HOTT tomato.png



Tori's published poetry.




The plumb line snaps you in half.
You tattoo the chalkline.

Your mother fills up both buckets.
She gets your ballast.

Your father’s in the foundation.
You lay brick across his face.

Your brother’s in the dumpster.
You ignore his debris.

You wear your sister like a scarf.
She’s bright and easy to fold.

A plummet hangs from your belt.
You are the center of gravity.

Your density is irrefutable.
You are hard as rock.

You can’t take no for an answer.
When is a line not a line?

You dismantle the scaffolding.
There is no talking to you.

The blueprint’s taped to a board.
You disown the building.




His first smile is a canoe.
He has no idea.
The smell of his neck is a long journey.

He makes me think of lilypads.
I am thoroughly familiar with his gunwales.
Help me.

The paddle drips in his lap.
My hands callous.
We do not have a rhythm.

Pelicans plunge.
He is anxious about whitewater.
Waves slap the waterline.

He is careless about rocks.
We can’t help but float backwards.
Paddle already!

The river ripples viridian.
He can’t see past the thwart.
I will not change places.         



For a week we live in the rounded belly harbor
of a cabin in the woods on a lake with a dock
and a tree-lined horizon, sand castles crumbling 
overnight next to bright pink shovels and a wet 
towel turban left behind in a hurry for marshmallows, 
chocolate and maybe graham crackers, the right 
amount of sweet especially if my nephew roasts 
them; he will be on his way to college this time 
next year; he burns them a bubbly golden brown 
like caramel, like his hands and face from working 
in the boatyard, except for his feet which are still 
whiter than whipped sugar; his dad palms him a 
beer which he drinks slowly, holding it by the neck 
like a bugle; water slaps the hull of a boat; a 
descending mooniness fills the open spaces, 
fluttering the birds on the branches which tweet, 
rustle and chirp in the night kitchen where my nieces 
and I sit at the polished plank table playing spoons; 
twin girls aged seven they kneel growing bones on two 
southwest chairs angled close together; my mother, 
ever present at the table, helps with the rules which 
they understand with propped elbows, fanned cards: 
the game begins. Their eager blue-grey eyes wait
for cards passed one by one in the four-cornered
suits: clubs, spades, diamonds, hearts; upside-down
smiles the quick study way they sneak spoons, leaving 
me spectacularly spoonless; oh, auntie, the nieces 
and nephew say, acknowledging our connection, 
the smooth shine slipped under the arms.

New World



How I learned to knit was an undershirt.
She called it a semmit and
tucked a needle under one arm.

She asked for red.
The pattern was in her head.
I can’t remember how many we cast on.

The mother of my Scots husband,
her chin skimmed my shoulder,
scanned the precipice.

She picked up my dropped stitches,
peered down her floury bap,
the epeiric sea loud in our ears.

Her breath was tannin,
held something of the root.
She handed me back the pins

and their doggerel.
She called me quinie,
blinked me with her blue sweeties.

Born in another century,
moss-stitching the straps,
it was easy to cast off

what she couldn’t own.
She blamed the new world.
I would not scrub cement.

e / vis / cer / ate

Rivet Journal

1: She drew from her mouth,
fletching down the arrow.

2: Letting go,
the shot deprived the air
of hesitation.

3: The strike point pierced the heart,
lungs, inflating the woods with breath:
woman, huntress.

4: Stumbling through the woods with a clean wound,
the arrow deflects the ground,

     a. thatched with pins and needles.

5: Disbelief teeters on tall posts.
She clutches camouflage,
     a. displaces a cold can of beans,
     b. tips over a metal stool.

6: The ruminant falls beyond hearing,
but she is attuned to its

white-tailed tremor.

7: Blood always leaves a trail.

8: Dragging the antlered pause,
     a. winded,
     b. arms aching,

her kill is warm but stiffening,

9: She kneels at the heart
saws belly to buck,
leaves the organs behind.


fe / bric / i / ty

Rivet Journal

1: In the itchy city of my skin
din gathering
we all live the same fever

2: A wedding is a slow boil
combustion of two people --

     metronome the prophetic vein
     in the groom's dome forehead,
     tears in the eyes like gasoline

3: Not a stitch of shade, 
tiny rivulets of sweat 
balloon resources

4: It doesn't pay to wear hose
or pose --

     the bride wears decoupage
     flushed with enormity,
     a white gardenia behind her ear

5: High temperatures
in others suggests
some coming excitement 

6: During the dream heat
is trapped under the tent,
what is meant by inflaming -- 

     we dance in a puddle without shoes,
     sighing the incandescent pair


ging / ly / mus

Rivet Journal



1: The story about my knee
articulated freely.

 2: In one plane,
I could see it in action,
streamlined like speed
-- inside the cold perspiration. 

3: I was vigorous as pine sap,

4: And just like that:

 5: The mountain's impatience
buckled me to my knees,

a.     hulking about my shoulders,

b.     the hinge joint refusing. 

6: I was too depressed, perhaps,
despite the soft down around my collar.
Would intimacy have made me cry?

 7: Instead my husband packed me ice,
desperate for a squeeze.

 8: The hillock swelled
beneath the covers, hurting. 

9: I was afraid of ligature damage.
     a. I wished I wasn't aware of 
     disparate parts
     b. how wrong events could go,

 10: The hobbling bore
me out.

Wind Chimes

2014 Triad

Kay Saunders Memorial Emerging Poet

3rd Place

“Wind Chimes” achieves poignancy through direct, understated language. I appreciated the contrast between being professionally silenced and disempowered versus needing to make noise, to be heard, and for our contributions to feel relevant. This poem conveys understanding of how our contributions may often seem a useless endeavor, even while conveying an important appreciation for the things made of our hands, from our hearts, which require voice. The specific objects within this poem convey authority over the subject matter, while the voice conveys the unfortunate disconnect between what sustains the inner and outer selves.
— Triad Judge

That first laid-off month

he made wind chimes, 

experimenting with fishing line,

coated string

screw-in metal eyelets.


He'd scroll wood

for the crown piece

or deconstruct a wagon wheel,

relearning lessons from        



other wind-catching lore. 


He’d wrench wrenches,

spoons and bits

of copper tubing

into rods and strikers, 

punch-holing with an awl

and ball-peen hammer,

metal shavings a visible sheen

on the rough skin of his hands.                   


He’d hang wind chimes

on all four porch rails,

outside the kitchen window,

and on shepherd's hooks

pushed into the frost of the yard.


When the snow would fly

in the woodcut sky,

he'd stop to hear

c h i m i n g,

a ringing, resounding

choir of useless

musical objects.


October 2014


bot / a / ny

1: Texture bubbles up,

marking me. I can't move

my arms.


2: I smell a green




3: Hardy, invasive.


4: Divinity turned lobular

for loving

     a. yields me four one-seeded



     b. flowers the lips of a mouth.


5: Tastes me clean,


     I roll over, 

veined with vigor,


6: In bed with mint.


September 2014

o / men

1: Crows croup the sky with their hinky



2: They eek me to pieces, wakeful, worried.


3: Caulk the character

of days, weeks,

carrying calamity.


4: Scour the four corners,

scavenging for could-be corpses,

carrion worth pecking.


5: Bleak. Black. Beak.


6: Colorless eyes roll;

a heart infarcts.


7: Shadowkeepers calibrate


     a. Calling "Lack, Lack, Lack."

     b. Son-dialing, a new one

casts off his snakeskin.


September 2014


A Chapbook

June 2014

Finishing Line Press is proud to announce the publication of: 

Canned, a collection of poems,

by Tori Grant Welhouse

The poet Matthew Arnold said of brevity, “Have something to say, and say it as clearly as you can. That is the only secret.” Poet Tori Grant Welhouse not only embodies that rare economy of language, her imagery is often startling, getting at the painful ‘aha’ moments of life deftly. I truly enjoyed this book from cover to cover.
— Lucy Simpson, Poet/Artist
It feels wrong to say I had a blast reading these poems about partings but these are not your typical elegies; yes, there is illness, death and children growing away, but the language is meaty and memorable, and as much about salvaging the best of the departed as it is about the send-off. Add to the mix a farewell of leaky canoes, cake, crappy managers, an ocean in the rearview mirror and you’ve got a gem of a first book. Canned is whiplash of words: tight-lipped yet curvaceous, somber yet sarcastic, poised but occasionally pissy. A genuine delight!
— Cathryn Cofell, Poet/Arts Advocate

Now Available from Finishing Line Press


Lost Soda

My sister died.
She left an open can of Diet Coke®
in the cup-holder.
I carted it around for months.
She liked to drive. 
I preferred to read aloud
from the passenger’s seat.
I hardly paid attention
to the dividing line.
She’d get me laughing
with her carmine inflection.
I could pucker at the rest.

Left alone with a Diet Coke®
and the never-ending
road construction, I took heed
of the orange cones:
detour, detour, detour.
I believed I was missing a bone
in my inner ear.
M i s p l a c e d,
I knew about carbonation,
citric acid,
sharp bubbles
in my throat.


Summer 2013
Broad! (a gentleperson's magazine)

On her dead sister’s birthday
she is distracted by the foghorn tasks
of a new job and forgets
they would have been the same age
for the next two weeks.
She is one-half an Irish twin.

Unthinking she waves good morning to sales
on her way to get coffee.
Salesmen peer over the partial walls
of their cubes like prairie dogs.
Research interrupts her with a full mug
to discuss emphatically a project they’re working on.
Support shows her (again) how to approve
an order into the system.
Outside is panting, the height of a sticky summer.
Inside the AC chugs on high, pickling the Berber-y air.

She returns to her cube,
in an over AC’d corner of the building,
completely disremembering her sister,
the imperative of her freckles, velvet-painting
hair, patina in her eyes, Bing-red lips.

She is exposed on all sides, senses
at the back of her neck cool cherry breath,
thinks it’s a prank on the new girl.
Swiveling in her desk chair, she finds herself
accordion-fold alone, staring down a mottled stretch of carpet,
keys echoing their tip-tapping.

Her prompted body shivers,
and her too-naked  l i p s part.
Her sister crowds her cube.
She hears her insist: You forgot 
to wear lipstick, arching her brow
in that high drama way.


Winter 2014

When he summons her
the gears of her heart freewheel.
That’s what she remembers –
careening behind her ribcage.
No brakes to the thing
set in motion by some
immutable guylaw.
Depend on it, he says,
blowing smoke from a gourd,
hollowed-out calabash,
voice creeping
righteous in her ear,
This will turn out swell for you.
He slides across the desk
a Separation Agreement.
All she can hear are s’s,
scapegoat slings
c l o t t i n g ophidian eyes.




Yesterday was my daughter's 15th birthday.
She had it planned for months,
walking with her girlfriends arm-and-arm
on the barricaded side of the road
in the bright chill air, 
snow melting, fur-lined
boots crunching
on the crowd-
teeming blacktop,
Garden of Lights
on the other side
of the big gate wrought iron
spelling occasion
in a million blinking lights. 
Standing in line,
I stepped off the edge
of December,
wearing too-thin gloves,
unable to come up with the currency,
my credit card spitting out
one rolled up receipt
after another,
a t e r r i b l e word
in asterisks




A heifer licks her into being.
She emerges from the cosmic salt ice,
a girlcalf taking form.
On the first day her scalp is visible,
dark and matted as a newborn.
On the second her head pushes through.
The divine cow laps faster,
her tongue apprehending with its
wet, rough texture
an essential porosity
at the root of our nature.
The ratio of space to substance
covered by skin, a wrinkling
at the fleshy insistance,
gooseprickling a future.
The body is last
to squeeze through, long bones
folding in on each other.
Here is Saltlick.
She is steady
as a table.
She will show us the way,
gaze sure as mud.
She is our inner bovine,
covered in saliva
and undiscovered minerals.
She unblinks our universe.



The Theory of Grass

Look at it —
expanse between them,
soaking up moisture.
Green lies.
Green tells the truth.
How quickly the landscape
can turn alien.
She doesn’t always like him.

Objects get lost.
The tiniest edges
can cut —
Kentucky Blue
She learned once
how to whistle
with a blade.

Planting it
was arduous.
They tilled
their dry dirt,
remembering only
the thirst,
the seed like grain
tossed into the wind.


Frogs Singing

Out the window is a wet world.
Let’s assume open.
Her face is damp.
Moistness gets everywhere.

Steam rises over the pond.
He breathes heavy.
Is it wind stirring?
Is it feet?

Rubbing is cellular.
The sheet is full of tiny holes.
She sighs through all of them.
He can smell her concentration.

Water is what she thinks of.
How round her bones are!
Waves lap what is deep.
He slopes to her underbelly.

Night stretches amphibian.
There’s singing in the stones.
Frogs fill their vocal pouches,
thrubbing their love purses.



The Theory of Cake

The Greensboro Review.jpg

You are an occasion.
Cake, in fact.
All your ingredients –
flour, sugar,

the look in your eyes –
measured parts
of a sucrose destiny.
You have memorized

yourself, finding fate
in the small spaces,
blending  eggs, milk,
the air around your edges,

pouring the light-haired
batter:  a mix of heat, poise,
sodium bicarbonate.
You froth an alchemy

that swells, gilding
aroma, deep-seated
as hipbones. Your
surface splits joy.

There’s a sheen to you,
made for buttercream;
how you hide crust
with long leg frosting.

You cube womanhood,
serving yourself up
with a party napkin,
thumbing the crumbs.



A mother picks up the phone.
“Come get me,” says her son,
his voice choked with captivity.
The mother is pulled through
the phone line into another life
of handcuffs and highbeams.
The line is ticking, like
life parsed out in small
increments, small permissions.
Wordless days elapse,
each one a rack, wrenching
her limbs out of place.
She walks with a slight limp
into the courtroom on the day
her son is scheduled to appear.
Her eyes take in too much light.
The gleaming wood is sinister.
Small consultations occur between
lawyers and the lost
in a fishbowl  of urgent
whispering. The judge
is harkened. He sits up high
near the ceiling tiles. Her son
is third in a chainlink of other
offenders. A cataract of orange
assaults her, and she sees:
the curled tongue inside the jaw
that’s trying to be a man,
the green fear in his eyes.



Let us now contemplate the anger of our sons. Dear mothers, the time is past. The house will have to stand. Love and understanding go out the window . Objects can’t teach. It is too late for sectional couches. The home is only good for slamming doors. O, it is time enough for the unraising. Yet remember sunny days of hard work and machinery. How yellow wants to be happy. But yellow doesn’t need it, depending on the air in the room. How you unsay it again, once and for all, a final time. You may choose bloodshot, for all you care, a color that cannot be inhabited. You, the unbuilder, put down your trowel; you are done scrabbling for stone. Dear mothers, do not confess to everything. Sadness is the light in the room. Unsaid, a third person, interrupts all conversation, casting words farther away from their meaning. And so it has come to pass. The unforgiving shall deliver the unrepentant. The unfeeling shall beget the unreformed.



reading music (aka hot pants)

as it was the year
of the split shift &
cut time for everybody,
i was bussed
in the dark of
diminishing night,
when i sat in a seat
made for someone bigger,
staring at my own face
in the blank window,
my lips jazzed
with a jumble
of dreams & longing,
in love with
a trombonist
who improvised.

we all came early to
play rhythm & blues.

count basie was in my head,
driving my hip-swinging walk
to a locker where I stood
for the longest time,
thinking about what was
under my coat.
the strangest feel
of nylon and denim,
complicated fabrics
that can’t help but
influence skin.
the too-layered feel
should have been
indication that this
was not meant to be.
i was not a singer
but here i was
dressed like one.
i didn’t know about style
& the way you wore clothes
was you having it.

we all came early to
play rhythm & blues.

i got tired of the
slowness in the air
& looked to my neighbor,
a girl that blew like me.
she wanted out of the
bubble, too, & showed
me what was under
her coat, which crazily
was a version
of the same.
we wore hot pants.
the hallway could be
any hallway.
the fact that we stood
together could be
true or false,
but the coincidence
of our (was it?)
modesty was very true.
hot did not describe
attractive then.
pants were anything but.

we all came early  to
play rhythm & blues.

with horns in our hands
bad fashion was assumed
part of the arrangement,
another way to take a chance
with the notes & pauses.
in the key of conspicuous
more of the details
could be assimilated,
be played.
adding to the melody,
the refrain made memorable,
like a player’s raised eyebrows
was the seam between
one thought & the next.
we shiny-skinned the effort
until our lungs hurt,
until collecting light
we spent a good morning
warming up the metal.

we all came early  to
play rhythm & blues.



i make up motion & charge the very air.
my legs rub together. my bare feet stomp.
i am groundswell. i play with currents
that foretell the gathering of a storm
on a far-off scrap of land.
palm trees bend nearly in half.
i have their rapt attention.
oh, what i am capable of!
i can sink fishing boats.

bigger than weather, i am now
the rumble in the earth,
undulating belly, self-consciousness submerged,
adorned with its perennial debris:
lily behind one ear, grass anklet,
leis, leis, leis.
i feel the surge through my feet.
oh, what a rush!
the lava i hide.

the skin i show,
the skirt handmade & tropical,
hothouse blooms the slit up my thigh.
arms, legs, long, dune back
do not yet speak pudenda.
it is hawaii day.
i am entertainment.