House of the Tomato

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

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GREEN BAY / NORTHEAST

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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.

© 2017 House of the Tomato