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.

Featured Poems

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SEPTEMBER 2014

Featured Poems


Gauze, a Medical Dressing & a Scrim

Robert Vaughan

Milwaukee

Originally appeared at Flash Fiction Chronicles, where it won 2nd place in the String-of-Ten Five Flash Fiction Contest in 2013

Gauze

When they converted the basement into his room, Billy was too young to know any differently. He just wanted his own space, didn’t want to share it with his five older siblings anymore. Then when he was around ten, he stopped eating dinner with the rest of the family. His mother placed his dinner plate on the top stair every night. In exchange he only communicated by notes he’d send or receive by pulley-pails through the laundry drop.

A Medical Dressing 

One time when Ethyl, the family dachshund, accidentally ventured downstairs, she was never seen again. Same for one sister, Darla, who thought she’d left a sweater atop the laundry machine. Disappeared. Eventually Billy was indistinguishable from any basement dweller, resembling the spider realm. Webs. Gossamer silver. Detecting vibrations, lurking toward eventual prey.

The family nearly forgot he existed.

A Scrim 

Then one day while folding laundry, his mother noticed a note and she decided to read it aloud to the rest of the children at dinner that night: Here is your stormy day, the one with pressing clouds and chilling breeze. Here is your way you fall in step, synchronize laughs and moderate beliefs, acclimatize moods and medications. Here, then your last vestige of blue sky and fortitude. A mélange of mercurial designations. Bastion of sailboats emptying out horizons.

They all craned their necks toward the basement.


When He Left It All to Me

Robert Vaughan

Milwaukee

First Published in Miscreant

He had to leave he said

though we’d met only days prior

and like with any men

breaking boundaries we’d lain

together despite barbed wire

fences, pools with fathomless bottoms.

 

The morning he split, he thrust

his blue down coat into

my arms, said I won’t need

this, but it was a bitter

cold day that December I

found the tape in its pocket.

 

Eva Cassidy sang Fields of

Gold and I can’t forgive

her for dying so young. Where

did you go? Still can’t listen

to more than the first half;

no, less than a quarter of that song.


Ten Notes to the Guy Studying Jujitsu

Robert Vaughan

Milwaukee

Originally appeared at Orion Headless, Special Anniversary Issue

2013 Gertrude Stein Finalist

1. A smile when you read Brave New World, a sort of smirk, like you’re getting away with reading literature that was once banned. Like this is better than Japanese ever was. Except one time when you dreamed that Yoko Ono walked all over your back and ass. This doesn’t come close to that.

2. You took up whistling, jingles from television commercials. Samsonite, Sony, tampon and yogurt ads. It was almost as bad as my ex, Tony, who whistled “If I Only Had a Brain” until I accidentally called him a moron.

3. One morning I woke up thinking, I can’t remember the last time you used the L word. And then I can’t remember the last time you went down on me. Then I recall they used to be linked together.

4.The first time we hooked up was in the back of your truck. It was a hot summer night in the Haight, mosquitoes, scant moon with flutter clouds. It was rough and fast, and you pinned me at one point so I couldn’t move. My neck hurt for a week. And nothing has compared to it since.

5. When you started seeing Brandy, and I’d run into you, you seemed so happy. So alive, when I just wanted to crawl into a hole for a year. I remember thinking what’s she got that I don’t? I mean, besides the obvious. And when I found out she was knocked up , I knew. 

6. All that dog shit I shoveled out of the back yard. And it was your dog. Not mine. My yard. But your dog. Yours.

7. My sister would call on Sundays. You’d mouth “not here” and point at yourself. Which clearly was a sign of your inability to commit. Or mine. I’m not sure which. 

8. I’d left the gym and saw you that day sitting on a sofa in a coffee shop. Really close to that girl, Tracey, who used to sell us pot. You were laughing in a way that I knew. And for a split second I was thrilled that you were cheating on Brandy. When I got home I drank a six-pack in less than an hour.

9. The weekend before you moved out, you farted in my sister’s elevator and other people got on and you said my name and fanned the air. I pretended it was funny. By then you farted so many times I honestly thought it was me. 

10. Seems like someone’s always missing someone. My sister told me that she doesn’t have time for missing anyone- let alone loser ex-boyfriends. Thing is, I don’t really consider you a loser. A little gassy, perhaps. Something always takes the place of missing pieces.


Upon Finding Pluto is No Longer a Planet

Cathryn Cofell

Appleton

What’s left now?  The dumb hours of early Pluto?                                                  

Thousands have lived without love, not one without Pluto,                                    

only more of it, an obesity of Pluto.                                                                                     

 

I do not know what it is about Pluto that closes.                                                      

Take the worst Pluto has to offer. And still,                                                             
it’s like the heaving of Pluto into a lake, before it drops.                                        

 

You remember the Pluto you got that you did not get:                                            

Pluto in the night shuffling from room to room,                                          

Pluto’s voice dying with a dying fall.                                                                                   

 

I can understand why some people gave up on fame or religion or Pluto—                       

it's easy to Pluto things when they're powerless, like children and goldfish.          

Pluto the heart, it learns a little self-preservation.                                                   

 

Tell me about Pluto, yours, and I will tell you mine,                                                           

how plucking the sweet Pluto makes the stars,                                                        

and if you ask my friends: the god inside Pluto has come unshaped                       

 

but I wanted to ride this Pluto down into night,                                                       

but I love to hear Pluto sung.                                                                                    

Open your eyes to Pluto.                                                                                           

 

Give me back the old Pluto.                                                                                      

Let us all be from Pluto                                                                                            

holding up cardboard signs that say WILL WORK FOR PLUTO.                          

But we have only begun to love the Pluto.                                                               

Say farewell to the heron, to the osprey, the Pluto circling the cove—                  

I’ll never forget.  Pluto went out, reeling.                                         


Guided Meditation

Cathryn Cofell

Appleton

Previously Published by Third Wednesday

My husband has cleared out a corner of my office

to create a space for my inner peace.

He tells me I need it.

 

He never tells me I need anything, except to take off

my glasses before I sleep or fill my tank before it empties.

He uses a firm, loamy voice.

 

He never uses a firm anything, not tone or fist or opinion

which was a turn-on once but now this demand ...

I digress, I digress

 

I digress daily from Christianity but need a place to ease 

the everlasting violet of kneeling and guilt.   

A Buddhist friend suggests equipment.

 

A Feng Shui friend suggests order, the proper placement for

the proper mood to settle me down like a blanket on a bed. 

My friends have Merry Maid eyes.

 

My friends have ideas like aphids, more than I have spaces

to fill or cleanse; I need to Feng Shui my room of friends.

He baskets a bowl for incense.

 

He baskets deep purple, fireproof, copper top; I am

the Lucille Ball of Zen so safety is a top priority.

I am at one with my first purchase. 

 

I am at once drawn to an I heart Dalai Lama poster,

Gandhi Bobble Head, fire-breathing wind-up Nunzilla.

He draws the line at bobble and wind.

 

He draws the line at cheap jiggle, though I show him I can be

still as carpet and as soft.  He’s not buying a rug-doctored me.

We agree on a puja table.

 

I agree, though I don't know what a puja is or why it needs

a place to eat; I’ve got dishes, carpool, a sick friend to soup.

He suggests a buckwheat hull zafu.

 

He suggests a Tibetan Monk CD, 10 full tracks of silence,

ambient lighting, $10 more and my delivery is free.

 


Atopsy

Cathryn Cofell

Appleton

Previously published in Sweet Curdle (Marsh River Editions) and Sister Satellite (Cowfeather Press)

These are my hands.  I dare you

to take them from me.  These are all I have

left, these palms poised like fitted sheets, 

the pressed angles not quite right.

The mood is all wrong for dancing

but still you took my legs.

You waltzed them across the room

and it was music, I tell you, music

I heard clear above the banshee pitch

of bandsaw, or was it my voice scurrying

to escape before you cut that out too?

 

In the last day I never felt a single thing,

not the sun as it sliced the window open,

not my son’s sweet breath as he whispered

at my ear, me his trusted sidekick,

his huffing steed.  No, not his chapped lips

puffed for one last kiss, not that strange

hairless arm spun out of nowhere

like a spider on my neck, pulling me down,

and down again.  No, I tell you, I was busy,

clothes to be folded, dinner on,

a spin of lines in my head.

 

Now I’m all yours for the taking,

a $5 for everything rummage sale box

because I couldn’t sit still, I was distracted

by bright things and peeling that orange

donor sticker killed time at the DMV. 

Now my time will keep on passing in

cold storage, in a dozen tagged bags

in a crime lab, in some Jersey kid’s rib

cage, a spin of life in his chest.


Hospitality

Marilyn Zelke-Windau

First published in Midwest Prairie Review

There’s a woman from Romania

who daily cleans a room, several,

at a sunshiny resort for those

who do not worry about regular,

decaf coffee packets,

sugars, creamers,

red plastic cylindrical sticks,

towels, snow-forgotten bleached,

shampoo/conditioner

in coconut mango combos,

facial moisturizers,  aloe infused,

 ice makers providing percussion

in the afternoon, between drinks,

between naps.

Yusmila does the worrying

for her rooms, their clients,

and her family, waiting

for wired money.

She cares more for her green

card, her green send ons

than the resort’s green label.

Never met, name on a card

of welcome, of urgency, need,

never mind, never to be known,

Yusmila shakes pillows,

tosses them like her dreams

into the air.

 


True Grit

Marilyn Zelke-Windau

First published in Verse Wisconsin

When one sieves sand,          

each grain yields a view

of its shielded sedimentary sides.

Sand stubbornly sticks in the screen,

just as it stubbornly rolls and tosses,

wave after tumbling wave.

 

In close examination, twelve grains

are not better than one.

Unique as a winter’s snowflake,

each deserves scrutiny.

With eye rappelling down its shiny face,

the mind recalls past journeys of ions,

of eons of time.

 

Sand is hem-trapped in the coat of many colors,

thrown upward by Cleopatra’s dancing,

toe-ringed foot.

It is the skin chafer of posing Polynesians

in Gauguin paintings of Tahitian tints.

Sand is the firm boot grip on Normandy shore,

the on holiday, head out burial at Brighton Beach.

Sand layers the glass, makes the glass, jar

to show its flickering facets in candlelight glimmer.

 


Listen to Your Mama

Marilyn Zelke-Windau

Sheboygan

First published at Your Daily Poem 

When ocean mama wave sends

her little droplets out to play,

she warns them to stay away

from boats, trawlers, cruisers.

You may visit the sailing ships,

the ones that follow the winds

as we do, the ones that calmly go

in time with us, our currents,

our moon pulls.

They are safe.

Those others with their motors-

they will churn you,

turn you to foam,

make you white with fear,

toss you into the air,

the air which can evaporate you.

No smelling salts can save you then.

Listen to your mama,

you wet behind the ears droplets.

I don’t want to lose you.

Be home for supper.

We’re having hydrogen oxygen casserole

again.


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