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.


Celebrating, sharing and inspiring poetry throughout Wisconsin.

Dainty Lady Hankies

Dainty Lady Hankies  

Before Kleenex and Puffs, 
dainty hankies were given to girls as gifts.  
Aunt Minnie sent me one for my  
Birthday. It was made in Switzerland,  
white cotton, four red candles with holly  
embroidered diagonally across the   
see-through fabric, much too sheer  
for a nose blow.   

My aunt also sent me one for Valentine's Day,  
white with red hearts embroidered in one corner.  
She gave me an every-day hankie, yellow  
with children and a dog frolicking across  
a field of woven cotton.  

One came from Germany,   
a handsome hankie in two shades of green,  
featuring a meadow with a family of deer
woven around the square -- a doe,  
tall buck with antlers, and a fawn sleeping  
on the center of one edge.    

Lady hankies were meant to adorn a little girl’s purse,  
but my Aunt Minnie tucked them
discreetly into her full bosom.  
Mother said, I should save them for “good.”  

Folded and creased, I swaddled them in 
my underwear drawer. The little deer  
asleep, the children at play, the red heart  
in the corner, the candles still burning.    

These hankies never caught a juicy sneeze  
from a bad cold or sweat dripping from a brow.
They were above  post nasal drip, sinus infections,  
and meant only to catch  
a lady-like “ah-choo.” 

© 2019 House of the Tomato