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.

Featured Poems



Featured Poems

Beautifully Simple

Sue De Kelver


All of us can give a great gift to the world by looking at our life and gradually removing the things that are not simple and beautiful.
— Eknath Easwaran

I can do simple:

oatmeal for breakfast,

cotton underwear,

Zen walking.


I can find beauty in 

each sunrise and sunset,

every flower in my garden,

my grandchild's face.


Removing the unwanted 

is harder. How do I 

ban global greed or hunger?

How do we erase war?


Sandra Shackelford

Green Bay

Convents lock their doors at night,

to keep perfection in,

the hollow sound of cold slamming steel

stopping questions before they're asked,

the brutal period coming at the end

of dogma that decrees,

                 It is God who is the only worthy benefactor of love.


A perfect tyrant

he sits upon his great gold throne,

a notorious father

coveting his daughters like a porno king.

He licks his chops and thumbs through a book of virgins mounted

in paper prisons,

four-cornered innocence contained

in shiny celluloid squares.


Salvation dangles from his fingers

like a watch,

a teasing bauble promised and withdrawn,

his children never free from the chains

he attaches to his love.


This father works his girls

claiming his reward in intact hymens.

A hunter of flesh

his den reeks of their captivity.


Now and then

one escapes.

T. A. J. 6/75

Sandra Shackelford

Green Bay

You, in your art deco bargain dress

with the flapping canaries startled pink;


Perched ravin poet with the Sassoon hair,

how swell you locked leaning

on a wrought iron rail

waiting a mind to trap and

tell your stories to:


sea captains rising

on exaggerated waves, your words

and casual connotations pitched

from your tongue, sharp forked

eyes keen on approval.


You did your best

imitation of Sand beneath a piano.


you read magnificently gestured sonnets


     cocks monumental

          cocks flamingo

               COCKS, the burning ltalian kind,


punctuating each perfect phrase with

organs big enough to obliterate

Byzantinc domes. I never could

get away with that! Nor sink

my teeth into your countless facts:


     "How angry was your mother anyway?"


     'Why she had twenty-seven birds for God’s sake!"


You filled rubber dildos

with water and froze them

in ice cube trays. Stuffer

of pig marzipans in mailboxes, giver

of gifts that suited you -


I got a unicorn and a visit.


you lighted in my woods and defoliated


                my flowers, stomped

                a crossing guard and startled

                lavender haired ladies. Seeking confirmation


you flew away, depositing

in my hand wrinkled

copies of poems you had retyped.

The Great Pretender

Sandra Shackelford

Green Bay

I broke the rules in school

more than once

felt the sting of sister's angry ruler against my open palm

daring to engage in simple pleasures forbidden

by the sterile practitioners

of The Theology of Thou Shall Not.


Oh yes


I went to YMCA dances on the sly

every Tuesday from 7 to 9

folding into the arms of the boy

in the red plaid shirt.

a small animal burrowed

I inhaled the scent of his mother's iron

my breasts coming to ripeness

in the muscled cage of his wide receiver chest.


Oh yes


Steam rose from my Ship 'n Shore blouse

as his hands rode the crest of my rock and roll hips

covered in prickly virgin wool

standard issue for Academy girls

our hymens like our hearts

now and forever faithful

to Another.


Oh yes


My fingers brushed the skin on his blemished neck

as we returned to primitive roots

bone on bone


we invented fire

grinding, oh yes,

beyond childhood

as rain fell on those nineteen-fifties nights

the seent, oh yes, of lilacs staining the lavender air

as we clung




to the loveliness of innocence

for one last spin around the moon.

Listening to Beethoven's Fifth for the 57th Time

Nancy Rafal

Bailey's Harbor

I'm driving to a poetry festival in Fort

car radio tuned to a WPR's classical station

Anders Yocom announces the next selection

Madison Symphony Orchestra with John DeMain conducting


I've heard the Fifth before, who hasn't?

I figure this must be the 57th time

The familiar start, the ascending notes

This one is a fine performance


And so it is with poetry

Collins' lanyard,

Niedecker's solitary plover

Murre's old men

Let me listen    again                    and again                            and again

I will never tire

Didn't Know I Had One

Anita Beckstrom

Sister Bay

how hard we tried

to get rid of our south side

Milwaukee way of speaking

jist  git  gonna  gimmie

aina hay


a phone call the other day

was a wrong number

when the woman called again

we chatted a moment

she was calling from Arizona

had the wrong area code

told me I sounded like

I was from Wisconsin


Water Games

Barbara Larsen

Sister Bay

A raindrop bellyflops on the deck,

then three ... four ... more ... splashing down

like sparks from fireworks on the 4th.

Soon it is a Niagara.


Some will drip through the cracks

and wend their way

through fissures in the cliff

to swim into the bay below.


Others will evaporate in an emerging sun,

rise into the air to comb aboard cloud boats,

sail the sky in a companionable crowd

and begin another round of water games.

Morning Beach Walk

Doris Bezio

De Pere

The sand I walk on

was once stone,

submerged in the depths.

Gentled by centuries

of flowing currents,

grain by grain,

it was pushed onto shore.

The waves still wash

that same shore now,

guiding the sand

with its tidal breath. 


Tomato Ode

Francha Barnard

Bailey's Harbor

To you who give so freely

of seed and pulp and juice;

to you who let your skin be pricked

and sliced and cubed and peeled;

to you who stew, puree and roast;

to you of green and orange and puce;

to you who tart my tongue,

who lush my mouth,

who drip my chin,


I nod my humble thanks.

October Dance

Camille Wade Maurice


Breeze-tickled leaves

wiggle with delight,

spin sun spots round and round,

twist on slender stems,

swing, flip, do the dip,

kick-flash their colors

like can-can skirts,

sway, bend bow and beckon.

I drop my rake

and two-step into the woods

to join the dance.

© 2019 House of the Tomato