with thanks to Scott McCloskey for the inspiration in today’s #VerseLove at Ethical ELA. Scott suggested looking through the calendar of national celebration days (you can select a country) and writing an ode to one or more of them, as to why they’re important, or finding different meanings, serious or fun, or simply create your own celebration for the day – as in, Scott says, “to that misshapen paperclip on your desk, that threadbare left sock, or that broken pair of sunglasses in your drawer.”
For Day Eleven of National Poetry Month, here’s my poem on two celebrations occurring today(I KNOW some of y’all out there are going to get the reference and connective tissue here):
Ode to the Day: Of Pets and Old Songs
Here’s to dogs, ambassadors of love constant comforters, day by day warming presences on the coldest night even if they’re not pets even if they’re wild as in the Australian Aboriginal legend of sleeping in a hole, snuggled to a dingo and should it be freezing it might be a three-dog night keeping warm
Here’s to singin’ joy to the world all the boys and girls and to all the pets that warm their hearts and brighten their days —of course now that song is stuck in my head on continuous play like an 8-track tape which I confess to remembering, alas— never mind, let’s just take today to celebrate how, in the end, all things are connected
April 11th is National Pet Day and National 8-Track Tape Day. I combine them with a nod to Three Dog Night & “Joy to the World.”
Some of my pets from way back when 8-track tapes were not yet obsolete. My black cat, Moriah, and my dog, Bagel.
Dear Readers, who stumble across this bit of unfortunate correspondence, please note that Henry, aka HRH, is an occasional contributor to my blog — a guest “pawthor,” if you will. He even has his own category on Lit Bits and Pieces. For an essential bit of perspective on what you’re about to encounter, my oldest son belongs to Henry. That is all I can really say in this regard, as Henry would not be dissuaded from airing his grievance … alas… who am I to deny anyone a forum? My humble apologies. – The Management
My Dear Him:
It is with immense forbearance that I have not addressed this issue before now, but the time has come, the Walrus said, to talk of this thing…
You and I have lived inseparably lo, these last five years, beginning with the day you came to redeem Me from a life behind bars (my having landed there through no fault of My own). I shall not go into the haunting particulars of that time, other than to say your appearing was, essentially, the day My life began in earnest.
You have proved yourself, for all intents and purposes, a good and loyal servant to Me, and I would be remiss to leave this unacknowledged. In fact, you remained constant to Me even when you took in the Her and the Little Her with those two lowly mongrel creatures of theirs in tow. I was never consulted on this matter, nor was My authorization sought, a serious violation of and in itself; but due to your theretofore slavish attentions to Me, I deigned out of the generosity of My heart to permit the Hers and their, ahem, dogs. Where We were two, We became, overnight, without the slightest bit of advance notice, six.
Where I have been most accommodating of these arrangements on your behalf, as this menagerie of collected pets seemed to please you, and because I want nothing more than your happiness, second only to My own happiness, parameters have been crossed one too many times. Boundaries have been infringed upon. We have clearly reached The Point of No Return. Accordingly, I have no choice but to lodge a formal complaint in writing (which, as you know, is no small feat, considering that I must type one painstaking letter at a time with the tips of My forenails, which are curved to a ponderous and complicated degree at present due to your failure to perform My pedicure on a regular schedule).
In short: I have tolerated the mongrels and have endeavored to act kindly toward them, even to engage them. I have been gracious and accepting of both Hers, especially when there is a scent of Food or those fond delights called “Treats” on their persons. I have not appreciated the close proximity that the Hers insist on having to you, prompting Me, on occasion, as you will recall, to break up said proximity by wedging Myself between them and you as a reminder that you are, first and foremost, My Him. Let the record duly reflect.
Then, this evening, this very evening, as I tried yet again to fit the whole of Myself into your, might I say, rather pitiably undersized lap, only to be told “You know you cannot fit,” causing Me to retreat to the opposite end of the settee to nurse my wounded feelings…just to watch, right before My very eyes, as the Little Her climbed in exactly where I was told I could not fit. She is, in fact, larger than I, just slightly more vertical, yet you carefully encircle Her in your arms whereas I am left to My lone and lapless Self.
And she sits there, still. The pair of you looking terribly content.
I am hereby officially airing My grievance of this utter injustice and demand that corrective action be taken at once. If the matter is not rectified to My liking… well, I wouldn’t stoop to something destructive in regard to, say, the furniture or carpet, as I have too much wherewithal for that sort of protest; no, I will just continue to stare at this egregious display until you remember to Whom you belong. Which you have so obviously forgotten.
You have been notified.
I am waiting…
Signed, sealed, and delivered this day by HRH (Henry Rollins Haley)
Absolute affrontery. I command you to remove the Little Her from your lap AT ONCE.
The annual Slice of Life Story Challenge with Two Writing Teachers is underway, meaning that I am posting every day in the month of March.
This marks my fifth consecutive year.
Henry politely suggests renaming this Challenge to The Tournament of Champions, Wordsmiths of the World, Master Crafters of the Writing Guild, Order of the Padfoot. He seems quite Sirius. He also believes it would be a kind gesture to rename the site and recommends Too Writing Creatures. He fears the number is misleading.
It was hard for him to jump that high, with those short little legs.
“Kiss?” I would say.
And he would try. He’d jump for all he was worth, with joy.
He was my first dog. I named him Onyx. Onnie for short. He and his brother Bagel (named for Barry Manilow’s dog) were born across the street from my childhood home. Daddy said we could NOT have any of those puppies.
–We got them anyway. Onyx startled me the first time he jumped high enough to “kiss” me. Then he learned the command. It was his favorite way of greeting. It is his word.
The annual Slice of Life Story Challenge with Two Writing Teachers is underway, meaning that I am posting every day in the month of March. This marks my fifth consecutive year and I’m experimenting with an abecedarian approach: On Day 11, I am writing around a word beginning with letterk.
I’ve been waiting and waiting for the world to know about me!
The world SHOULD know about me! The world NEEDS to know about me!
Here are a few reasons why!
No. 1: My “Me” Acrostic!
(I live and breathe this every day! It’s who I am!)
Determined! Energetic! Ninja-like (only when sneaking socks)! Nosey (hey, I’m a hound who’s gotta know all)! Incredible (IMHO)! Spirited!
Most of all, I love to have FUN FUN FUN…which reminds me of my namesake!
No. 2: My Namesake!
He was a famous drummer! I should be famous! My heart is drumming like mad all the time! Maybe you have heard of Dennis Wilson? We even look EXACTLY ALIKE!
Mirror, mirror, on the wall Who’s the fairest Dennis of all?
Well, gosh, that’s easy – ME!
And, not only am I named for a famous drummer, I do great impressions!
No. 3: Dobby!
A sock, a sock my soul for a sock!
—um, you all know Harry Potter, right? Didja notice how the border in my portrait goes diagonally? Get it? Diagon Alley? Get it? Get it?
Oh, never mind!
I should also be a model for other famous books!
No. 4: Modeling for Children’s Lit!
Here I have A Bad Case of Stripes!
Actually, not bad, surely just a very warm and cozy case of stripes!
Warm and cozy sunny, dozy just dream dream dream but not of Camilla Cream…
Hey! I AM CREAM!…but don’t call me Camilla!
Lastly, I am part of a wildly popular decorating craze!
No. 5: Best. Christmas. Decoration. EVER!
—yikes, that’s all I’ve got time for, I hear a car in the driveway, gotta go, gotta know…! One last thing before I dash off:
I wish you happiness I wish you joy I wish you sun-striped dreams And all your favorite things And safety ’til this 2020 pox is past And a dox upon your house, at last!
—Or, one in your lap, at least!
Thanks for stopping by and getting to know me! You can’t say your world isn’t a tiny bit brighter!
Y’all come back soon, hear?
Dennis is a light in my family’s life for sure, sparking lots of laughter with his lively antics. He’s a one-year-old cream dachshund belonging to my youngest son, a musician and lifelong Beach Boys fan.We brought Dennis home as a tiny puppy (3 lbs.) last December. Here’s to all the dogs that brighten our days...thanks for (hopefully) savoring some silliness and wordplay here.
Thanks also to the amazing Poetry Friday poets and to Buffy Silverman for hosting the Roundup.
Well, it’s a bit early, but I am well-prepared. I might as well sign on.
[logging into Google Classroom]
Now, where is that video link? — aha.
Microphone on, camera on—why, there I am!
Let Me just split My screen [click, click]… pull this window over…
There. Nothing to do now but wai—What’s this? Someone signing on?
Oh! Hello, Principal.
Yes, but of course. You are most welcome. It is My great pleasure. I’ve been quite looking forward to it since the interview…no, I cannot imagine so many teachers taking leave all at once. Tremendous strain, certainly, certainly. The rest of the week at least, you say? Possibly longer? Not to worry. I’ve updated all lessons and classwork activities. Eager to meet the students…what’s that? The dress code? Well, I borrowed this good blue shirt for the occasion…why, thank you. I do love blues. Calming. Shows up well on the screen, I think. A nuisance to button, if I may say… but you were saying—? The dress code is “professional on top” because…oh. I see. I beg your pardon. Let Me readjust…
No, thank you. I certainly appreciate your stopping by, Principal. A great day to you as well…
—Hello, Student! Good morning. You are early. No, no, your teacher is fine, just on a short, shall we say, vacation…
My, how you students are popping up like popcorn! Egads. You’re becoming exponentially tinier on My screen…
Welcome to class today, one and all. Let Me introduce Myself. I am Mr. Henry Rollins Haley. You may call Me Mr. Haley if you prefer, or HRH, which I prefer. I’ll be your substitute virtual teacher while your teacher… ahem….recuperates.
Let us begin by taking attendance.
—Pardon Me, but two of you do not appear to be on My roster. Are you in this class? …Then will you please sign off promptly and go to your own?… Yes, My understanding is that you will have a substitute there also. Someone by the name of ‘Ms. Fluffy,’ I believe. Make haste. What’s that?… My apologies. Let Me rephrase: Hurry on to your own class now. Enjoy your day.
Time for learning to commence! Today we will—wait, that rattling sound—who’s eating Spicy Nacho Doritos?…. How do I know? Of course it isn’t magic. You flatter Me. I happen to be possessed of superior hearing; every single bag of chips has its own distinctive sound, its own signature, if you will…a better question is: Who’s eating Spicy Nacho Doritos at 8:00 in the morning? Is it you, Student XYZ*, there with your camera off? Please turn it on at once… oh! You’re the parent. My apologies… the student is still waking up but will be here shortly? I see. Thank you for letting Me know. By all means, keep the camera off… please…
All right, then, we are ready to delve into our first, if I may say, most exciting activity on—students, I really must ask that you refrain from using the chat feature to have personal conversations unless I direct you to do so, or unless you have a question or comment for Me, of course. I am glad indeed that you’re so happy to see one another and that you are communicating in writing; it warms the very cockles of My heart, truly. I have so looked forward to getting to know each and every one of you, and there is no better way to begin than by this (if I may say) fabulous introductory activity I’ve designed! All right, without further ado—wait, why is everyone frozen on the screen? Hello? Hello? [tapping screen with toenail]. Can you hear Me? Students—?
Dear Google Meet, just a bit of advice: Never state the obvious.
Nevertheless. I shall attempt reconnection.
[refreshes. No Internet access]
[drumming toenails, clickety, clickety, clickety]
I might as well head to the kitchen for a snack until the connection resumes. An energy bar, perhaps…or three or four…
—But I am watching, every single second…
Hello? Anyone there?
Thanks to Two Writing Teachers for the Tuesday Slice of Life Story Challenge and for the vital mission of encouraging writers and writing.
Henry (HRH) dedicates this post to all the teachers out there, in honor of their Herculean efforts and extreme dedication…as well as to all the dogs who faithfully accompany their children in virtual learning, even if they do occasionally lick the screen—the dogs, that is. Children seldom lick the screen.
*Student XYZ: Name has been changed for obvious reasons.
From the pen—um, keyboard, rather—of a favorite guest paw-thor who has his own category here on Lit Bits and Pieces…
Dear, Dear Readers,
It has been far too long since we last communed.
So much has changed.
Where to begin?
Nearly one year ago, my Him ushered Me to a new home with new—how shall I say it?— Beings. A new Her. And a little Her. And two dogs, imagine.
Predictions were made. It was said by Some that I wouldn’t be happy. That I wouldn’t adapt. That I might lash out, because, Some stated, it is the nature of My kind, for We cannot be trusted…
That is where Some make the fatal error, see.
They commit assumicide.
They do not walk in My paws. They do not see with My eyes, do not feel the rhythms of My heart.
Sure, I am—I confess—a bit of a worrier who needs a dab of reassurance here and there.
—Okay, okay, My Him says “constant” reassurance, but.
I have reached a place of peace. A higher state of being.
—Right? I know you’re asking how that’s even possible, with My obvious preexisting highness! But it is true.
This, Dear, Dear Readers, is My secret.
It isn’t found in chasing rabbits. Trust Me, there are too many to catch. More will come to taunt you tomorrow. Not worth it…
It isn’t in staying in the same comfortable place ad infinitum, but in trusting, even when it leads you to somewhere very different.
It is always, always in People, even a small One who moves quite erratically and unnervingly yet drapes Herself around Your neck whilst murmuring “I love you” (I think of Her as my living necklace. My medal of honor. I wear Her with pride. Even as I tolerate Her plunking on a ukulele in excruciating proximity. Whatever happened to lyres, I ask You—?).
It is in learning to tolerate—nay, make friends with!—creatures that breathe the same air and share the same space… it is easier than Some might think. In fact, when all the Two-Leggers are out, those dogs and I have free rein (I prefer ‘reign’) over the dwelling. My old crate, My old safe place, has been disassembled. I need it no more, for now I am never alone, and accordingly feel no need to be “destructive” (although I occasionally recall the flavor of a good book cover with much fondness. Alas.).
Above all, this higher state is achieved in spending every possible moment with The One You Love Best (in My case, Him) which I have done more than ever since last spring, these moments, these days, the joy of My existence.
I wish it to last forever and ever, Amen.
But for now I will simply bask in it for as long as I can, togetherness.
So, from My perch here on the new couch I’ve claimed as My own personal seat of dominion, right beside Him’s desk where He works, I leave you, Dear, Dear Readers, with My perfect picture of peace.
May such be upon you and yours as well.
(Henry Rollins Haley)
To sleep, perchance to dream… of more love to give on waking. Noble beast, Pit sublime, in his state of bliss.
Many thanks to Two Writing Teachers for the Tuesday Slice of Life Story Challenge honoring writers, writing, perspective, and voice.
Empathy is defined as the ability to understand and share the feelings of another. It is the hallmark of every exceptional teacher to understand and share the feelings of students, remembering what it’s like to be in their shoes, being able to discern factors of student life beyond “school.” For any adult, empathy is remembering what it is like to be a child. In good times and bad. For the writer, empathy is invaluable to character development … and for taking a walk in the shoes of anything and everything, real or unreal, alive or not. Empathy is more than taking on the guise of another; it is the ability to be the other in a given situation. It is a transformative force, one of humanity’s greatest facets, vital to our coexistence.
But not solely a human attribute.
Since his cardiac arrest and heart surgeries last year my husband has battled a new thing. His blood pressure is typically high and it’s been a challenge for his doctors to get his prescription cocktail just right. His pressure is currently well-managed, to the point of being a little low; occasionally when he rises from a sitting position he becomes light-headed. This is something for which I have much empathy, my own blood pressure being characteristically low. It’s called orthostatic or postural hypotension. Once, as a teenager, I got up from the living room floor where I was sprawled in front of the television to answer a knock on the front door—thankfully the neighbor caught me as my knees buckled and the tingling world went solid gray.
So the other evening when my husband got up from his chair just to grab the kitchen counter, muttering, “I’m dizzy,” I knew exactly what it was like.
“Sit down! Now!” I told him.
He did. He leaned over in the floor and rested his head on his arms.
That’s when Dennis, our 6-month-old dachshund, rushed over, considered the situation, and promptly keeled over in the floor beside my husband.
“That,” I laughed, “is about the most empathetic thing I’ve ever seen.”
And once his light-headedness was past I made my husband restage it so I could take pictures.
Poor sweet hilarious Dennis.
I can’t say for sure how much he understood, but he certainly shared the experience of another. Took a bit of the suffering on. Kind of like If you’re going through this, then I am, too.
If only our species could be as consistently perceptive, responsive, and willing.
One of my favorite themes in literature—in life—is redemption.
Life’s a complicated adventure. Things happen. We respond to them. Each of us is an individual, complex universe of tangled history, experience, emotion, psyche, and DNA. We make choices and our choices make us … and our story. As Shakespeare would say, “Thereby hangs a tale.”
Since I read The Goldfinch in February, while homebound with snow and a broken foot (which seems an eon ago, now) I’ve thought about how certain choices reveal true character more than others. For all the breathtaking artistry of the author’s craftsmanship, in all the moments I paused to reread passages to absorb more of their glory as the story swept me away, one little, shining nugget wedged itself in my heart deeper than anything else. Perhaps it is strange, I don’t know, and I will try not to be a spoiler here … suffice it to say that the main character, suffering from trauma, descends into self-destructive behavior as a means of coping. As he attempts to escape his circumstances, he takes a little dog with him rather than see it neglected. It’s not his dog and he’s actually embarrassed by its “girlishness” (it’s a Maltese) but his appalled distaste over the treatment of the animal and the conditions in which he first found it motivate him to make a rescue at risk to himself. This I found strikingly heroic. A revelation of the character’s inner wiring working at its best. Redeeming.
Then of course there’s the loving character of the little dog itself and I am quite, quite sure that I would have found that just as poignant if I had not had a little dog curled up in my lap as I read the novel.
I have been wanting to capture these sensations, somehow, ever since. Suddenly, today, it gels. Maybe it’s because the sun dawned so bright this morning on our troubled, changed world as it wobbles on. Maybe because this brightness mingles with a searing sense of grief and apprehension about the days to come. About how much of life as we know it will be lost. Destroyed. I’ve been writing an abnormal amount of poetry so maybe images are standing out with sharper edges and taking clearer form than usual.
At any rate, this is my first attempt at a nonet, inspired by that act of rescue in The Goldfinch. Maybe it’s about wishing for rescue. Or redefining it. Sometimes, in saving another, one is often saving oneself …
Redemption may be life’s greatest theme a sign that all hope is not lost overcoming brokenness in the effort to save another creature not capable of saving itself. =Love.