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.


Celebrating, sharing and inspiring poetry throughout Wisconsin.

Back Room

Not sure about the title... but you know I'm a sucker for double entendre... I felt I really had to strenuously edit the scene in the writing to get at the essence... hopefully I included enough.

Back Room

I'm embarrassed by the prophylactics.
Father keeps them behind the counter.
The drawers are extra-deep and slide with an engineered glide.

Boys I recognize from the high school come into the drugstore and ask for them.
I stay in the back room with mother and Mary,
who's worked for my father since the beginning.

We package pills in tiny bubbles and slot them in trays
for easy administration at the old people's home.
Mother drinks diet cola in a tall glass that beads condensation.

We pretend the room isn't as small or as blue as it is,
floating between and behind each other in our tiny lagoon
as we reach and bend, reach and bend

to retrieve the pills organized in alphabetical order.
Mary forgets I'm there and complains to mother
about her husband, his demand for sex in particular.

Why does she have to bother? She gets nothing
out of it. She'd just as soon watch a movie.
Mary enounces the word 'sex' like it's a fatal disease.

Mother lights a cigarette and lets it burn in the ashtray.
Her byzantine eyes squint at Mary without encouraging
or discouraging. She asks us what we'd like for lunch.

Mother and I sit outside the back door on the cement stoop
to eat our lunch. She unwraps the foil of her hoagie
and lets it steam on a paper plate. She watches me

fold back the foil of mine, caressing the bangs out of my eyes.
"It doesn't have to be that way," she says, "between a man and a woman."
She sips her cola, and a wet napkin drifts into her lap.

"I orgasm every time," she says. I lift a shoulder at the word,
even though I know what it means. "A woman should claim
her own pleasure," I nod silently, trying not to eat the foil from my sandwich.

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