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.

Daughter of Wands

Annette, I’m trying something new. Using my tarot deck… and approaching the card I draw as a prompt…. here’s the explanation for Daughter of Wands…The daughter is going to a new home with her companion, the unicorn. The whooping cranes guide the way. RIGHT (the cards are circular and their direction adds dimension to the reading): She may be heading toward recklessness or at least unusually flamboyant behavior.


Daughter is a loaded word
I ask the cards
What do I do with my grief

Shuffling the deck
My mother is a unicorn
A creature of rarity

She makes my thirst possible
Drink the water already
Home is always a journey

A whooping crane startles the way
with its switchgrass squawking,
walking with diffidence

I don't own the recklessness
but the energy is mine
A daughter silts the earth

Each phase a soil horizon
Layering the womanhood
Answering the disquiet

Great Bitter

Another Scottish Husband poem… some helpful hints… Maureen… pronounced Mo-Reen with a heavy first syllable… means “great, bitter.” Scottish words for bramble or blackberry include “wood rasp,” “siven,” and “brammie.”

Great Bitter

She rasped a voice in his ear,
taking the broad breadth of his grizzling
into her arms. Mo-reen. Mo-reen.
He was home in her arms. He was childhood,
the boy he was, smile like an arrow. His laugh
the excavation of shuffling at Four Corners,
next to the garden wall of the castle
where they’d mill after dark.
She raised a glass . Slangevar.
She still smoked the Woodbines,
lighting up on the public side
where it was allowed. My Scottish husband
took her fag between his lips, huffing
smoke rings to the tin ceiling.
Her slant eyes that stayed and stayed, siven in their steepening.
Allo, 'ere's my man. Poor Davy, with his cowlick and shrugging,
missing two fingers on one hand from forestry's chainsaw.
I waded in their accents.
Davy was a man who came back, some skirmish or another.
My Scottish husband was Englander, which he denied, swearing a blue streak.
She bought him a nip. Remember. Remember.
A profusion of malt in the air, tufted grass and peat.
Wet dirt. She was his first. Fence- hanging.
The laughter kept splintering.
Mo-reen embraced me, too. We ken, she slyly.
A sleekit woman, restless, she potted jams at purveyors of Scottish specialities.
Dark hair, fair skin, scraped clean by the sea change.
She saw her mother into the afterlife.
Her children named Mo-reen and Davy. Isn't that the point?
The bell clanged last call.
You must come for afters, her brammie eyes insisted.
Aye, said Davy, riffing with his three fingers.
She promised remembering and sausage rolls,
kitchen table and Scotch.
She vowed it'd be fine.

Hat Trick

For fun. I could send this perhaps to that aging anthology. I’m still tweaking music and rhythm, some lines are awkwardly longer. I like it short and snappy.

At the hospital my Nurse says “Wait, let me get you a hat”

 Hat Trick

Three wickets in cricket
three goals in hockey,
but bad for a batter with
three outs in one game,
or even Chaplin's bowler twirling.

In the hospital I was told
pee in a plastic hat
placed in the bowl,
the toilet kind.
Sitting over it
am I on it
or not?
Where will this go
when I let go?

A measuring cup of a hat,
a sorting hat of sorts
where the magic is measured,
debits must equal credits 

measures not circumference
but content.
It’s always about content,
IV drip, drip, flow.
Run it through 
all systems - go!

There’s a trick in the gown,
three tries to do the ties
now I’m naked in front of the mirror
next to my yellow hat below,
pole dancing an IV pump,
now where does the tissue go?
Certainly not in the hat!

I’ve been recently asked
If I’ve had a poop yet
wish I could give them
a hat trick of that.

Steroids

Stream of consciousness on steroids. This flowed out at 3 am. , disjointed spacing too. What do you think? New for me:

Steroids

Inflammation deflamer
appetite aperture
opens
     everything looks good

minding my own
       ambushed by energy

electracized
   like Jitter bugs
       like June bugs
            like ants in pants

Pin prick pains
      throbbing thinking

Facial Flushing
     Heads up
             Purpling
                 Looks like sun burn
Cover up with make up

Internal interwebs drive the bus here
        three a.m. do you know where the sandman is?

Localized to the joints they said
          But the Party is zooming
              to my brain.

I did not RSVP
     six feet of subway travels upward
              in me, of me,  around me.

“What’s the buzz,
            hey, what’s happening”

I’m headed for the stars
            without the Mothership

So many words
            So little time
                 cauterize cliches
                       then  write, write, write

 

Annette Grunseth 06-13-2019


Sonnet to Arthritic Feet

I had to do it. And, my FIRST sonnet. I read up on sonnets and really tried. Of course what’s on my mind today? Not sure I have the rhythm quite right, but it can be fudged I think. It’s a Shakespearean. (abab cdcd efef gg). This anthology: “Is it Hot in Here or is it Just Me? Women Over 40 Write on Aging” is asking for poems on aging, 7/1 deadline. I can send you the link, too if you want it.

Is the “turn” appropriate these days ( with alcohol abuse, or is it still a thing I can poke fun at?) Another Title could be : To My Feet

Sonnet to Arthritic Feet

Arches fall creating the flattest of feet,
joints rub one on one cause spurs on the bone,
grape-sized knobs breed pain to make me bleat.
My feet grow painful like hot pounding stones,  

walking is hard, hiking out of the question.
I rate my pain on a scale of one to ten,
to the doctor I go for steroid injections
that last a few weeks when I walk and bend.

When pain returns how do I keep active?
Getting fatter by day with what I can’t do,
pain is dumbed with a blue pill attractive,
but kidneys rebel with blood work askew.

I’ve found a trick that eases pain chronic,
put my feet up with a gin and tonic.

 

zig : zag

Oh boy, I have to let this one go to the universe, and I’ll come back to it. Been reworking it to death!!! It’s the penultimate poem, so it’s important for many reasons.

Part of my dictionary series. Now my SORROW ALPHABETICALLY ARRANGED series. That’s the latest iteration of title. Let me know what you think.

Punctuation — I started off using a bullet to separate syllables, and then numbering to indicate lines or “meanings.” Then I decided instead of 1. I would use 1:. Then I decided I didn’t like the hierarchy of the numbering. Line 1 was not more important than line 9, so I dropped the numbers. How there comes to be a semi-colon “:” at the beginning of each line.

However, in a recent poem in POETRY I came across a poem whereby the poet used two semi-colons at the beginning of a line. Wondering how that might read. What do you think?

zig : zag 

: I dozed when she dozed.          Light
behind my eyes, grooves in the           imperfectly drawn.

: Hospice overlooking a         rock quarry.

: She had been a nurse. The sicker the          better.

: The morphine made her         hallucinate.

: Memories in her moans, reeling         like home movies.   

: Her heavy head in my lap on         long car rides.
Constellation of speckles across her             Fuji cheeks.

: We touched the stars from our         bedroom
window.          Heads together.          Comfort of our bodies.

: The tires of her wheelchair got stuck,      ratcheting
back and forth on the path.

: It hurt to laugh.

: The unraveling of her         night sky
in activities class.          Radiating lines          of blue, gold          and black.

: The lines sympathize in my         sleep.

: She moved like resin to my          everlasting lullaby.

: Repeated naps like           falling.          Always to the same.

: She couldn't eat. Swallowing through a         striped straw.

: The hallways were a          labyrinth.

: Late afternoon stirred          motes in the air.

: The cards weren't lucky. She turned the          suits
face down.

: The pooling of her ankles.          Sicker.

: The lines deconstructed,          broke-off.
She gave me a drawing like a         meteorite.

: Not long now.          I was suspended          in the amber
of her eyes.          She knew.

: How could I thank her for being my         sister?

: The words felt like a           line.

: I tattooed a shooting star          on my wrist,
each line a celestial          ember.

*
How double semi-colons might look…

zig :: zag 

:: I dozed when she dozed.          Light
behind my eyes, grooves in the           imperfectly drawn.

:: Hospice overlooking a         rock quarry.

Inky's Kitten

Strike while the iron is hot, you say? I don’t mean to hog the community here…but this has been in the works. I finally figured out what to do with it. Cut a bunch of info/narrative and it morphed into a pantoum, some lines tweaked for impact (e.g.line 3 is not repeated.). Looks like a series of “Inky” poems in the making. I left the numbering in for now.

Inky’s Kitten

1 mother was sobbing in the kitchen
2 as I came home from grade school  
3 Our Inky, pregnant with kittens was due any day
4  I was excited like a new parent to watch the birthing

2 as I came home from grade school that day
5 mom wept, hands on the counter, head down
4 I was excited like a new parent to watch the birthing
6 When I asked what was wrong

5 mom wept, hands on the counter, head down.
7 She told me Inky delivered one tiny, dead kitten.
6 When I asked what was wrong, she said
8 when you were three, I miscarried a baby at five months

7 Inky delivered one tiny, dead kitten
3 No one ever talked about it.   She said
8 when you were three, I miscarried a baby at 5 months.
1 mother was sobbing, at the counter, in the kitchen.

The Wish

Tori— I’m trying to write something new for Ariel. (less than 30 lines. Theme of Intersection of nature and people). I’ve also been trying to write about this experience for decades. I don’t like the ending— “so what”—needs something stronger—I’m still thinking about it. Your thoughts?

The Wish

The breeze spun a pile of leaves
uncovering a puff of black fur
with a mew so weak it was
nearly sucked back into the breath of wind.
Dad gently lifted up a tiny kitten
with yellow marble eyes,
light as a songbird.
He pocketed the hungry kitten
in his hunting vest as dog Midge dashed in
a with partridge in her mouth.
That summer when I was eight,
I tossed wishing well coins for a black cat.

Dad took the black kitten out of his pocket
placed her on the kitchen floor
where she laid into a saucer of milk.
I called her Inky, a child’s thought-up name.
Rescued by chance, Inky took possession of our family.
She curled up on my bed in the sun,
endured being dressed in doll clothes,
pushed in a buggy, or tucked in my doll crib.
She loved my older brother’s quiet lap
as they dozed in a chair, too tired to go to bed.
Beloved Inky lived nineteen years
before she returned to the woods
under a tree in the backyard.

 

 

kal : leid : o : scope

Dictionary poem…

: Assumed properties,          reflecting panes.

: Multiplication of sectors,          beautiful shapes.

: What we take for obvious --          playing the angles. 

: The trick of light,          and wrist action.

: Devised for the        joy of perceiving.

: Colored glass impressions,          shards really.

: The eyeglass of sleeping,          rotating tubular.

: Strange oscillations,          direction of motion,      of waves.

: Perpendicular to the figure.          

: I am not fixed          on any sequence of story.

: The curvature of the object          ascertains.

: In which direction the dreams are         bent.

: A step outside          the waking.

: The pattern of with.          The pattern of without.

Discovering Holy Water at Age Nine

Robin Chapman offered suggestions on structure and title on this poem that WAS “Morning Blues”. I added some new images this morning. What do you think?

Discovering Holy Water at Age Nine 

One dry summer in South Dakota 
visiting my Unitarian grandparents 
I made friends with Sheila the girl next door. 
In her house was a statue of Jesus 
hanging on a cross next to a shelf that held 
a narrow bottle with a cork stopper. 
Holy water, my friend said. 

That night a prairie thunderstorm 
rattled the windows like an angry ghost, 
driven by wind inhaling the soil, 
grains of dust encased a million raindrops. 
A burst of light and a crack of thunder 
woke the house at midnight. 
In the dark Sheila’s mother shook that bottle 

like a priest, holy-watering the walls 
bedrooms, floors, kitchen and kids 
as the storm grumbled east 
tapering in the distance. 
Morning dawned in glory blue, 
the beds walls, and floors were streaked cerulean, 
laundry bluing had saved them all. 

Owl

Annette, this is an older poem… tightened it up… revised… rearranged… thinking of submitting to Ariel… let me know what you think…

Owl

My son and I play Owl, 
a game I learn from a Nordic woman
with solar eyes charged          with the Northern Lights.

He leans down to me.             With splayed
fingers, I hold his heavy head between my palms.
I aim my forehead into his.

His hair's too long. He hasn't 
shaved. His ginger whiskers look                   like molt.
"Close your eyes," I say. I open mine as wide

as caverns, pressing closer, gaining                precious fractions
until our faces are nearly conjoined,              pupil to pupil,
mysterious centers. I wish I could push

through his skull                     to know what he's thinking,
what he’s doing, if he's using. I can remember a time when
all I saw was green.

"Open," I say,             hopeful.
He opens his eyes into my huge orbs, his large lever
hands resting on my shoulders.

He laughs, pleased by the attention.
The object of the game is                   to startle,
tubular-eyed proximity,          gathering light,           

information, courage,             shining it back.  
"Now you," he says,               unfurling his scroll of a forehead 
in my direction.

What Little Girls are Made of

Here’s an example of a poem that came out of a line from another poem I wrote. I used a line from “Dainty Lady Hankies” . Robin had us take one of our own lines and do a free write. I used the line “Aunt Minnie slipped them discreetly into her full bosom”—even thou this line does not appear in the new poem, it prompted me to write the first line about my great aunts and their “foundations”. i let the poem lead…adn the ending surprised me. I’m not sure about the title…i was at a loos for a better one.

What Little Girls are Made of

My great aunts were women of foundations,
brassieres with rows of sturdy hooks,
corsets that pulled up tight
to hold them together.

Their dresses had tailored lapels
with wide shoulder pads and a chest pocket
with a crisp hankie neatly folded
into a triangle, peeking out.

They wore hats with big brims tilted to one side,
held white gloves in their hands, 
and handbags with solid straps dangling from their arms.

They were no nonsense with opinions about little girls.
They gave me Elaine Powers Book of Etiquette for my
twelfth birthday and the Fanny Farmer Junior Cookbook
instructing me about shoulds, pleases and thank yous,
and how to make meals.

When visiting I had better have a hankie in my purse
and my white gloves just in case, even though
I’d rather have my fingers in the mud, slapping a dinner of mud pies in a row, down the driveway just to see their faces.

Butterscotch Candies

Here’s another “odd” but traumatic childhood memory. There was a whole school year where I had trouble swallowing. Childhood worries? anxiety issue? I still don’t know.

Butterscotch Candies 

 The full belly of a glass candy jar, sealed with a clear lid, 
sits by my place at the table, filled with little golden suns. 

 It is my prize if I can gain ten pounds in a month 
placed there by my father, to encourage his little daughter of eight. 

It shimmers with its yellow satin ribbon tied about the neck 
while I struggle to choke down breakfast. 

The more I think HOW to swallow, 
the harder it is to get the toast to go down. 

I chew until every bite is mush, chew until all is liquid, 
hold that liquid, feeling like I’m drowning in my own mouth. 

 How do I swallow? I am stuck, the food is stuck, 
the jar of butterscotch candies sealed, taunting me. 

 Each week I step on the scale. Am I losing still? Will I die? 
Butterflies push up from my stomach. 

 Little by little I learn to swallow again, gaining on 
the goal until the needle of the scale hovers at seventy pounds. 

 Dad tells me I can open it. I untie the ribbon, hear the snap of air   
as the lid pops, then untwist the cellophane of a candy, 

 pop it in my mouth, the little sun melting on my tongue, 
but as the treat glides around my mouth, I gag, 

 spit it out, discover I don’t like 
the taste of butterscotch candies at all. 

Dainty Lady Hankies

Dainty Lady Hankies  

Before Kleenex and Puffs, 
dainty hankies were given to girls as gifts.  
Aunt Minnie sent me one for my  
Birthday. It was made in Switzerland,  
white cotton, four red candles with holly  
embroidered diagonally across the   
see-through fabric, much too sheer  
for a nose blow.   

My aunt also sent me one for Valentine's Day,  
white with red hearts embroidered in one corner.  
She gave me an every-day hankie, yellow  
with children and a dog frolicking across  
a field of woven cotton.  

One came from Germany,   
a handsome hankie in two shades of green,  
featuring a meadow with a family of deer
woven around the square -- a doe,  
tall buck with antlers, and a fawn sleeping  
on the center of one edge.    

Lady hankies were meant to adorn a little girl’s purse,  
but my Aunt Minnie tucked them
discreetly into her full bosom.  
Mother said, I should save them for “good.”  

Folded and creased, I swaddled them in 
my underwear drawer. The little deer  
asleep, the children at play, the red heart  
in the corner, the candles still burning.    

These hankies never caught a juicy sneeze  
from a bad cold or sweat dripping from a brow.
They were above  post nasal drip, sinus infections,  
and meant only to catch  
a lady-like “ah-choo.” 

wil / der / ment

My dreamworld has gotten strange, so I’ve started up a few dictionary poems again. Let me know what you think.

wil / der / ment

: I must allow for disorientation.

: It's more than misplaced.

: A shudder perhaps. Seismic.
-- My axis regular disturbed.

: I suspect the world upside down. Or sideways.
Or strange.

: An enduring sense of feetlessness.

: The skitter of crumpled paper across a driveway.

: A creaking sign, blotch of rust in the shape of a crescent moon.

: I journal about the accidental details.

: It's a miracle I get anywhere, let alone on time.
Or relatively on time.

: Dislocation is what I do. I get lost. Every. Livelong. Day.

: Sometimes it makes me angry.
I know it enraged my children.

: Why can't you just take us there?
Why is it even a question?

: Why indeed.

: The turning around from the very beginning.

: Misplaced in the Kentucky Blue like a toadstool.
Living leaves of grass unexpecting my toddler feet.

: My mother liked to climb trees.

: I learn on Instant Messenger from a cousin
who'd only learned she'd died.

: My father cries when he reads the exchange on my phone.

: Phone GPS is the best thing to happen to me.

: The climbing of trees requires a certain willingness
to unmoor.

: It was a lunar adventure with my mother, too.
Often we never got to our destination.

: GPS stands for global positioning system.
Information about us is sent to an orbiting satellite.

: The satellite signals back,
impartial to whether we're upright or swinging by our feet.

Winding Walks

Another Scottish Husband poem… let me know what you think

Winding Walks

         Quietude in the ancient forest, maze of trails,
crowded by he-heather, juniper, cloudberry
         and scots pine, gnarled and surviving,

          trunks wide as centuries, waymarking
the interior where capercaillie fantail
          black sunrises. We walk shapeshifting

          in our inappropriate shoes, my Scottish
husband telling me stories of painted people,
          aboriginal to the wildness,

          stacking their stones, steles still standing.
I can smell the resin, feel design in the rich, herbaceous
         understorey, tattoos on his forearms

         mirror and comb, double-disc, spiraling pattern
to his thick neck, comprehending blue and barbarian.
Gaining perspective at a carved pavilion,

          crisscrossing wood, rolled log railing,
we can see across the dance, Strath Spey, village of 
          his origin, wide valley to mouth of an azure river.

Going to the Polls

(i was going to send this as a 2nd poem to Hal prize but I don’t feel it’s ready. is it too plain?)

Going to the Polls  

Mother drove us to John Marshall School
in her 1950 gray Plymouth, Lizzy. 
We entered the tiled gymnasium. 
Her name was checked off the list by a poll worker, 

 mother was handed a white paper ballot, took my hand, 
as we walked to a row of wooden booths. 
A navy, cotton curtain covered the front of each booth. 

As she pulled the dark drape aside, I saw a shelf, 
and a pencil fastened to a long white a string. 
She made me stand outside the voting booth 

drawing the curtain closed behind her. 
She emphasized voting was by secret ballot, 
I was not allowed to look, 
even though I was too young to read. 

At age ninety-one in her retirement community, 
when absentee ballots were brought to the dining room, 
she was first up, ready to vote -- by secret ballot. 
Her table mates grumbled, we’re too old, 

we don’t care anymore. We aren’t voting. 
Mother bristled, explained why they should.  
Active for decades in League of Women Voters,  
she always studied the candidates,  
exercised her right, left her mark. 

Oh Where, Poem

(Ever have a dream where you write the perfect poem, all typed out, and then wake up and all you grasp is the last line? I edited an older poem, changed the title. for the Cosmos Edition of Poeming Pigeon. Does this poem make sense?)

Oh Where, Poem 

What subconscious unlocks
cosmos of the mind,
thumbnail of the heavens,
constellation of muses?
Inside this miniature sky,
lies space to dream-write words.
In vivid galaxy of sleep
a perfect poem flows,
gossamer inspiration.
Come twilight morning of half-sleep,
if lucky, such words descend
like fresh snowing on neuron-branched trees
rooted in the mind, clinging for beauty sake.
Perhaps it is Calliope, protector of poetry,
who holds the tip of something slightly out of grasp
because to wake, breaks the spell,
remembering is lost
except for the divine last line.
Oh reach, oh grasp the tail of that comet,
hang on, to dream it again and again.

 

Memory

I’m transferring files from laptop to computer (from being gone), and found this one I wrote. Does it need more detail? here is what I have so far.

The National Center for Health Statistics shows that the rate of Americans who died from dementia has more than doubled since 2017.

Memory

The day I took my mother to the doctor for the mini mental test
she accurately named the President because she voted for him,
but she was five years ahead of the current year,
couldn’t recall three words given to her five minutes ago.

A friend’s wife died last month from early onset
where she spent a decade in another world.
He cared for her at home until the end.

I lose my keys on occasion and one time
forgot to give you a sparkling water when you asked.

Are we ok? I ask
so you give me three words to remember:
Apple, spoon, cork.

We continue to talk about our day,
maybe a bike ride, what to have for breakfast.
Worried, I silently repeat those three words over and over.

We get dressed, I fix eggs over easy,
toast English muffins
spread butter and homemade raspberry jam

What are those three words, you ask
I say,  Apple spoon cork
while chewing my English muffin.
I think we’re going to be OK.

Beach Haiku

I’ve been playing with haiku ( beach haiku)

body surfing the ocean
riding a ribbon of water
the white sash of a wave

+++

waves used to pound me into sand
now content to watch
watered down memories.

+++

Silver waves royaling             (Pun, play on words?)
across moonlit ocean
flowing mantle drapes the sand

+++

Footprint craters pock the beach
wind ripples the sand
erased like we never existed

+++

a living hourglass
sand trickles out the side of my hand
my biggest worry is losing you.

 

© 2019 House of the Tomato