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June 2000

The homage (written to show respect or honor) is an old poetic form.  Look at Homage to My Hips from Good Woman: Poems and a Memoir by Lucille Clifton. She may have put a bit of a modern spin on it by her choice of honoring herself, and by her light approach to the subject, but a homage it is.

Write a homage to a part of yourself that deserves honor. It can be physical or not. You can give it Clifton's lightness but it might be a more serious homage.

For more on all our prompts and other things poetic, check out the Poets Online blog.


In my palms is a world that once was foretold.
A life that wouldn't be long and end in sickness,
two loves and no children of my womb.
They shake now when I am scared or tired,
and there are always cuts and scrapes small but painful.
It seems they are my first defense in the world of sharp things.
I notice now as they nest one inside the other
that house chores have left them red knuckled and dry to almost cracked.
I want to apologize to them for not demanding to be held more,
for making them give and tend to people who don't care,
for not pushing them to make music or write,
for not tending them with sweet almond oil and balms,
for allowing them to touch and  love people with bad intentions.

One of my friends envies my hands,
but hers are clever cartooning life and caressing children
moving when she speaks to punctuate and dance around her words.
I love a man with hands like a deep river in the woods
still until you look closely; they await their moment.
Actors in the wings fully aware that he is the star.
I use to love a man who beat and shook the world with his hands
flailing and punching out opinions knocking away any possible dissent.
I am wary of a woman with hands like small, poisonous snakes
her touch slow and deliberate to prevent escape
when the danger is finally detected.
I wanted to protect a child with hands torn and bloody.
Hands which turned on themselves finding fault
and punishing the only thing that would not hit back.

I unfold my hands from my lap now; fingers easily releasing their quiet
eager to be busy, reaching for a cup or book
I wish I could keep them quiet; to not need to reach at all
and be satisfied with the empty space, the cradle of air,
or the comfort of the other.

Cheryl  Soback


cord of sinew
and bones
in the lankiness
of youth
shrugging teen
in the awkward dance of
backing up and
moving on
lover's back curled
around love
arching in pleasure
mama's back bent
over in babylove
rocking back
and forth
then hunched
like a willow in winter
heavy with snow
bent to the ground
now unfolding itself
in the thaw of spring

Barbara Whitehill


Stay awhile and kiss me
Stay awhile and say you'll never go
My spirit mourns because I loved
But emotions do not
have the right to rest.

I am here watching the
The peaceful lake goes by
While the moonlight
Shines on my face.
The baby waves sing to the trees
As the wild flowers play with the breeze.

It is so calm in here.

I can hear your thoughts
Mingle with my heartbeat.

I will wait until you seek me again
I am but one spirit, you will never find again.

Malyn Wilson


Standing in line in the washroom,
toes, wriggling just above sandal soles.
Smiling toes, inappropriate at this location.
Imprisoned toes, standing in line with mine.
Toes in leather, cramped in mesh so tight,
their small faces smushed into funny grimaces.
My toes want to dance for the first time in months.
So often they are entombed in nylon hell.
Freedom, sheer cool unfettered freedom
of toes, wearing red hats, pink hats,
or just plain bare-headed; toes
grinning, tapping, ready to dance--
waving their sisters into frenzies of freedom.

Karen A. Kimbell


Creative art
art creating
pictures drawn
drawings painted
by two gifts
given from above
My two hands
reflections of God.

Monica Austin


I love that it is slightly bigger than my left,
a trophy to my hours on the pitcher's mound.
I like to watch it move, how the muscles contract
to become a single instrument of precision.
I love to watch the numbers on the batter's
back as she skulks over to the bench,
crushed by three cracks of the whip that is my right arm.

I love to raise it during sixth period History.
It is my flag, my signal, that I know.  It screams,
"I share something with the woman standing at the front
of the classroom!"  We know something together.

And I love the way it moves
as I dance with him.  The sweat and the cologne
and the hair gel mingle in my nose,
as my right arm encircles his neck,
pulls him closer, closer.

Sarah Rothbard


Emily Dickinson said that if a poem's good enough
    it will lift off the top of your head,

    and I see poets standing over a patient (me, maybe) reading
          James Wright's "A Blessing" (maybe)

or that Shakespeare sonnet about what his mistress' eyes are nothing like.

There's a laying on of tongues, and Voilá!

    The Brain!

you, maybe,

    shaking a little in the pan like a hasty pudding and full of all the bad words
    I'm not supposed to use in poems:

    Sad.     Memory.     Heart.


Stolen words like the ones the Indians used for where I live now:
Pequannock: the land between the rivers.

    Brain -

        I apologize for all the times I've tried to kill you,
        my vegetable appetites, each Schlitz

          a little knell -

        you are, after all, the Great Oz, magician's white hair wild around
        your shoulders as you adjust my breathing and tell me when to take
        my clothes off and when to put them on.

And I am merely your daughter Eve,
          the long white rib who says your name out loud.

Mary DeBow


The girl on the phone
thought that I
was my fifteen-year-old son.
My voice. It made me
wince when I first
heard it on that reel-to-reel
tape recorder. Too high.
Too weak. So unlike
the voices that read poetry
on the Caedmon recordings
that I borrowed from the library.
Burton's Hardy. Richardson's Keats.
Dylan Thomas reading himself.
So I tried, speaking slowly,
treating each word
as a honeyed best bite.
My attempts to bring the timbre down
(cigarettes in college, the liquors of Hemingway and Fitzgerald)
were mostly ineffectual. Nothing has worked so well
as this fourth decade of hearing that voice reflected off others,
reverberating in empty rooms, rising from my gut to my throat
and into my head the way the heat from the furnace of my childhood
came slowly through the pipes, banging its way to my room's cast iron radiator
where it would stay with me long past the time I had fallen asleep.

Ken Ronkowitz


I even like the word itself,
sounding like a Roman goddess.
Goddess of the open space.
That area of darker skin
around the center.
I thought mine were too small,
and told my mother
and she said to wait till
you have a baby or two.
If not to feed a baby,
then what are they for,
other than calling attention
to the tongue and lips.
A flower blooming
and at the center
the nectar craved.

Pamela Milne


Though my mother always warned me
to never wear my heart on my sleeve,
still it finds a way to let the world
know what I am feeling.
It wouldn't be so bad
if I only turned pink at off-color jokes,
or a compliment caused that slow burning.
Those might be construed as demure.
But this barometer of my emotions
seems most in touch with my shame
at saying the wrong thing, or worse,
the right thing to the wrong person.
I have often felt cursed by my inability
to camouflage this weakness,
that I am like an open wound,
sensitive even to air.
Still, when I think of my heart,
pumping harder beneath my breast
to keep pace with my thoughts,
I marvel at how such connections
let my body be set on fire.

Susan Rothbard

Homage to the Poet Who Sees No Profit by Design: A Villanelle

Spent lines are better if they keep the gold
As poet suffers more to make life write
Bind up the high words let them not be sold

It's pay enough when situation's  told
How cruel to count the money or to fight
Spent lines are better if they keep the gold

Find a measure that is hard, hard to hold
And will not shrink or perish in the light
Bind up the high words let them not be sold

Squeeze noun and verb around to fit the mold
Bring heart to face and keep your love in sight
Spent lines are better if they keep the gold

How ghastly still to pen the vision cold
When selling  poems can make life seem so bright
Bind up the high words let them not be souled

When bells of deadly conflict will be tolled
And writer in his poverty sees night
Spent lines are better if they keep the goaled
Bind up the high words let them not be soled

Susan Sapnar


The vertical cleft between one's nose and upper lip
is called the philtrum my doctor tells me,
while she holds her scalpel to cut away the mole there.
My mother called it a beauty mark and though there
was never anything beautiful about it, I prefer that term.

The ancient Greeks' word for "love potion" was "philtron,"
source of English "philter," which means the same thing.
It may have been where such a potion was often applied.
An erogenous zone, no doubt, she says, pulling on her gloves.
Now, just relax, she says, sliding her finger over the numb skin.

My erudite doctor dispenses words today: melanoma, nevi,
melanocytes, metastasize, malignant, benign.
Anesthesia frees my lips to speak: erot, amor, ama, phil, philia.
I am back in school, a boy studying Latin, and she has put her finger
to my lips to quiet me, and I cannot help but kiss that finger's tip.

Charles Michaels