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.

Gender Bias

Gender Bias
Teachers pat me like a loaf
Especially the chalk-dusted
I learn early who has authority

Behaving is more important
than the Theory of Relativity
The length of my hems is a topic

The only teacher who doesn't care
is music, pounding me on the back,
Exhorting me to inhale from some place deeper,
past the usual shallows of the ribcage
He listens when I try to improvise
Scarring just visible behind his beard,
dismissing the reprimands

Psychology wonders why I work so hard to disappear
The obsession with food, careful preparation, niceness
Only to leave it all untouched, picture perfect

Physiology hands me a tube
I learn my lung capacity is half
My male classmates have lungs like bellows
They are able to move more air with less effort
Teachers used to comment I talked too much
I consign myself to a smaller envelope of air

In college I go to a party at a professor's and do not speak at all.
A blustery instructor of European Literature
Not a single female author on the reading list
Anger takes a lot of air
The airless version is mute

My grown daughter has an outburst in a supper club
"Why is it even a thing?"
Quizzed by her male relatives for no good reason
Diners at the salad bar turn to stare
My daughter doesn't care
Claiming the air she inhabits

© 2019 House of the Tomato