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.

Sweet Sixteen

This one got a little rambling... good? bad?

Sweet Sixteen

Mother called him Johnny-Baby,
as if he was a lounge singer
and could riff with his voice
and the strange tilt of his head
as if he was considering me for song lyrics.
Mother crooned the refrain.
Johnny-Baby, Johnny-Baby.
My first serious boyfriend.

*
His Adam's Apple told me things.
What books to read, what tunes
to listen to. Every boy I ever dated
wanted to reinvent me, as if I wasn't
already here and personal and me.

*
Mother liked him despite her qualms.
He worked summers as a cameraman
for the local TV station.
He was always rolling.

*
Johnny-Baby jingled when he walked,
a collection of coin and keychain
in his pocket. He kept a folio of topics
his prominence wished to discuss with me
stashed inside the visor of his Pinto.
My answers decided if we would kiss
or park or stroll the shore
of a rocky beach.

*
To celebrate my birthday
Mother decided we should doubledate.
Johnny-Baby called at the house
in his blazer and turtleneck.
Father in his bemusement
drove us to Duck Duck Goose,
a new bistro in town,
spilling big brass jazz and
drinks in jam jars.

*
"I throw these away," said mother,
eyeing a jam jar and Johnny-Baby's hands
on the table.

*
We pretended to be adults
above and below the table.
Johnny-Baby pressed
our knees together,
later he would press mine apart
like leaves in a book
as we roiled with the surf.
What new questions could
we ask?

*
How mother knew
like there was a hinge in my heart?

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