happening? He met Madonna and her paintings, her halo gilding a series of posts. He met a crowd of new friends at a street concert, river of music, video of the flow of bodies, light show, feet gliding, hard bump of quaint cobblestones. He met the smartest man he didn't know in a tavern on the square in a fedora, the fury of questions, ideological drinking. Splendor, yes. Enough to minimize the tiny dolls in his eyes. But murderers, too. And rapists. Whispers of a manhunt in his neighborhood, cops lurking. He's afraid to go home. He thinks he's harboring a fugitive. He's hungry. Over the phone I learn how to order calzones he can pickup in a paper bag. He's definitively harboring a voracity for loneliness. His girlfriend's left him an empty apartment. I can hear an echo in the long monologues he posts at each fingering of dawn. He careens between poles, so tired but unable to sleep. There's no button for off, and he records the disassociation, the manifest of symptoms, until the social network becomes a social psychosis that many unfriend, plenty post warnings, a few lash out meanly. How dare he answer when the screen asks What's on your mind? How dare he explicate his damage, starving a swipelight at the dark corners?

Letters from Vietnam - a pantoum

Letters From Vietnam – a Pantoum

 

She said, “Mothers still worry about their little boys, you know”
and cried for a week when he got on the plane,
worried herself sick to keep him safe.
My brother wrote home of snipers and ambushes.

 And she cried for a week when he got on the plane.
The postman would ring the bell, when a new letter arrived.
My brother wrote home of snipers and ambushes.
And she kept his letters in the safe deposit box.

 The postman would ring the bell, when a new letter arrived,
My brother came home, but was never the same,
and she kept his letters in the safe deposit box.
Cancer from Agent Orange came later.

 My brother came home, but was never the same,
she worried herself sick to keep him safe.
Cancer from Agent Orange came later.
She said, “Mothers still worry about their little boys, you know”.

 

ALG 5/18/2017 (At the workshop last week I worked on my responses to my Brother's letter s from Vietnam.) Might send to Bramble;  does it fit with the theme of "hanging on"?

Hormone Doctor

Hormone Doctor

Mother hugs her purse in her lap,
a thing she does when nervous
or out of her element.
She is mostly unassailable
in her pressed slacks and blouse, matching jacket.
She makes me wear a dress
for the appointment. She is always making me
wear dresses. My bare legs stick
to the leather chair.
A teen of the 70s I'd rather they flare.
The office is different
from the examining room of our family doctor
with cherry bookshelves and books, a globe.
I think of the places I would rather be.
Mother thinks I'm fixable.
Perhaps I am.

The doctor breezes in
as doctors do.
I sit in a chair and don't bleed.
The doctor considers me over the rims of his glasses,
his eyes full of bark and fizz like root beer.
Squares of midday light fall on a leather reading chair and hassock,
a plaid blanket spilling to the floor.
The doctor clears his throat,
unseals a jar of butterscotch from his desk,
ring of dime store glass,
smell of burnt sugar.
Despite myself, I salivate.

The doctor tilts the jar towards me, eyebrows raised.
His tweedy jacket and trousers don't match.
I look to mother, who shrugs.
I unwrap a candy, golden cellophane crinkling,
calculating how much farther I will jog later.
The doctor asks questions.
Mother answers, and I don't interrupt.
I do stash pork chop in a napkin at the dining room table.
I can subsist on an apple a day.
I jog for miles at dusk, up and down our hilly suburban streets,
eternal light of the catholic church shining at my back.
I read cookbooks for recipes I won't eat.
Clothes hang on me.

The doctor paces behind his desk.
Mother balms her lips.
I am good at starvation,
but I don't mean to disappear.
I don't know what else to do
when a boyfriend says we weren't meant to be.
I take it as a sign,
the undeserving kind.

Enough, says the doctor.
See this? He points to a print in a frame.
I am the doctor of chemical messengers.
What you see here triggers response.
Cells are activated.
How does this make you feel?
I see a bridge
and lilypads.
The private space of a gardener.
Perhaps I'm the gardener.
The foreground is almost too verdant for words.
This being a woman.
Perhaps I'm afraid of my own lushness.

Did a woman paint that?
I ask the doctor, my voice weedy.
She could have, he says,
steepling his fingers, convinced of the the body's
elegancies. Mother looks at me,
seeing a thing change in me,
her eyes the same brown as mine
like dark chocolate
like poignancy.

The Honor of your Presence is Requested, Invitations Found in my Mother’s Desk

(Tori-this is a found poem; of a small stationery box with invitations and replies in a box of my mother's things, retrieved when we cleaned out her house in 2006; I've toyed with this idea of a bygone era of formality, and cursive penmanship...I think it needs a punch--I'm left feeling "so what?" about this poem--how could I better convey this period in time that will never return? They were so formal with their parties and get-togethers.  It'sfresh write--so I know it needs editing. BTW my formatting wouldn't roll over here... I had indented stanzas for each separate invitation. )

In 1950s small town Wisconsin
wives were Mrs. John Last Name,
their first names lost to housewife,
homemaker,  raiser of children, mistress of the stove.

The lucky ones were Mrs. John Doctor,
Mrs. John Lawyer or Mrs. John Businessman,
as they might have had some household help.

Their days outside the home were filled with
You are cordially invited for cocktails in the evening,

The honor of your presence is required for
an autumn buffet at the country club.

You are invited to Christmas Tea
3:30-5:30 p.m. on December the eighteenth.

The pleasure of your company is requested at
The Bachelor and Benedicts Ball on
Saturday evening the twelfth of December.

Please join us for a St Patrick’s day party for a gay time.

to which perfectly, penned notes reply:
We would be honored to accept your invitation
to the picnic on the eighteenth of July at eight.

It is my sincere privilege to accept your invitation
for the party on the eighteenth.

Signed Mrs. John Doctor/Lawyer/Businessman.

Copies of reply drafts line the stationery box
in the bottom drawer of the desk. Emily Post’s Etiquette
tucked alongside.

 

 

 

Tinderstanding

Tinderstanding

The instant catches fire
like twigs,
floats off,
a skiff
of ash,
delicate,
c r u s h i n g.
I fall into
the same questions.
Rowing and rowing,
aground.
He pushes away
from the table.
Nobody gets
what they want.
Sticks left behind
by the thaw.
Ice floes melt ugly.
Dirty with the soot
we exhale,
capsized debris.
I leave quietly.
Brittle things,
stiff.
We have run out of words
to say to each other.
I read in the flickering
light.
This typo,
stuck in the machine,
intends to be
understanding.

Gender Bias

Gender Bias
1.
Teachers pat me like a loaf
Especially the chalk-dusted
I learn early who has authority

Behaving is more important
than the Theory of Relativity
The length of my hems is a topic

The only teacher who doesn't care
is music, pounding me on the back,
Exhorting me to inhale from some place deeper,
past the usual shallows of the ribcage
He listens when I try to improvise
Scarring just visible behind his beard,
dismissing the reprimands

Psychology wonders why I work so hard to disappear
The obsession with food, careful preparation, niceness
Only to leave it all untouched, picture perfect

Physiology hands me a tube
I learn my lung capacity is half
My male classmates have lungs like bellows
They are able to move more air with less effort
Teachers used to comment I talked too much
I consign myself to a smaller envelope of air

2. 
In college I go to a party at a professor's and do not speak at all.
A blustery instructor of European Literature
Not a single female author on the reading list
Anger takes a lot of air
The airless version is mute

3.
My grown daughter has an outburst in a supper club
"Why is it even a thing?"
Quizzed by her male relatives for no good reason
Diners at the salad bar turn to stare
My daughter doesn't care
Claiming the air she inhabits

Halo

Many years ago I wrote a series of short shorts I called "4 Letter Words." Been thinking about it again. Rereading them I don't think they can be salvaged. I was in a different place. But I think they could be reinvented. Let me know what you think. Sorta maybe stream of consciousness. 

Halo

Long years of nothing much to say.
Long ears. Nothing touches. You stay.
Words and their catcylism.
Words are inadequate.
Complete honesty is an uneasy state between two people.
Maybe impossible. Maybe ill-advised.
Early days, we called it, in our propulsion of beachcombing,
sleeping under a net
of stars, each
with a satellite,
two blades on our feet.
The promise of a relationship
is bigger than the relationship.
How much of a person should exist?
How much amorphousness?
The flare of you is in my nerve impulses.
You think by association
you can tell me what to do,
what to think.
I hate you for that.
I mean, I really, really do.
Alone is a different kind
of agitation.
Hate doesn't mean
I can't live with you.
Part of our admixture,
atmosphere.
My indistinct edges overlap
your indistinct edges.
We are rising air,
water droplets, dust.
I cloud you.
I nimbus you.

Endless Summer

We were eleven
growing into boy crazy,
sunbathing in baby oil
adhesive tape on our thighs
making a W on our skin that
tanned everywhere, but there.
The white W reflected the boy we liked: William.

It was the summer of
"Where the Boys Are"
"School's Out for the Summer"
“Johnny Angel”

It was the summer of camping out in the back yard,
olive green pup tent pitched under the big maple.
Popcorn, pillows, flashlights,
transistor radio singing "Big Girls Don't Cry"
and "We Sang in the Sunshine ".
Next morning sun rose hot on the dark tent.
We flung the door flaps open to remnants of
a scattered deck of cards,
rumpled sleeping bags and
popcorn seeds lining the bottom of the bowl.

The cat was out early, hunting.
We heard her little bell and I cooed
“Inky.  Inksby. Kitty. Sweetieeeee!”
evolving into screams as a
small gray mouse scurried into the tent,
little claws scratching up Becky’s back,
inside her PJ top. More screaming,
as the tent bulged like two watermelons
in a Super Valu bread bag.
Inky ran off, the two of us scrambled out of the tent
transistor radio crackling the Beach Boys’  "Surfer girl",
hot sun beating down, adhesive tape gone,
white W’s blaring on our thighs,
not a boy in sight.

Speculate

Not 100% sure of the title. Could also be Kinko's? Or Rerouting? Thoughts? Also I made the line length deliberately ragged to add to the uncomfortableness. Works? Not? 

Speculate

I conjecture a body advancing
in skateboard shorts and fugitive hair.
Ghost holds his phone over his head,
marches Helen of Troy, red-rimmed fervor
in his eyes. We are trying to find Kinko's
in downtown Cream City. I hold
my tongue, tight as a root
in my mouthful of silt. He missed a delivery,
forwarded  to the nearest Fedex outpost.
A male tourist asks if I need help.
No, I say, he's my son.
I'm sorry pockets his hands.

Ghost interrogates the clerk at Kinko's.
Do you know? Or do you speculate?
He stabs at his phone looking for proof
of identity. The clerk shakes his head
on the verge of walking away.
Ghost soothes with the flipside
of his personality,
charming as shattered glass.
He questions the box in his arms,
the meter where I parked the car.
Do you know? Or do you speculate?

Keyless he rattles the door.
His landlady dumpling rounds her worried eyes,
refusing to cut any more keys. The city jangles
with the keys he's lost.
Her large pores beg for help.
He was so happy a year ago.
Ghost waves her away like smoke,
like a stray dog.  Do you know?
Or do you speculate?

County tells me to call the crisis line.
The crisis line tells me to call the cops.
Lady cop stands erect as a gym teacher
while her partner confers sotto voce
with ghost camped out on the front stoop
of the apartment with his box, a legal tenant,
laying down his mosaic. Do you know?
Or do you speculate?

Lady cop and her halo of health explains,
nicely, that my son is within his rights to be crazy.
They can't make him go home or get help.
Also her apology asks me to leave
the premises. Ghost does not want me to stay.
I have meetings in the morning. I turn aimless corners,
watching my GPS try to reroute me back
the way that I've come, dazed with what I don't know,
scared to speculate.
 

© 2017 House of the Tomato