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.

Chicken in the Coop

This memory popped into my head today. This is an edited free write. Too long? Enough detail? What could I do with it? Try another form? use repetition? I tried ragged lines for the illness/fever part.

That time I almost died at age four,
appendix burst inside me.
Emergency surgery, bitter odor of ether
dripped in a cupped screen
over my nose. I tried to push away
push away …

 Woke up in a dark room,
               clowns dancing on the wall,
                            bouncing, twirling, cartwheeling,  
sat up in bed to watch.
                    Nurses and my mother rushed over
to keep me lying down,
                  something about a drain,
                                   the incision in my right side.

 A circus of penicillin was poured raw
into my abdomen in the operating room.

The fever still trapezing,  clowns on the wall,
mother at my side til the worst was over.

Two weeks, (or maybe a year), in the hospital on a ward with other children
the doctor thought being with other kids was best.
Locked in a cube-sided crib, staring through white metal bars,
I faced a big window to the hallway,
a nurses station and the globe of a hospital light
always shining, always shining
in my face at night.

 I never spoke a word, just stared.
The other kids yelled like monkeys
for their nurses to come.

Shaking, I held it. Didn’t even ask to go.
The nurses yelled at me too.

After work Daddy visited to play a board game
“Chicken in the coop”. a cardboard spinner with a plastic arrow,
little chickens, larger cards with a circle of holes,
rainbow colored wooden sticks. 

Flick of fingers at the spinner, it stopped at a color,
place that color, that stick, in the coop
spin again, and again, until the circle of sticks was complete
to keep the chickens in.

 Like me, caged in the hospital,
that time when I almost died.

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