Patch of earth

Sunny afternoon
visiting my son

my granddaughter
walks me out
to a patch
of dusty gray soil
shadowed by
the old live oak
not far from
the swingset

here, she says,
is where
we saw the turtle
laying eggs
then she
went away
into the woods

that is the way
of turtles, I say
she will not
come back

my granddaughter nods
and I recall
that her first word
was turtle

my son has placed
fluorescent stake flags
around this patch
of incubating earth

for the benefit
of his expectant
child

Not sure how many eggs are hidden here in this patch of earth so near my granddaughter’s playground.

Empty box turtle shell discovered by my son’s basement. The turtle died some time ago. Not the mother, but apparently she was also an eastern box turtle. Under good conditions, the eastern box turtle can live over a hundred years. It’s a symbol for patience and is also the state reptile of North Carolina.

Mimosa memory

with thanks to Margaret Simon for her photo, inspiring “This Photo Wants to Be a Poem” at Reflections on the Teche.

The mimosa tree was a frequent, ethereal sight in the southern summers of my childhood.


In backlit childhood memory
grows an enchanting peach-fuzz tree
waving its handlike fronds at me
fairies beckoning merrily

Word-association poem

with thanks to Allison Berryhill for this inspiration on today’s Open Write at Ethical ELA: Look around the room. Let your eyes rest on an object. Let that be your first word. List a word associated with it, then another…keep going until you’re ready to stop and “poetically connect the brain’s chain of associations.”

My word list:

pitcher
pour
tea
sweetness
childhood
sugar

Drinking Deep

I remember the pitcher
in my grandmother’s hand, mid-pour
tea flowing like memory
me drinking deep of the sweetness
a childhood steeped in dinner-stories
Daddy saying Slide up to the table, Sugar.


The pitcher that sparked the associations. It’s just decor; didn’t consciously think, in the moment, about the milk glass creamer and sugar bowl being my grandmother’s.

Treasure hunt poem

with thanks to Allison Berryhill for the inspiration on today’s Open Write at Ethical ELA, inviting participants to walk outside and collect objects for writing a poem

The Treasure

In the backyard
by the fence
it lies half-buried

sun-bleached
pristine white
glowing with 
ethereal light

holy relic
enshrined in earth

beloved remnant
of a creature
who carried it
in his kingly jaws
who stretched out
his golden body
this ivory scepter clutched
in big leonine paws

a treasure left behind
for me to find

monument
to lazy afternoons
when he was
here

so full of love
unwritten
in stone

yet still
resounding
abounding
surrounding
the bone

In the treetops

Today I kept you
and you cried because it’s new
so we went outside

to see all the trees
you touched the green leaves sweetly
with your baby hand

and you looked up high
at the pines rattling with song
cicadas, at last

first time this season
oh how I love their comfort
oh how I love you


Blue season

Today I am not driving along the backroads and byways to work, for that work is over and done for a season. There are a number of things I will and won’t miss but this morning I am thinking only of the drive. It has taught me much about noticing. And composition. Twenty minutes of travel in the countryside imprints images in my mind; I study them over and over.

For one thing, as I watched the verdant lushness of grass and trees deepen and the crops in the field bursting forth in their furrows, I thought about spring being the season of green. But not only green. Besides the blossoming and blooming of pinks, yellows, and whites, there’s the flash of fiery cardinal red, the dusting of robin-breast orange, the electric pop of the bluebird, the soft, quivering brown of Rabbit. It’s all poetry to me. Stirring a nameless longing. Maybe just for life itself.

Robert Frost comes to mind:

Nature’s first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf’s a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf.
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day.
Nothing gold can stay.

And then I contemplate how green is really a combination of two colors, yellow and blue. If nothing gold can stay, that leaves…blue.

Which is so utterly fitting, as nearly every morning on my drive to work this spring I’ve been awed by the sight of a great blue heron in a pond. I pass three ponds, actually, and in two there’ve been herons. I have learned to look for them and there they are. Standing tall, serene, peaceful, almost elegiac. Once a pair of them flew across the road ahead of me. Dazzling. Somewhere in the brush I know there’s a nest with baby blue herons. In all my life, I cannot recall even glimpsing great blue herons. This is the birdiest spring I have ever known.

The herons are part of me now, and I think on the layers of meaning. Typically self-reliance, self-determination, progress… these seem surface level, like the color green. There’s more than meets the eye. There’s blue, a color I don’t usually associate with this season. Now I do. As I play with blue in my mind, it carries me to shadows, a time of day when the golden hours are transitioning to evening, and a fleeting memory of youth. A time of preparation, maybe going to dinner, gathering with friends, celebrating… all this, flickering and cool like tree-shadows when the day is nearly done and the blue hour descends. Again, a nameless longing. A heron in a pond.

I have had a hard time writing during these last weeks of school. Partly due to demands on my time. And physical limitations. And my psyche. But none of these are the blue longing.

Nature knows infinitely more than I about creating…and that is the pull, for nothing gold can stay.

Here’s to the blue season.

“Creativity is the Blue Heron within us waiting to fly; through her imagination, all things become possible.”

—Nadia Janice Brown

Photo: Great Blue Heron on the Coast of Texas, McFaddin Beach. Texas State Library and Archives Commission. CC BY 2.0

Spirit lifter

Upon arriving
at church
to teach a lesson
on the work of
the Holy Spirit
what should greet me
but the wafting fragrance
of cinnamon coffee
brewing serenely

so good and perfect
restoring my soul

even though the world
is no less broken

it is no less loved

for God so loved

as I read
the Scripture
sipping my
cinnamon infusion
what should appear
on the windowsill
but a little bird
looking through
the glass
at our class

a swallow
who’s built her nest
under the eaves

Even the sparrow
has found a home,
    and the swallow

a nest for herself,
    where she may have

her young—
a place near your altar,
    Lord Almighty, 

my King and my God

they know, birds
they know

wingbeats flutter
in my struggling
human heart

it’s all
the work
of the Spirit

I came to teach
I am being taught

I know
I know

my cup
runneth over

A turn of turtles

My son texts to say
today
the girls and I
watched a turtle
laying eggs
in the yard

which I am sure
my six-year-old
backseat prophet
slash nurture scientist
loved witnessing

here’s hoping
she’ll keep the memory
for her little sister
living her first June

and that
they get to see
a turn of baby turtles
just before summer’s end

Snapping Turtle Laying Eggs Eno River Durham NC 095938-001. bobistraveling. CC BY 2.0.

“Turn” is one of the collective nouns for turtles.

Last day

What can I say about the last day of school?

Most students rejoiced. Not all. Some will miss their friends. Some will not return. They said their sad goodbyes. One little boy who just got here and who knows no English asked for a translator for this very reason. Some teachers will not return. Not necessarily a bad or good thing…there’s just no need to be flummoxed by flux. I think of the ocean. A sense that tides are turning…I stayed late to help interview teachers for next year. They radiate positivity. The grass is NOT greener, they say…one lovely candidate wearing a string of pearls posed this profound question: How do you feel about the people you work with? So much begins and ends with this, does it not? With the adults in the building?

And this was the last day.

Forgive fragmented brain-play with anagrams:

At sadly
last day
lad, stay

day salt
sly data
lady sat

sadly, ta

Seems fitting for the strange pieces of this year.

Peace…

Kid playing football.Wallboat. CC0 1.0.