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.

Hormone Doctor

Hormone Doctor

Mother hugs her purse in her lap,
a thing she does when nervous
or out of her element.
She is mostly unassailable
in her pressed slacks and blouse, matching jacket.
She makes me wear a dress
for the appointment. She is always making me
wear dresses. My bare legs stick
to the leather chair.
A teen of the 70s I'd rather they flare.
The office is different
from the examining room of our family doctor
with cherry bookshelves and books, a globe.
I think of the places I would rather be.
Mother thinks I'm fixable.
Perhaps I am.

The doctor breezes in
as doctors do.
I sit in a chair and don't bleed.
The doctor considers me over the rims of his glasses,
his eyes full of bark and fizz like root beer.
Squares of midday light fall on a leather reading chair and hassock,
a plaid blanket spilling to the floor.
The doctor clears his throat,
unseals a jar of butterscotch from his desk,
ring of dime store glass,
smell of burnt sugar.
Despite myself, I salivate.

The doctor tilts the jar towards me, eyebrows raised.
His tweedy jacket and trousers don't match.
I look to mother, who shrugs.
I unwrap a candy, golden cellophane crinkling,
calculating how much farther I will jog later.
The doctor asks questions.
Mother answers, and I don't interrupt.
I do stash pork chop in a napkin at the dining room table.
I can subsist on an apple a day.
I jog for miles at dusk, up and down our hilly suburban streets,
eternal light of the catholic church shining at my back.
I read cookbooks for recipes I won't eat.
Clothes hang on me.

The doctor paces behind his desk.
Mother balms her lips.
I am good at starvation,
but I don't mean to disappear.
I don't know what else to do
when a boyfriend says we weren't meant to be.
I take it as a sign,
the undeserving kind.

Enough, says the doctor.
See this? He points to a print in a frame.
I am the doctor of chemical messengers.
What you see here triggers response.
Cells are activated.
How does this make you feel?
I see a bridge
and lilypads.
The private space of a gardener.
Perhaps I'm the gardener.
The foreground is almost too verdant for words.
This being a woman.
Perhaps I'm afraid of my own lushness.

Did a woman paint that?
I ask the doctor, my voice weedy.
She could have, he says,
steepling his fingers, convinced of the the body's
elegancies. Mother looks at me,
seeing a thing change in me,
her eyes the same brown as mine
like dark chocolate
like poignancy.

© 2019 House of the Tomato