On behalf of children, on Day Twenty-Three of National Poetry Month
Speaking Points (Do They?)
Glowing screen split into graphs, trendlines, colors a virtual sea of data and faces of colleagues floating with the question: “You are the literacy person— what do you think?”
What I think is that there’s no secret code or formula or magic bullet or any infallible translation of impersonal little dots scattered like breadcrumbs leading to ponderous conclusions about the beating heart of a living, breathing child and so I say, “I don’t know what I think until I hear this child read.”
For while the thunder of uncertainty rumbles and pedagogies rise and fall like generations on billowing waves, I cannot imagine the whole of my own existence crammed into little dots for others to interpret the magnitude of my story or divining and defining the scope of my future without ever hearing my voice
Child’s hands at the window. Nenad Stojkovic. CC BY
with thanks to teacher-poet Angie Braaten for the suggestion of writing around “an important question you’ve been asked,” using this format:
with thanks to Araceli, Deanna, and Michelle at #verselove on Ethical ELA today, for the invitation to write about someone who’s influenced your life, incorporating sensory details. My first inclination is to write of my grandparents – as I often do – but today, my aunt came to mind. I expect she’d be so surprised.
This one’s for her.
On Day Twenty-Two of National Poetry Month
A Poem for Earnie
I didn’t expect to write of you today but here I am, remembering of all things, the tape recorder your ready, set, go! the click of your finger pressing play and singing for all we were worth, you, my little sister and me: Wherever you go, wherever you may wander in your life Surely you know I always want to be there… one of us flubbing the words all of us cracking up you saying, I’ll rewind let’s try it again
I think of your laughter wild, free, contagious your raucous humor trailing you like an ermine robe rich, resplendent, priceless cloaking loneliness I may not have perceived
The only one of my mother’s sisters never to marry or have children which didn’t keep you from giving advice pressing Mama’s buttons like no one else on Earth yet she went and named her youngest daughter after you
Then there were the wigs on the featureless disembodied heads sitting on your dresser you could pick whatever 1970s hair you wanted each day how cool was that?
I can’t recall a thing you ever cooked only that you loved eating Mama said you were picky you didn’t look it Mama said that’s why you weren’t married so picky that you didn’t get got
I wondered why you never really left home living with Grannie most of your life you’d break away for an apartment once or twice but would always go back like you needed to be within the borders of her shadow
Perhaps it will surprise you that I recall the ceramics class you took and the Pepto Bismol pink statuette of Hotei, the Laughing Buddha god of happiness and contentment that you made for me his hands thrown high to the heavens Rub his big belly for good luck each day, you said and I could hear the pleasure in your voice only much later did I flip him over to find your inscription of love on the bottom of his pedestal
Funny how the dress you wore to my wedding was Pepto Bismol pink I am glad I asked you to be my wedding director at Mama’s prodding I remember the books you ran out to buy to do the job well for me
Of course there’s Jenny… a love of your life Siamese as picky as yourself who’d curl in my lap purring That’s rare, you’d say
Jenny who lived twelve years who died in the fire when you woke in the middle of the night choking on the smoke phone in your bedroom hot to the touch calling 9-1-1 for the first time because it was a brand-new thing I don’t know how you roused Grannie and Papa G in the other room nor how any of you climbed out of the windows onto the roof into the freezing midnight air and safety as the firemen arrived but you did it
in my mind, Mama’s voice: It took three firemen to hold her from going back in for Jenny. They found her the next day under Earnie’s window.
I hear your anguished sobs even now in those wee hours when you arrived at our house to stay reeking of smoke so that the fur coat you wore would have to be destroyed
I remember the clothes you bought for my first baby in bright, beautiful colors, expensive so lovingly chosen
You didn’t live to see my youngest never knew of his gift for music how you’d have loved it I can see you right now, tape recorder in hand
As the disease took your lungs and reached its insidious fingers into your brain I recall the peculiar shine in your hollowed eyes against the yellowing of your face
when you asked: Are you still writing? Have you published anything yet?
Yes and no, Earnie. I am still writing, yes. Long, long after we laid you to rest in your pink dress (Grannie had your nails painted to match) and this isn’t really published but it’s for you I didn’t expect to be writing of you today or singing Olivia Newton-John all of a sudden after all these years, but here I am and here you are, wherever I may wander in my life snatches of song, rolling laughter here in my morning here in my night.
with thanks to Brooke, Bailey and Ryan at #verselove on Ethical ELA yesterday. They challenged poets to create duality poems: “Alternative italics is where a poem is written with two meanings. The first meaning is the poem as a whole, and the second meaning is given to it through the italics. Most commonly, the two themes are fundamentally (or, at least, seemingly) opposed. Take two opposed ideas or concepts and make one the base. The other idea will be repeated throughout the poem and written in italics.”
Here is my take on the dual nature of the human heart…
For Day Twenty-One of National Poetry Month
What the Human Heart Craves
Peace sweet peace drifting earthward as prayers float heavenward
Peace enveloping souls like winter coats pulled from a magic wardrobe thwarting winter’s chill
Peace seeping inward warms the heart dwarfing all fear
Peace is hardly for cowards. It is its own reward.
with thanks to Abigail, Betsy, and Soshi for the invitation to write on this topic for #verselove at Ethical ELA today (who’s not longing for summer right now?!).
Here’s why summer has such a special pull for me.
For Day Nineteen of National Poetry Month
Sunny afternoon blue sky bit of breeze faint sound of a radio from a neighbor’s yard I can’t discern the song it just sends me into reverie for a second conjuring hot sand under my bare feet Coppertone in my nose salt on my tongue If everybody had an ocean across the USA then everybody’d be surfin’ like Californ-i-ay… snatches of conversation cresting and dipping on the breeze mighty waves of memory crashing on the shore my father’s big black sandals flip-flopping to the old navy-blue Ford the battered brown Samsonite suitcase in his hand the ride is so long so long the city gives way to pastures, meadows horses fields that go on and on, forever plowed furrows running like long crazy legs to keep up with the Ford as we zoom past until at last the lonesome highway comes to a fork on the left, the tiny church where my ancestors sleep under stones we veer to the right turning onto the dirt road my heart beats faster Daddy drives slower stirring clouds of dust and I am already grabbing the door handle as Granddaddy’s lush garden comes into view with just a glimpse of Grandma’s white angel birdbath circled by orange marigolds through the laundry lazily flapping on the clothesline and there they are, walking across the green, green grass and I am out of the Ford before it’s hardly stopped and in their arms in the blinding sun as the forest stands tall all around with its cool dark mysteries where the rattling cicadas crescendo vibrating on and on and on through my soul I can’t discern the song it just carries me through eternity in this one bright second
with thanks to Jennifer Jowett on #verslove at Ethical ELA today. Jennifer used the idea of wire structures and blind contour drawing to inspire today’s invitation to compose: “Today, trust the pathway of your words. Find a starting point and let the words take you where they want. You might find yourself meandering, stopping here and there to absorb, or moving quickly until you reach a finish. You might play with extensive enjambment to keep the eye moving continuously. Or you might try something else entirely. Your journey is yours to explore.”
Just this week, the opening line of this poem came to me. As did the last. I wrote them down so I could figure out what to do with them…then came today’s prompt. I dedicate this “wire structure poem” to children…young and grown…your interpretation is your own.
For Day Eighteen of National Poetry Month
Double Helix, Pulled Apart
separated by walls we didn’t make
shattered by hearts we didn’t break
scattered by paths we didn’t take
yet eternally connected
by blood we cannot take away
by cords we cannot break away
by history we cannot make aright
perhaps united in silent ache today that love will find a way
with thanks to Gayle and Annie in today’s #VerseLove at Ethical ELA, at this invitation: “The goal is to select a character trait or an emotion and give it a back story. How did they get to be who they are now? Fill in the details–what they wear, where they travel, who they hang out with. Have fun with the creature you meet and get to know them a little better. Take it past the formal definition of personification into something bigger (or smaller…) than that. Make them into a living, breathing, quirky individual.”
It just so happens that my “one little word” for the year is awe. How can I resist the chance to personify her? She is leaning in even now, to see what I will write…and waiting to be revealed.
At the beginning of the year I wrote a little poem that remains one of my favorites: Awe (The Blue Hour). If you click on that link you can scroll past the intro to find the poem. Today I attempt to rework it for Awe personified.With her help, of course.
For Day Seventeen of National Poetry Month
She slips into the world quietly born on the blue hour at the falling away of day and the coming of the night unexpected but longed-for child of Reverend Reverence and his indigenous wife Waking Beauty
she takes their breath away at first sight they weep as they embrace their tiny perfect child
Awe grows up studying the stars under Waking Beauty’s tutelage At her father’s knee, she listens to stories of dreams and their interpretations loving the sound of his rich, resonant voice and the rustling of his fingers turning fragile pages
She thinks, When I grow up, I want to weave blankets of stars and dreams and give them away free for the taking
She thinks it, but Awe doesn’t speak it aloud in fact, her parents grow worried that she may never speak until she startles them one gray, misty morning by bursting forth in song at the breakfast table her voice so high and pure that Waking Beauty spills the juice and Reverend Reverence nearly falls of his chair instead he kneels in thanksgiving while her mother dabs her eyes with a napkin
Awe sings for a moment crystal notes hanging in the air before dissolving into giggles just as a shaft of sunlight spills through the window
She decides she’ll be an artist
In smock and beret, palette poised she considers the blank canvas envisioning at last determining that there is no blue without yellow and orange and dips her brush
It is not enough for her to recreate nature however
Awe must live and breathe it and through it
So she walks in every season through the countryside through city streets often wearing her cloak of invisibility undetected until someone brushes against her and realizes she’s there
she picks her moments for revealing her presence a peek at a time of herself behind the cloak smiling at transfigured faces yes, full revelation would be entirely too much
Awe is tireless in her weaving of experiences swimming the oceans undaunted by depths and mysteries scaling the mountains unperturbed by heights and ice she goes on through the storms in the lightning, in the havoc even in the horror she is there especially in the aftermath when people band together to begin healing one another
She stops by the house of worship and lingers in the stillness just waiting
the bird on the rooftop understands and sings for all he is worth
Awe walks on through shadowed back alleys warming her hands over the crackling fires in our souls at her whisper, we beckon one another to stop, come and be warm instead of passing by in blue wisps of smoke curling upward and outward in tendrils of wrongs
yes, even in the deepest darkness Awe slips in quietly carrying her candle illuminating faces and nodding at her reflection in the eyes of those who see
silently offering her free blanket woven of stars and dreams and the color of forgiveness in the blue hour
My drawing- the landscape spells AWE. Enhanced with Cartoona.
also shared with with the Poetry Friday community, with gratitude to all and especially to Jama today for hosting
with thanks to Ruth Ayres at SOS – Sharing Our Stories: Magic in a Blog, for reiterating this truth: “Habit is essential for writers. If we develop a habit that allows us to enter into writing, then we will write more often.” She encourages the “magic” community to pay attention to the routines that make blog writing happen.
I am a morning writer. I love the rich, dark silence of the sleeping world around me, the freedom to hear my own uncluttered thoughts, the anticipation of gifts from the burgeoning day. I love the neighbor’s rooster, how his loud crowing wafts through the stillness; there are a few roosters in this neighborhood and sometimes they echo each other in a chorus of wild, rustic, joyful aliveness. It is a song of my soul. For a second, I have a sense of my young grandfather a hundred years ago, preparing for his farm chores, walking the fertile land he cultivated and loved all of his life, as darkness turns to light.
And so I write.
An acrostic, for Day Sixteen of National Poetry Month
Hallowed Are these moments Before the dawn Immersed in words The breathings of my being
with thanks to Dr. Stefani Boutelier on Ethical ELA’s #VerseLove today. She writes of the way a title can change the interpretation of a poem, or how it might add layers of metaphor: “I invite you to write a poem where the title helps identify its content, theme, or purpose. The topic and form are up to you–the focus today is on the title.”
I will share my poem’s title at the end.
For Day Fifteen of National Poetry Month
The stories of time before my time I lived them through your telling felt them through your pounding heart breathed them with your young lungs until I wanted to run coughing from the reek of smoke the acrid taste of ash and I think of how you spent your years giving yourself to others despite the ghosts that surely clung as smoke clings to clothing and as I enter the doorway I can hardly breathe for the cloying scent of flowers and there you are on the table ready and waiting in your little box conveniently resting in a little white tote I dare not trust the handles I just wrap my arms around you and carry you against my heart like I did my babies only there’s no car seat needed now
still, I must keep you safe in your new lightness so I strap the seatbelt across us both pondering the measure of a man larger than life so reduced
but I’ve got you, I’ve got you cradled close see now, I’m driving you home sun and shadows flickering over us like old newsreels of liberation
Title: What Remains
Dedicated to my father-in-law, a World War II veteran.
with thanks to Dr. Padma Venkatraman and the Ethical ELA #VerseLove invitation to write a quatrain today on hope, especially, hope overcoming hate: What does hope mean to me? How do I see it? She suggested using a metaphor.
I see hope is as vital to our existence as humans. When I started this blog, I wanted it it to be uplifting and hopeful. The world already has far too much anger and hatred. I struggled with condensing a metaphor for hope that would fit in four lines! I finally settled on a sunflower. It’s too big for all I would say here in regard to hope overcoming hate. Maybe I will try it in another form later. Part of my inspiration comes from sunflowers being planted to absorb radiation from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster after the 2011 earthquake and tsunami.
Technically lines one and three should rhyme but I claim poetic license.
For Day Fourteen of National Poetry Month
Hope turns its face to the sun Warming its myriad seeds Hope’s roots absorb toxins Cleansing each soul that it feeds.