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.

The Shortest Distance

I wrote this for the Unity Walk... not my usual style... but I thought I *should* be able to write a poem for a specific occasion... if I'm any kind of poet. Right? Is the ending too trite? Or appropriate? I can't tell.

The Shortest Distance

The shortest distance between two people is story.
— Patti Digh

In the beginning is hesitation.
    A knowing you, knowing me standoff.
Why are we afraid of each other?

Between two people is a measuring.
    We default to a scale of difference.
Why the stranger danger?

Between two people it's easier
    to see the closed door body talking --
averted gaze, turned shoulder --

than the half-smile invitation to connect.
    I see you walk with a slower step,
and I think feeble.

You see me with a bold eye,
    and you think difficult.
Between two people is fear.


The middle is often circumstantial,
    a stacking of events that force us together.
We find ourselves at the same wedding in the woods,

compelled by the bride to sit across
     the picnic table from each other.
The shortest distance is the hollow of your throat.

The shortest distance is you toying
    with the keepsake necklace given to you
by your granddaughters, who live with you.

The bride is like a daughter to you.
    You did all her flowers, including the garland
of eucalyptus, giving off its medicinal scent.

You and your partner moved to Upper Michigan
    from Georgia to open a greenhouse.
The shortest distance is you giving me a flower.


All at once I'm woven into your story.
     I have moved between states.
I have wished I was a gardener.

All it takes is knowing one person in common,
     asking one question, noticing one detail.
Humanity, I am your story.

Humanity, you are our story.
     Narrative is larger than race, or age, or gender.
Together we can create a happy ending.

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