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.


Thinking about a series of Scotland poems… another life ago… more like Scottish Husband published here… did the weird tracks thing my accident… kinda liked how it looked… also including uniquely Scottish words… if they make sense in context… was italicizing them but it got messy and cluttered looking, so stopped.


He joked it was a beast.
I believed him,
=================== foreign American pencil skirt,
imagining a snuffling
creature in the ancient
pines, padding loamy
on a brew of earth,
leaves and needles.
An animal of witness
unseen in the murk,
winding walks of the braes
wilding the village,
gathering keeks of the river,
the sea, the smell of wetness,
me sinking in my knee-highs,
sky half-cast like a squint.

I was only =========== at the butcher's
on the corner in the square.
Smell of knives and greasepaper.
Smell of organ-grinding, anatomy,
black peppercorns.
A smile like pasture in his
blood-stained pinney.
He handed me what I asked for,
a parcel of minced heart, liver,
and oatmeal, neatly tied
with twine. ======================== I boiled it
in a pan, stuffed with disbelief
and spice. He said I was
too gullible. The pudding steamed
like field dressing, sliced across
the middle. I preferred the legend,
a creature given up for lost.

Lugubrious Fruit Blossom

After the conference w/ TC, I was dreaming poetry. This happened. I tried writing a lugubrious/mournful poem…about dying blossoms, but it just didn’t work. The train metaphor seems incongruous..but maybe that’s what adds to the humor?? I had to laugh out loud when I woke up with that line…as the rest of the poem slipped away. I”m looking for something to send to Bramble. Dreams are memory-like, right — fit with Jeff and Joan’s memory theme?

In my dream, I craft the perfect poem.
Words connect like little train cars,
one image couples to the next
traveling down the tracks of dreamland.

Half asleep, half awake,
my poem journeys onto a
piece of cream colored paper
with cocoa brown ink.
It is a beautiful poem.

I can’t wait to share it with you.
I must get this written down
in the real world, on real paper.
Opening my eyes, I try to catch
the words from my dream-poem.

The lines cannonball past my head.
I say them out loud to rescue the poem,
pulling vanishing words out of Neverland.
I manage to grab only the last line:
Lugubrious fruit blossom.


Alice by Royal Doulton

Remembering my mother today… the only heirloom of hers I really want… my dad still wants it around him…

The excuse as a gift.
She carried it across a Continent.
There is bone ash in bone china,
giving her a lustre, suffusing
rose across her cheeks,
blueness in her dress.
I am the heirloom, and the heirloom
will come to me.
See me reading a book.
"'The time has come,' the walrus said.
To talk of many things.'"
Replica of myself.
Replica of a replica of myself.
She took joy in figures
that reminded her of people she loved.
The person might live right in front of her.
(We all did.)
Yet she would co-relate the figure,
glazed in a curio cabinet of glass shelves and mirrors,
she smoothed with her thumb,
texture of words.
Her before the tumble.
Me before the tumble.
We all tumble down.
The firstness did something to her face,
relaxed and wondering.
We lived between ourselves
and the figures,
the space she created for us beside the collectible.
I am the heirloom, and the heirloom
will come to me.

A Sign

Tori- it has taken me 14 years to finally write this poem. Is the crossing over too obvious? —ALG

A Sign

A lone eagle rises
tops a pine,
dives for a fish
in a Wisconsin Lake,
solo hunter guards his territory.

 My father passed away late August,
my Father-in law’s heart stopped dead
right before pecan pie on Thanksgiving day,
my brother succumbed to cancer
one week before Christmas.

As we drive west to my brother’s funeral
three eagles glide from a bluff
ride a wind current together
pass in front of our car
as they crossover
the Mississippi River.

Emotional Jet-Lag

I’ve been thinking about myself at Bella’s age… when I was in London… I have a journal and pictures… the journal is pretty excruciating to read… but I wanted to know myself at that age again, so… I came up with the idea of doing erasure poems of the journal, set against the aged, grainy, discolored photos from the same period of time. Thankfully Photoshop let’s me restore them to a degree. Let me know what you think.

Emotional Jet-Lag.jpg

Table of Contents

Here’s the TOC. The poems are wide-ranging, representing the different phases of a woman’s life. Maybe too wide-ranging? I thought the uniting premise could be being female. But maybe that’s not strong enough? I’m stuck. So any thoughts appreciated.

Flaming Pajamas...7





My Sister Really Sick...13

Seeing Red...15

How to Forget...17

Arc of Its Back Breaking...18

I am the Rooms I have Ever Smoked...19



Beware of Cuteness...23

Bumper Sticker...24


Terrible Mother... 27


Gender Bias...30

Whisky Trail...31






New World...39


Deep into the Design...42

I See the Face of Nefertiti in the Face of a Lawn Ornament... 44

Frogs Singing...45

The Theory of Grass...46


Bury the Dishes...48

My Peri:scope is Sick...49

I Know This Heart...50

Dear Self at Thirty...52


House of the Tomato...54

Monkey Business...55

Zoo Day...57


Games We Play...59

Lifesaving Lessons...61



Reading Music (aka Hot Pants)...67

Slow Dancing...68

Being a Woman isn’t Easy...69

Art Inspires Art at the Jazz Concert

Jazz voice floats
clear as light
autumn leaves
drift by the window…
autumn leaves of
long ago 

vibraphone, saxophone,
drum and bass weave
a canopy of sound 
over the audience 
snaring my thoughts.
Are there even words for 

what I feel billowing inside?
Notes rise together then depart
on their own path of tones.
Vibraphone draws a melody
then sax, then the bass.
I ascend one of the sound trails

that takes me to my brother
who loved jazz-cool autumn
kicking up leaves dropping from
maples turned red and gold,
music hot with memory,
I wander these woods with words

gather colors of sound,
follow the jazz trail,
letting go, listening
I miss him most of all…
when autumn leaves
start to fall.


I Sniff my Sleeves at Bedtime

At three years old
I press nose into clean pajama sleeves,
long before scented fabric softener
back when it was only
Oxydol or Tide hawked on daytime TV.

Mother chose Tide
(But never watched the Soaps)
I sniff inside cotton cuffs,
tidy tightness,
pull the left sleeve open

sniff, sniff until it warms
and loses the scent.
I tug on the right,
inhale the smell of fresh cool cotton
long before synthetics

homespun bouquet of
cotton comfort,
pink sleeves, ribbed cuffs,
natural nurture,

soother for sleep.
No thumbs, no sucking,
just the press of my nose
into pajama cuffs
stretched and worn.




Data breach *email alert*
moral breach *soul alert*
identity is at risk

Black elders shot in Kentucky grocery store

School shootings, lock down drills
           students ill with traumatic stress disorders

Shooter in a synagogue. More dead.

Trans women murdered


Day of the dead,
          all year long

So many breaches, we lose track
         except for those who grieve,
                   who grieve forever and remember.

Guns and troops deployed at the border
     Who’s in
            Who’s out
                 Caravan walking about

Another speech, another breach

Moral compass spins
has lost all direction.

Best fixed by VOTING

3rd revision in comments-10-22-18 REVISION of A Beautiful Land. New Title "From the Air"

From the Air

Helicopter fan-blades whirl them up
in a cloud of dust, soldiers rise above the jungle
as they move upward into clean air,

beyond the smell of mortars and death.
My brother sees mountains, trees, deltas and rivers,
he observes a beautiful land in spite of war.

He tells of rice paddies perfectly laid out
in geometric patterns, with farmers,
water buffalo and simple wooden plows

making quilts of sustenance below.
The aerial jungle is postcard pretty,
except for bomb craters that pock the landscape.

Sun lights up an array of greens, gives an aura of peace.
Fifty years later, I talk with a veteran
who went back to Vietnam, said he found

no evidence of Americans or GIs,
the sound of chopper blades gone.
He visited a museum in the city where

a Vietnamese placard tells how American soldiers ruined
their country back then, killing the land and its people.

Cosmic Egg Walked a Rustic Road

Seeing if the idea has legs.. pun intended… kinda fun imagining myself a Cosmic Egg…

Cosmic Egg walked a rustic road,
pacing her amble, distinctively waddle.
The lonely tarmac, trickle of ditch,
shell pearlized under an overclouded


If she wore pockets, her hands
would be deep. Slow profile of
drivers pretending not to mind.
Mind in the sense of paying


If she had hands. Her appendages
were brackets of proposition.
Hunters entered and left the woods. No
trespassing. Equation an expression of

what if?

Rustic was a reclaimed word. In the
sense of ribbon of road. In the sense of
reducing speed, painted barns,
rows of tasseled corn. In the sense of

preserving something.

Cosmic Egg walked the dawning.
She walked the trees and their mothering.
She walked the breath of leaves,
skipping by. What else could she


A Beautiful Land

Tori- I’ve been messing with line length changing three line stanzas to 4-line stanzas. Does it makes sense , or does it look awkward? In three line stanzas, some of the lines were too long. And does the last line make the poem? Or is it editorializing? I‘ve edited it in and out.

and then, is this poem just too narrative? I feel like it needs to be spiced up, but I am not sure how.

My brother saw the land of Vietnam from a helicopter
before they dropped him and his buddies
into the bush to fight. He said it was surprisingly
beautiful in spite of the war.

 From the air
he saw rice paddies perfectly laid out
in geometric patterns created by farmers,
water buffalo and simple wooden plows.

The aerial jungle revealed
a spectrum of all shades green.
In contrast, he noted areas of defoliation,
erasure of green, deep wounds on the earth from bombs.

 Another veteran I know
returned to Vietnam 40 years
after the war, he told me
the country is lush and beautiful again.

He said, There is no sign the United States was ever there,
except for displays in the museum
that describe how the people
of our country ruined their country. 

It hurts my heart to know this.


Cosmic Egg at the Carnival

And now for something completely different…

Annette, for a while there I was playing around with creation myths. Here’s one that got published:

Then I came upon the concept of “cosmic egg.” Not sure why it resonates with me… maybe I’ll do a series??? THE ADVENTURES OF COSMIC EGG???

(Did I ever tell you Philosophy was my minor? I think it might come from that part of me.)

Let me know what you think. Of course Cosmic Egg is female :-).


Cosmic Egg at the Carnival

Cosmic egg nudged you
onto the Tilt-a-Whirl
with her complex convex-
ity. She knew you were a thrill


Such a mismatched pair!
Ushered to the bivalve scoop
of a fun car, bolted to a turning
point on an evolving


Cosmic egg secured the safety
bar, deflecting a few stares
with her oblong white weirdness.
Your car eddied as more funsters

loaded up.

The platform rolled valleys,
heaving dimpled metal. You rode
the rise and fall, spinning efferent-
ly, flattened in the cross-hairs of

physical forces.

You hiccuped at the unpredictable
nature of the motion, a summation of
riders. Was it destiny? Was it divine will?
Cosmic egg was silent, minding her


Titles: “What She Carried” or “What She Said” or “Mothers Still Worry”

(a pantoum… poem for the Vietnam book—) Title? which one? I started with W”hat she Carried” ( like a burden—but it isn’t referenced anywhere in the I am leaning toward “What she Said”


Mothers still worry about their little boys, you know.
He’s not doing well, my sister-in-law says.
My mother, 84, needs to see her first-born,
we drive from Wisconsin to Minnesota to Iowa. 

He’s not doing well, my sister-in-law says,
as we follow the rain on black, shiny pavement,
we drive from Wisconsin, to Minnesota, to Iowa.
Sister-in-law says, He looks like an old man now,

as we follow the rain on black, shiny pavement.
We arrive in time for dinner, shocked at his decline. 
Sister-in-law says, He looks like an old man now.
Mother sits next to him, takes his hand and says…

We arrive in time for dinner, shocked at his decline.
His hands quiver, eyes look flat with a gaze of giving up.
Mother sits next to him, takes his hand and says,
Mothers still worry about their little boys, you know.

I See the Face of Nefertiti in a Lawn Ornament

I pulled this randomly out of my journal…trying to establish a better morning ritual of writing… something of a departure…

I See the Face of Nefertiti in a Lawn Ornament

The beautiful woman has come
to me in my errand, spinning roads
in the old neighborhood,
turquoise probability of the sky
slowing down slowing down
for curbs
and sidewalks,
bike nostalgia in yards,
white-painted chairs on porches,
reservoir of ancient history
occurring in my side vision,
sliding past the plastic cast
lawn ornament,
I see Nefertiti,
Queen of Egypt,
perhaps king
it is speculated
from a bust unearthed in the ruin of a sculptor's workshop,
her crown of blue diadem,
single gaze of quartz,
portraying her sovereignty,
her equality,
her love of a Pharaoah, six daughters,
absolute belief in the one and only sun god.
As I revolve in my mission,
distracted by headlines and deadlines,
signposts to missed turns,
she comes to me as an ideal of womanhood.
Yet she was powerful.
Yet she was powerless to stop the next generation
from undoing all she had done.
And so it goes.

Mail Call

Tori--I've had this one percolating for a long time. I was stuck so today I just sat down and wrote it. Is it too simple? or maybe simple is good? It's how it was.


Everyone lived for letters,
the soldiers in Vietnam,
the families back home.

It took four days for a letter
to travel from Vietnam to Wisconsin
if everything went smoothly.

Soldiers had times to write and times to fight.
Some letters arrived regularly,
some had long gaps of time in between.

My parents rushed to the mailbox daily,
disappointed if there was no letter.
Peter said, The only thing to look forward to in war was Mail Call.

The postage from Vietnam was Free, a measly perk of war.
When Wally our family mailman
saw APO, San Francisco, on the return address,

Free in the top right corner
and Peter’s large scrawl across an envelope,
he rang the doorbell, a gesture of such kindness.

History Lesson - How To Measure War

Tori, I hope this "shows", more than "tells" and I hope it isn't preachy. It's a fresh write from my free write notes. Does it grab? Educate?


History Lesson – How to Measure War

Secretary of Defense McNamara,
former whiz kid of the auto industry,
measured his worth by objectives,
by production of cars made and sold.

In his new role, how would he measure
the Vietnam war? What was the Objective?
The red scare? Fear?
What could he count on for success?

My brother wrote home about daily sweeps on jungle patrol,
no objective or purpose given by the platoon leader.
What were they trying to accomplish, he wondered?
McNamara measured what he knew, tangibles.

Auto bodies transferred into human bodies.
He counted human lives lost,
the opposite of production, 
a measure of destruction.

Enemy body counts were his highest measure of success.
Our body counts were measured too,
by Walter Cronkite on the evening news.
No wonder my mother was on the verge of hysteria that year.

No wonder students were protesting.
No wonder I walked in a daze on campus then.
Peter was counting down the days,
Mother feared another statistic in our family.

McNamara and President Johnson
with their precise, slick-backed hair
told us progress was being made,
through the common denominator of death,
where every body counts.



Music of Vietnam

Tori--For the book. Do I need to give song credit to John Denver in an epigram in I?  Music of Vietnam encompasses lots of music of the era.   That's why the  Roman numeral I, II .   I am researching more songs of that era to write about. The music of this time was a huge deal for soldiers while in war.  John is VALUABLE for this knowledge too.  We Gotta Get of This Place was THE signature song in VN. That's why I mention it more than once.  II  is a mixture of song titles and lyric lines--do I need to call that out in the title?

         Music of Vietnam
              Leaving on a Jet Plane, Written by John Denver,
Leaving on a Jet Plane

Peter, Paul and Mary’s
signature song for going to Vietnam
resonated through the Coliseum
in Madison to a packed house,
their three-hour concert
gave us an evening of unity
for our youthful ideals of
peace, love, harmony, justice.
They gave so generously,
in concert, encores, and more encores,
then invited us to the campus
for a sing-in, an all-night vigil. 
I sat up with Peter, Paul and Mary,
goosebumped, singing, crying,
for the war to be over, hoping peace
would be, Blowin’ in the wind.


Top Ten Songs of Vietnam, a Found Poem

 We Gotta Get Out of This Place
You'll be dead before your time is due
I Feel Like I’m Fixin to Die

1,2,3,  what are we fighting for
don’t ask me, I don’t give a damn,
next stop Vietnam
We Gotta Get Out of This Place

head to the Green, Green, Grass of Home
leave behind this Chain of Fools
so we can be (Sittin’ on) The Dock of the Bay
We’ve mailed The Letter
From the land of Purple Haze
I am a Fortunate Son to be
Leavin’ on  a Jet Plane for Detroit City
All my bags are packed I’m ready to go.
We gotta get out of this place

If it's the last thing we ever do
We gotta get out of this place
'cause girl, there's a better life for me and you

Coming Home (for Peter 1945-2004)

Tori--I've worked on this poem for years, and recently, weeks.  It was a short 2-stanza poem that started with the first stanza here. "Coma is the Comma". The ministers/orthodox priests (his wife was middle east orthodox) at the funeral loved that line..Coma is the comma., so I'm trying to keep it). I read a shorter version at his funeral in 2004. I've expanded, added info.  now and wonder if it might be a strong last poem for the Vietnam letters/poems book.  I hope the ending doesn't sound sappy.  I know I jump from Christmas to Autumn at the end...but autumn was his favorite and he loved the coolness, in contrast to the stinking heat in VN. Or maybe I should just end it at, the 2nd to last stanza?  (I'm thinking of doing a sieres of Haiku in the book--that last stanza could be one to include in that.)


Coma was the comma
before you crossed over,
this, a sad leave-taking,
for those of us left behind.

For you, no more nightmares,
no more Vietnam flashbacks,
or stinking heat of the jungle you hated.
No more chemo, cutting, cringing, IVs removed.

You’ve come home again,
this time to the cocoon of a hospital bed
in the living room, a week before Christmas.
Your head turning toward the window
a spark of recognition seeing the tree lit and decorated.

There were no words left in you.
Your wife whispered, “You’re home for Christmas”
as you quietly slipped into a twilight coma,
Sheeba, the cat, curled
into the back of your contracted legs,
purring. She never left your bed.
You didn’t make it to Christmas

or maybe you did,
traveling your last R & R,
learning the mystery of death,
that I ache to know.

On crisp autumn mornings, I think of you,
in our shared memory of the cool air you loved,
kicking up leaves under chrome yellow maples,
comforted by deep blue skies.


The Shortest Distance

I wrote this for the Unity Walk... not my usual style... but I thought I *should* be able to write a poem for a specific occasion... if I'm any kind of poet. Right? Is the ending too trite? Or appropriate? I can't tell.

The Shortest Distance

The shortest distance between two people is story.
— Patti Digh

In the beginning is hesitation.
    A knowing you, knowing me standoff.
Why are we afraid of each other?

Between two people is a measuring.
    We default to a scale of difference.
Why the stranger danger?

Between two people it's easier
    to see the closed door body talking --
averted gaze, turned shoulder --

than the half-smile invitation to connect.
    I see you walk with a slower step,
and I think feeble.

You see me with a bold eye,
    and you think difficult.
Between two people is fear.


The middle is often circumstantial,
    a stacking of events that force us together.
We find ourselves at the same wedding in the woods,

compelled by the bride to sit across
     the picnic table from each other.
The shortest distance is the hollow of your throat.

The shortest distance is you toying
    with the keepsake necklace given to you
by your granddaughters, who live with you.

The bride is like a daughter to you.
    You did all her flowers, including the garland
of eucalyptus, giving off its medicinal scent.

You and your partner moved to Upper Michigan
    from Georgia to open a greenhouse.
The shortest distance is you giving me a flower.


All at once I'm woven into your story.
     I have moved between states.
I have wished I was a gardener.

All it takes is knowing one person in common,
     asking one question, noticing one detail.
Humanity, I am your story.

Humanity, you are our story.
     Narrative is larger than race, or age, or gender.
Together we can create a happy ending.

© 2018 House of the Tomato