House of the Tomato

If a woman wants to be a poet, she must dwell in the house of the tomato. -- Erica Jong

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Celebrating, sharing and inspiring poetry throughout Wisconsin.

You Can't Fight City Hall

The Google maps prompt + the next prompt, playing with metaphor = I wrote an essay. Maybe could shorten to a poem? But I might submit an essay - something new for me to try getting published.

You Can’t Fight City Hall

 My father used to say hell was 948 Kent Street when he and mother would argue; about what, I don’t recall, but I thought this was as happy as any family and home could get. This three-bedroom ranch with New England white cedar shakes was home. My father came from New England where houses had to be white. 

We were the second house from the corner from a road that followed along a lake and nearly dead ended at the intersection of Kent and a riverbank on a quiet, tree-lined street. We kids played in the woods across the street, chased down paths that descended to Lake Wausau, a widening of the Wisconsin River. We grew up during a time when fathers went to work, mothers stayed home to make lunches, and pinned laundry on clotheslines that opened up like umbrellas.

 The quiet street was cocooned by a long row of 50-year old maple trees that arched their branches over us like a cathedral. The shade kept our house cool in hot summer during those Baby Boomer years when no one had air conditioning in their homes.

 The gravel street where we played was oiled a few times each summer to keep the dust down. We scattered like frightened mice when the noisy truck rolled past, spaying oil. We played in the shade of those trees, trunks so fat we could not reach our arms all the way around.

 Kent Street grew busier when added to the bus line and more traffic headed to the expanding healthcare center nearby. The city fathers declared the street needed to be widened by three feet to accommodate the increased traffic. They said the big trees had to come down. We were devastated; my parents built their house on that street because of the majestic trees. My mother went to meetings at city hall, argued a case to save those gentle giants that fortified our days. She fought hard, wrote letters, testified at meetings and eventually lost the battle. She said, “I tried, but I guess you can’t fight city hall.”

 One day in autumn, when the trees were dressed up in their vivid golds, reds and yellows, bulldozers roared in with long chains that were looped around the trunks. Each tree was pulled like a wisdom tooth from the ground, impacting us all. Huge, gangly roots upended as the trees groaned to their sides, dropping in a cloud of dust. With his 8mm movie camera, my father captured the uprooting, the wrenching, and the agony of each tree being yanked. Neighbors clicked their tongues and my mother cried in pain, to see half-century beings destroyed.

 The street was widened by three feet, dusty gravel gave way to clean concrete, plus curb and gutter. City officials planted a long row of skinny seedlings tied to thin wooden poles to hold them upright for rooting. Life went on, we gradually healed, but we ached for those old shady friends that lined our street.


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