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.

Tough as Leather

Hi Tori-- poem draft, trying to get something ready for Triad Contest--theme poem, "use a law or rule in an epigram and write a poem"...  What do you think?   I did a free write on this in 2001, and finally wrote a poem from it.  It's a fresh poem--might need to juggle stanzas or lines, cut extra words?    Will be on the road as of tomorrow 8/2, but can check when I have motel internet.--Thx!-ALG

Tough as Leather

             “Medicare…generally does not cover routine foot care like… clipping of nails…”

 I clutch the terry washcloth, towel slung over my shoulder,
carry a small plastic tub filled with warm water over to his chair

Dad, you have to soak first, to soften the nails.
We sit face to face. He soaks. We talk about
the summer he spent on his grandfather’s farm.
Couldn’t afford shoes, went barefoot to do chores.

 Soles grew tough as leather.
I lift his heel into my palm,
feel the weight of eighty-seven years of walking.
His toe nails are thicker than they are long,
like yellow tree rings expanding with age,
too thick to fit the clippers, so I file, gently.

 Next, I apply lotion, cradle his heel with one hand,
work my slippery thumbs up and down the arch
or, what used to be the arch.
He tells me about the summer his arches fell,
worked as a golf caddie in upstate New York,
to earn money putting himself through Dartmouth.

 He could only afford moccasins with no support,
one of the poor kids at an Ivy League school,
earned a partial scholarship for being first in his high school class.
During the school year he worked the dining hall,
cleaned up after his fellow students.
An economics major, education changed his life,

from waiting tables in the Freshman dorm
to running his own business for twenty-five years.
I work my way up his other arch,
make gentle circles on the ball of his foot.
He is surprised at how good this feels.
As I embrace his warm heel in my hand,
I am surprised too.


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