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


MAY 2014

Featured Poems

Milk from Sleepy Cows

(for Willi)

Bruce Dethlefsen


here my son

today is done

the cows have all come home

drink this milk

fresh warm and silk

it’s milk from sleepy cows


drowsy cows now close their eyes

to dream the orange sun down

night night cows

cream black and white

come ‘round from blue green hillsides


warm and dreamy

smooth and creamy

milk from sleepy cows


rest well yourself

the world will somehow swirl

without you for a while


sleep now

deep now

not a peep now

shush boy


Emotional Cookies

Bruce Dethlefsen





Fireweed Press

I took one look at you


and painted you

a pair of moons

then carved you

a dozen dragonflies


I wrote you

a thousand poems

and sang you

a hundred songs


I baked you

a billion emotional cookies

made and decorated you

a million cakes


please tell me your name

this time


here these are my hands

and there is my heart


Bruce Dethlefsen





Fireweed Press

I stand and rest one hand upon the hoe

and then my chin to take a breather

my hat is offthe sweat rolls down the inside of my glasses

this is the twenty-first garden I've planted here


with every wave I feel the garden rise and fall

a swimming raft in a lake of giant pines

farm houses and corn stubble
a bounce of golden lightdefines the roundness

of the earth at sundown


what language s spoken here?

brother if only I knew


I'm a migrant worker

drifting in my own garden

a tenderman

a passer through


Laurie MacDiarmid

Green Bay

I'll admit it --


when you were little

your sass and independence

was more often than not

frustrating and

blood boiling


"I do it myself!"

grabbing the stroller 

tipping it onto its back wheels

stumbling behind it with a

stubborn pout

plowing through mall walkers

towing us behind

grumbling and burning

in your righteous and

achingly slow wake


ripping the dress off

the one I picked for you

and socks and shoes

at the front door

"I hate it!"

three minutes before

we have to go

my head about to

lift off my shoulders



but now that you're sixteen

more often than not

your shoulders slump

into a profound silence

tears you hide from us

frozen just under the surface

of your downcast eyes


I wish that little girl

would come back

to stand in front of the door

ready to face the world


hands on hips

chest out

head thrown back

stripped down to

a deep and crazy will


a flame of individual desire

infuriating unquenchable

stark unstoppable



Forgiving Our Fathers

Laurie MacDiarmid

Green Bay

I want to forgive my fathers for their various sins --

Roy for dying before I could know him, Tom

for taking his place, Roy for leaving a vacuum in his

wake, Tom for drinking his darkness like gin and


sucking us all into his poisoned center. After all, it’s not

really our fathers’ fault, is it, that we have to suffer? They

only do what’s been done to them, programmed to pass

on their painful inheritances like the taint of drunk


blood, like the gift of a new name.  Our fathers fracture

and recreated us in the same ways that their fathers

once crushed and molded them -- putting us back together

with rotten glue -- so that as we grow older our bones


ache against the invisible breaks, our hearts labor under

the veins’ unseen divisions, and our bones disintegrate

under the force of a thousand ineffable kicks. Really,

they couldn’t help it -- lugging with them, as they did,


their own broken bodies, rent with ghostly fissures.

Perhaps we’d be better off, then, forgiving ourselves for

our inability, at last, to ever truly forgive them. We were

all cracked in turn, beginning (of course) with our hearts.

Gods of Childhood

Laurie MacDiarmid

Green Bay

Grandma Tutu loved to travel. She took her camera

    around the world, exploring Antarctica, Easter Island,

the African savannah, sitting in Afghan tents, eating

    with her fingers in China, walking across the hills of Ireland

with a gnarly stick, smiling into Columbian winds as they

    filled her up with their caffeine.  At 85, she still

volunteered at a local hospital, cleaning bedpans, bringing

    daffodils to lonely rooms, sitting with patients her own age

or younger, passing the grounded hours.  I hear her

    laugh, I see her shining eyes under their mop of

gray hair, I smell her comfortable odors: sand and

    salt, a clean embrace like the San Diego sun

on our shoulders. We flocked to her from the South

    and the East, bringing our hidden skins and our

tired souls, offering ourselves to her for healing.


    When we visited, she brought out her famous pumpkin

bread, frozen just for such an occasion, her trademark

    spaghetti sauce.  She told stories about her trips, dressing

in costume after costume, putting on countries we’d

    never visit, flashing slides in the twilit patio while lightning

bugs crashed against the screens. I loved her simply,

    as a child, with wonder and awe: my father’s mother.  She was

magical--light and air and happiness. I thought

    she would never die.


In the dark, her eyes flashed behind their glasses, pure

    starlight, making her a goddess.  Grandpa Mac,

sitting on the couch in another room, yelled at the TV, threw

    his cracked hands in agitated arcs, cursed

the politicians and the bums.  His mind wandered into

    dark countries, seeking justice for the past, but his body

stayed put.  He sucked gin into himself, bloating with

    drunken memories, weighed down by hurts.


If Grandma was a goddess, then Grandpa was a god, an old-style

    patriarch, hoary head full of resentments and

smoldering hates. His cigars trailed orange eyes in the blue

    living room, wrote indecipherable notes in the lonely gloom.

He never traveled far. At Disneyland, he stayed

    in the car.  I thought he was rain clouds and mud and

bitter sadness. Even at eight, I knew how that tasted.

    One night, he turned to me and smiled, and wondered,

again, why he couldn’t die.


Cliches to End the Wars

Chuck Rybak

Green Bay

Make love not war.

The bloom is off the war.


Here’s the church, here’s the steeple,

Wars don’t kill people, people kill people.


Because I could not stop for war,

it kindly stopped for me.


The emperor has no wars.

It was war at first sight.

Home is where the war is.


Stop, drop, and war.


He wars me.

He wars me not.

He wars me.

He wars me not.


Cheaters never war.


Fool me once, war on you.

Fool me twice, war on me.


He was such a nice war, kept to himself,

that kind of war doesn’t happen around here.


War is a dish best served cold.


Good wars make good neighbors.


so much depends



a red war



Tomorrow is another war.



Chuck Rybak

Green Bay

Reports indicate a virulent bitch outbreak

at the daycare, code-red profanity scare.

The plague began in a clan of four-year olds,

whose hot-zone words flew deadly-virus airborne, 

jumping across the room

to six circular kids on their butts who chanted

Bitch-Bitch-Bitch like they were playing Duck-Duck-Goose.


Horrified come pick-up time,

we parents caught a whiff of bitch

and demanded our TinyTown spin

the sirens, bus in the hazmat crew,

their press conference of proof and containment:

We have scrubbed their little mouths with soap

and hosed them down from head to shoe. 

We assure you, they will eat vegetables tonight.


Such epidemics take me back to high school

and the outbreak of bitches there that attacked

the student body, two thousand strong. 

This Newtonian curse-word universe

saw bitches who could neither be created nor destroyed,

saw bitch actions have equal,

opposite bitch reactions

until every orbiting bitch was caught

in the bold gravity of exponential maternity:

“I’m not a bitch. Your momma’s a bitch.”


The science of that Babylon was all wrong:

My mother is not a bitch,

she is old-school divinity

who makes Moses look lazy.

A mystery, mother lived

immune from all bitchy

outbreaks—a walking, talking,

white blood cell

without the proper mouth to form                                                  

four letter words (or five,

when keeping bitch in mind).

She never spoke curse words

of any kind, not one

that I can recall. She merely

parted the Red Sea

of her family’s profanity, then marched

her matriarchal self away

from our frog-filled mouths,

our language scarfed with locusts,

marched into freedom, into lands

of linguistic milk and honey. 

We children had no choice but to follow

through fields of gee wizz and golly,

through row upon row of awshucks

into orchards where we plucked willikers

right from their weighty branches—

with full bellies we rejected

the unclean, cast them out

preaching I don’t give a hoot

because you’re a giant horse’s patoot.


But I am no such prophet.

I cinch my daughters in their seats,

their lips still wet with bitch,

drown them on the way home

in wave after wave of

Thou shalt not

Thou shalt not

© 2019 House of the Tomato