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.

GREEN BAY / NORTHEAST

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Butterscotch Candies

Here’s another “odd” but traumatic childhood memory. There was a whole school year where I had trouble swallowing. Childhood worries? anxiety issue? I still don’t know.

Butterscotch Candies 

 The full belly of a glass candy jar, sealed with a clear lid, 
sits by my place at the table, filled with little golden suns. 

 It is my prize if I can gain ten pounds in a month 
placed there by my father, to encourage his little daughter of eight. 

It shimmers with its yellow satin ribbon tied about the neck 
while I struggle to choke down breakfast. 

The more I think HOW to swallow, 
the harder it is to get the toast to go down. 

I chew until every bite is mush, chew until all is liquid, 
hold that liquid, feeling like I’m drowning in my own mouth. 

 How do I swallow? I am stuck, the food is stuck, 
the jar of butterscotch candies sealed, taunting me. 

 Each week I step on the scale. Am I losing still? Will I die? 
Butterflies push up from my stomach. 

 Little by little I learn to swallow again, gaining on 
the goal until the needle of the scale hovers at seventy pounds. 

 Dad tells me I can open it. I untie the ribbon, hear the snap of air   
as the lid pops, then untwist the cellophane of a candy, 

 pop it in my mouth, the little sun melting on my tongue, 
but as the treat glides around my mouth, I gag, 

 spit it out, discover I don’t like 
the taste of butterscotch candies at all. 

© 2019 House of the Tomato