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.

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.

© 2017 House of the Tomato