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.

Cooperate with the Inevitable

A Dale Carnegie trainer floats his own boat,
skimming the sea in front of us,
blonde as a lifeguard. We take notes
in the Golden Book. I turn myself
to the practiced smile, open cup
of his voice, pretending to pay attention,
untroubled by shifting shadows, lost sons.

The silence has been days, ghost missing
in the city, too white for back alleys.
Maybe he lost his phone again,
maybe he wants zero reminders of family:
parents, sister, grandparents. 
Caring is an obligation.
He must agree to be loved.

My compartment is not so day-tight
as unknown-tight, complicit-tight.
I am just another woman who has done him
wrong. Twenty years ago, I shouldn't have said
what I said. My words reverberate the girlfriend's,
whose number was done on him. Number is
an unknown quantity, damage.

I would rather not be sitting next
to our manager. He mouths the listening
exercises. I do not admire longevity
but say that I do. We stack and unstack
the conversation. I call him by name,
not a number. I don't share everything.

Somewhere out of frame ghost runs
like a fox, furtive and quivering,
his best and worst self, darting
past the garbage, knowing
a secret route back to the forest,
what he believes to be foliage.
Leaves shred as he passes, not even.

A lifesaver is useless in the woods.
I have all the wrong skills.
Wounds are visceral.
She had some idea of cutting him out.
Rejection is disorder, repudiation.
Ghost chases the open spaces, not finding

© 2019 House of the Tomato