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Terri Ford is a performance poet and though I have never heard her perform her poem "Panty Raid" , it seems a good candidate for performance.

A poem can come out of the most unlikely places and often from just a sound, a word, a moment. Try writing a poem from a one word prompt: panties.

We are not necessarily looking here for eroticism. In fact, one poet I know recently told me she hated this word, preferring either the plainer underwear or fancier lingerie. Terri Ford's poem goes somewhere I did not expect. No surprise for the writer, no surprise for the reader - isn't that the line you hear at least once at every poetry workshop? Surprise yourself, then us, and let's see how many different things we can find in this one word.

Terri Ford's poem, "Panty Raid" is from Why the Ships Are She  (Four Way Books)

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


It began with Eve, her fig leaf coyly placed
As a lure to her forbidden fruits
A victorious secret, end of innocence
A paradox of charm and guile.

As a lure to our forbidden fruits
We wear bikinis, briefs, hi-cuts and thongs
A paradox of charm and guile
In charmeuse, silk, satin and lace.

We wear bikinis, briefs, hi-cuts and thongs
Beneath the facade of dresses and skirts
In charmeuse, silk, satin and lace
We shimmer in our gossamer lingerie.

Beneath the facade of dresses and skirts
A victorious secret, end of innocence
We shimmer in our gossamer lingerie
Like Eve, with her fig leaf coyly placed.
Barbara Whitehill


Monday's pair, as white
as laundry day, a daisy
stitched under the waistband.

Tuesday's blue as the second
day, with forget-me-not's
petaled on for daily memory.

For Wednesday's green, a minted
leaf and stem, the absence of
adversity in tints of grass.

Yellow is for Thursday and lemon
fruit, loomed in cotton thread
for change, for the sanitized.

Into the end of the week, a violet
brief, a promising bit of lace around
spray of lilac.  Tonight is dance.

And better is Saturday's red chance
for the spike heeled shoes, poppy
and Red Stripe Beer, the more for certainty.

Rest. Again, the white sun day bleaches
into fresh folds of briefs, ready
for a wash into the newest week.

Joanne Kelley


big panties are the last luxury
cloud soft and white
why suffer anything
riding up your butt?

ditch the string things
a woman ain't a suspension bridge
something to cross
or go over or under

reclaim your artless waist
your honest silhouette
the exuberance of cartwheels
swing them unbound hips, gal

let your lollipops show.

Lisa Beatman


The last time we were together that summer,
we were hiking the divide in late August
and came upon a pair of panties
thrown on top of a bush near a pond.
No owner to be seen.
You said they were a sign of sex
by the shore, or a skinny-dipping hiker.
But why leave them there, I wondered.
Why not wipe off the water or sex,
slip them on and continue?
I thought about it all afternoon
and that night in the tent, I said,
An attack. A rape.
And I didn't want you to touch me.
Didn't want to sleep under the same stars.

Pamela Milne


Penelope is two,
Preparing pancakes in her toy kitchen.
"Be berry careful.  Stove is hot."
Then, "Oh, oh, got to go potty."
She runs down the hall,
Pulls off her panties,
Printed all over with Powerpuff Girls,
Hoists herself up onto the big potty,
To await the "hot pee pee."
She unfurls the toilet paper.
Jumps down, "All done."
Climbs on her stool, washes her hands,
Unaware of the perfect, puffy cheeks
That power her little body
Back to the pancakes.
The Powerpuff girls remain on the floor.

Clara Luz


She dresses down
to a garter belt
panties off
black mesh hose and heels.
Time to put some jazz
in this marriage.
At the very thought
her nipples burst in bloom.
A quick stop in the kitchen
when she hears his car door slam
to rummage through the fruit bowl
pick the labels off two melons
and stick one to the tip of each breast.

Cherise Wyneken


In the Middle Ages women didn't wear panties.  This is because
they were always giving birth in fields.  During the Crusades
knights brought back panties from the mysterious East, panties

made of red silk and embroidered with dragons.  Soon a plague
spread over the land.  A plague of panties.  The King of England
declared there would be no more panties, but it was too late.

A bride's worth came to be measured in panties.  A sample
dowry manifest from 1535: 400 silver bracelets, 14 oxen, panties -
350 azure silk, 35 white cotton with embroidered pink roses,

27 Venetian black lace. The Victorians tried to deny the pantie.
Ample-bosomed women marched into garment districts
with pinking shears, but to no avail. The Modern Era embraced

the pantie with artistic vigor.  Who has not found himself lost
in the landscape of  Cezanne's Panties in Provence, or Pollock's
Lavender Panties?  And let us not forget the poets, "The Red Panties "

of William Carlos Williams, for example. In a recently discovered
memoir by a recently deceased starlet , she recounts how one night
she lay under a lilac tree on sweet summer grass while a boy

who wanted to learn more about her did so, and she recounts
>how his hand hesitated at the elastic edge of her panties
just before they surrendered: St George vanquishing the dragons.

Mary DeBow


It was the hardest drawer to empty,
the last to be opened.
Her shoes went first.
Tossed in a box easily.
Racks of dresses, blouses, skirts
took more time - removing them
from hangers made each one
a moment and some made me see
her again in some place, some time -
black hair on a burgundy-silked shoulder,
gauzy aqua turned invisible by a wave.
Clumsily male-folded and put in shopping bags,
I lined them in the hall outside the bedroom.
The drawers from the bottom up filled
with sweaters, folded tops, t-shirts.
I scooped them up in handfuls and held them
to my face as I carried them to bags.
The last four drawers with smaller bunches
of socks and stockings, the satin and lace
and flannel of night clothes,
finally bras nested together
and a full drawer of panties.
The hardest to remove, I lay them on the bed
in a patchwork quilt of colors and materials
as varied as the emotions and the years.
I wanted to lie down on top of them
and gather them around me,
but it seemed a violation, trespassing in time.
These four drawers in one bag that would not go
to a charity, that no one would use or share.
A bag that I would wait to put at the curb
until a day without rain when I would leave the house
in early morning, drive to the lake
and watch petals fall into the water
to be carried away by the wind.
Charles Michaels


One town's very like another
When your head's down over your pieces, brother
Not much between despair and ecstasy
One night in Bangkok and the tough guys tumble
Can't be too careful with your company
I can feel the devil walking next to me  --  Murray Head

grabs, rips like a rapist
who gets off on seeing me beg.
Legs, holds them down.
Licks eyes, ignores tears.
Doesn't care.
Doesn't care.
It's there and never alters.
Always on my back, helpless,
vulnerable as a turtle with a spongy soft shell.
Doesn't care and never changes.
Always there and I'm always half-bare.
Never changing, but rearranging
and it always comes back when I'm

on the street below and look up at a window.
I'm a bag lady with shiny secrets, words
stuck behind my eyes like stolen merchandise, layers
and layers of things sequined but blurred,
and tucked in my dirty fancy panties,
and I have my hand out.
I'm freezing out here and I have no change.
Buddy, (daddy?) can you spare a dime?
Turn that window into a mirror
and I'll cry you a rhinestone tear.
   I'm freezing out here.


ON PANTIES so many days
i have tried to enlist the help of the contents of my
underwear drawer
in my war on my poor self image
maybe the satin black feeling of being held closely
will help me to realize that i am no

maybe, i think as i step out of the shower,
this will help me envision myself
in arms of some one.

crushes come too easily i find
when your self-esteem is dependent on your underwear.

Brandi Semler


Looking in drawers
for scanty-inspiration,
this late bloomer pants
(breath is short
in one so ancient).
The effort makes
her sit a bit,
and ponder.
Finally, she snickers,

"Why Is it knickers
you want me to sort out,
and write about?
Calling them 'panties'
you make me wonder
what has changed?
They used to call pants

Then she roams
over the words
and supposes
they could be arranged
to talk about
the un-talk-about-able:
Making new chants
of panties and drawers
(instead of poems
about roses).

Catherine M. LeGault


That morning a blind woman at the museum entrance
asked me to take her elbow and bring her to the planetarium.
She was taller than me, younger than me,
in a white dress, white shoes, a wide-brimmed white hat.
Her hat shaded me from the sun as we climbed.
Neither of us said a word but her heels tapped an even pace
and it felt like she led me to the place.
"I love to listen to the music and hear them talk about the stars,"
she said.  Her hands quickly produced money for a ticket and she turned,
said thank you, kissed the air before my face, and entered the darkness.

That night I held another woman as we walked the city streets.
There were real stars above but we were blinded by the lights or our own emotions
and even though we heard music, we only talked about ourselves.
My hands around her moved from shoulders down and when they reached
her waist they slid between pants and panties and I thought that perhaps blinded
I could see the color of the smooth, cool fabric with my hands.
White.  Like the white that the woman that morning must have worn - her outfits
carefully arranged in sets so that everything went together easily.
No complications or conflicts, no hesitation of movement,
fingertips sliding under lace and satin and finding a field of distant stars.

Ken Ronkowitz


I never used to wear anything
but cotton briefs.  I felt comforted
when I peeled off the label that told me
they'd passed inspection by Jean.
I always imagined her a pristine
woman, gray hair netted in a bun
at the back of her small head, pictured
her blue eyes checking the seams for flaws
before fastening her name to the crotch.
I felt natural and pure wearing cotton
that had passed her discerning eyes.

The ones I wear now don't have inspection
labels, but I love the way they hug my hips
and their shimmery, satiny feel.  They are fun,
especially the patterned ones - animal prints,
Valentine's hearts, spring flowers.  I choose
them to fit the mood I hope to have that day,
and sometimes it works.  Today I wear red,
the most suggestive color I can think of.
I love the idea that when I walk down the street
in my long, straight skirt that hides everything,
I've got this bold secret.  And it makes me smile
to imagine someone unzipping my skirt,
letting it fall into a puddle at my feet,
lifting his eyes - his surprise
at what I've got on underneath.

Susan Kaye