‘Succinct truth’ poem

Today on Ethical ELA, Maureen Young Ingram invites teacher-poets to compose “succinct truth” poems for VerseLove. The idea is to write about a difficult subject with a message of hope in 10-20 short lines, playing with lack of punctuation and capitals.

Mine’s twenty-two lines but I’m letting it be.

Dichotomies

humans
are a dichotomous race
desperately desiring
dutifully demanding
historically unable
to extend grace
at least
each other-ward

the tome of our existence
a work in progress
pages of pain
penned in blood

some say that babies are a sign
that the world should go on

forgetting that worlds go on
without humans at all

although my dog doesn’t think so

there’s hope
isn’t there
as long as dogs
haven’t given up
on us

My son with his dog, Henry, who surely has a soul
and who loves with his whole dog heart

News poem

On Day 12 of National Poetry Month, Susie Morice invites teacher-poets to scan the news for crafting poems on VerseLove at Ethical ELA. Susie writes: “Use the news piece as a launch for a poem that conveys your concerns that this news arouses. Let us see the claws of your rage, feel the scratch of your worry, taste the saffron of your affection. Let it take you to wherever it takes you.  We want to hear your voices.”

This local news caught my heart two days ago. I find that I cannot add to it. The facts speak for themselves.

Fallen Officer

He died
in the line of duty

tracking an armed robber
who opened fire

the funeral home
got a call
asking if
they can
“do this sort of thing”

they say they can

surely a service 
with full honors

for our fallen hero

named Major

age 3
German Shepherd
K-9 Officer

God forgive
us all

Thanks K. for being such a great help and a friend. Whitewolf PhotographCC BY-NC-ND 2.0.
Major was a beautiful black German Shepherd

Thanks also to Two Writing Teachers for the weekly Slice of Life Story Challenge

Dachshund equation

An equation poem:

1 sweater lying on the bed + 1 dachshund + 1 bad choice = I’m sorry

Visual representation:

1 sweater lying on the bed

1 dachshund

1 bad choice

I’m sorry

*******

with thanks to Two Writing Teachers for the Slice of Life Story Challenge every day in the month of March. And to Dennis, even though he balled up my freshly de-wrinkled sweater. Rascal.

Dog bowl story

I had to get Dennis the dachshund new food and water bowls.

He had been using the bowls left behind by our previous dachshund, Nikolaus.

Nik would have been twenty years old this week, if he were still here. He made it to sixteen.

I can see his little grave from my kitchen window. Two days ago the spot was covered in snow. Three tiny sparrows were feeding there or maybe just pecking at the snow for a drink of water. In spring a big rabbit feeds there.

Nik would not mind. He was always an easy old soul.

So, I have been using his bowls for Dennis, who is two.

One of the bowls was cracking (the food bowl; one cannot keep water in a bowl that is cracking).

When I set it it down for Dennis’s supper a couple of days ago, I must have done it a bit too hard: the bowl broke into half a dozen pieces.

So.

New bowls for Dennis.

I knew this was the right one as soon as I saw the wording on it.

It is the truth for Dennis, pampered little autocrat that he is.

It is the truth for me.

Because I have loved and been loved by dogs.

In return for their sustenance, they sustain. They give their whole selves.

Even hardheaded dachshunds.

My six-year-old granddaughter refers to him as “rascally Dennis”

Henry writes: Snow love

pressed nose
wind blows
ice floes
poem compose
heaven knows
I love snows

That is all the poetry I have time for today, Dear Readers. I am channeling all of My creative energy into willing MORE snowfall and contemplating how I might lure My People into taking Me out for a romp amid the flying flakes, whereupon I shall be nearly delirious…ecstatic, yes…I ADORE SNOW, it is sublime, exhilarating, the only Thing worthwhile in wintertime besides snuggling close to My People and essentially hibernating although I still expect My meals served ON TIME whilst I experience My own personal hygge.

Deepest thanks to you for pawsing here (oh, I am too punny today! Bahaha! The flakes have made Me giddy!) to read My light verse. But seriously, I have trifled long enough; I have snow to watch…

A hearty fair-weather fare-thee-well, Friends-
HRH
(Henry Rollins Haley)

Time for a hygge

with thanks to Kim Johnson, who recently reminded me of the word

It really is a hug
that you give yourself
perhaps on darkest days
in the dead of winter

when forecasts of snow and ice
fill the news
or maybe you already hear
tiny frozen pellets
striking the windows

but inside
you have a little crackling fire
jars of dancing candlelight
wafting balsam and spice
a bunch of fleecy blankets
a few brand-new books
and bookmarks
and maybe soft new slippers
(mine say “Sleeps with Dogs”
with fancy scrollwork. They are
blissfully snug)

maybe your Christmas tree
is still up (like mine)
or at least your strings of lights
outside, sparkling
in the bitter cold
where the faint sound
of windchimes drifts in
from a distance

with your favorite brew brewing
knowing you don’t have to be going
anywhere
or doing anything
except savoring the now
with a slothful-as-you-please
slowness

go ahead now,
give yourself
a hygge.

Dennis the dachshund is a master at hygge (pronounced hue-gah).

Originating (or at least perfected) in Denmark, hygge is the act of intentionally creating an atmosphere of warmth, coziness, and well-being, however it works for you, regardless of whatever is raging beyond your own walls.

We are getting reports here that the ice may cometh soon. Dennis clearly has his hygge on. I am preparing for it…got my new books and and my slippers ready.

2021: A year of awe

Some people call it one word. Others call it one little word, abbreviated OLW. Either way it’s the tradition of choosing a focus word for a new year. Maybe even a new word for each month. Make of it what you will, how you will, the chosen word serves as a tool for reflection, a lens for living, a frame for your days.

At the outset of 2021, I wasn’t in the frame of mind to choose a defining word unless it was survival or endurance or possibly perseverance, none of which were inspiring or lyrical (shouldn’t your OLW strike deep chords in your spirit?). After 2020, I was tired. We were tired, all of us. It was a year that seemed liked ten. The world as we knew it changed overnight. Quarantine, separation, isolation, closed businesses, bare shelves at the stores, working from home, doing school online. Plans disrupted. Staggering losses of so many kinds. Grief. Rage. Despair. Navigating the unknown every single day. The COVID-troubled world kept turning but we almost didn’t recognize it or ourselves anymore…literally, behind the masks.

We hoped. We clung to our screens. We cherished every glimmer of light in the long, dark night of the soul. How long? we wondered. How long?

On the brink of 2021, as I wearily turned the page in my academic planner, I said something like this to myself: Forget the one little word thing. I don’t have the energy to think around it or write around it. What difference does it really make, anyway. After all, my word for 2020 was reclamation. I wrote in January, before the onslaught of COVID-19 in March, when everything shut down that Friday 13th for what we thought would be only two weeks: Moving forward becomes an act of will, a revised determination to do what you can, what’s most important, for that given day. Recovering ground, inch by precious inch.

Note to self: Be careful what you wish for…

But then, then, turning that page… I discovered this quote, in tiny font, sitting on January 1, 2021, in my planner: Experiencing awe (the feeling of being in the presence of something bigger than you) can improve your physical health and make you feel more altruistic. Intentionally create awe this month by spending time in nature, meditating, volunteering, etc.

I knew, then.

Whatever might come in 2021, I must look for awe. I must keep the door open for it. Anticipate it. Invite it.

There’s a psychology, a science, to awe. A savoring of life, an ineffable hope, a spark of joy, an inhaled breath of wonder at the wonders all around, a reverence. It can make you feel more altruistic…desiring to benefit others at your own expense…can the world not use more of this?

I sat in awe of this revelation…and that is the story of awe choosing itself as my word for this year, now in its final days.

It’s everywhere, awe.

In fragile periwinkle flowers poking through the January snow, in the piercing cry of a red-tailed hawk, in the flight of an eagle near enough for me to see its white head. In the resilience of children learning from home and in their happy dogs who attended class with them. In my own dog, who slept in my lap during those long hours online. In colleagues who stopped resisting new learning in the hardest of times and began embracing it…and each other. In children learning to read despite all, in one student pointing to a new word, “trombone” (without a picture), and telling me I don’t know how to say it, but it’s a musical instrument. In resuming church services and eventually singing hymns again. In the return of the little finches which have built a nest on my front door wreath every year except for 2020. In the gift of new life…in the announcement that my son and his wife were expecting a baby in the fall. In the long summer of anticipating, in finally making it to the ocean again, in seeing how seabirds stood on the shore, protecting one of their own that was missing a foot. In passing three white horses in a grassy meadow on morning drives to school, reminding me of a game my father taught me to play on long journeys when I was a child (I have a lot of thirty-point days now, Daddy). In teaching poetry again, in seeing the kids’ faces light up with their own writing discoveries. I wrote a lot of poetry in 2021; much of it centered on awe.

I have so much more to write. I am awed by what my sons have accomplished this year, one as a minister, the other as a funeral assistant and musician. I am awed by other people who say your boys have blessed me.

Baby girl Micah arrived at the end of October. Her big sister’s wish, come true.

Christmas Eve at my house, 2021

Awe abounds. It waits to be found. Just like the little present placed in my stack on Christmas Eve during our family gathering.

That’s especially for you, Franna, said my daughter-in-law.

I opened it.

Micah’s tiny handprint, in white plaster.

Awe.

And tears. Too overcome for words.

My daughter-in-law didn’t know the story. One day I will tell Micah about the handprint I made for my grandmother so long ago, how it hung on her bedroom wall for over thirty years…

Awe. Awe. Awe. Life in its abundance, making full circles. Light to be found, even in the darkest season. The treasure of having each other. Love, blessing, wonder, the gift of life itself, all from the hand of Almighty God.

I see no reason whatsoever for changing to a new word in 2022.

Wishing awe to you all – each new day with its waiting treasures

*******

with much love and gratitude to the Two Writing Teachers for the weekly Slice of Life Story Challenge. There is sustaining power in writing. There is more in a writing community.

What is virtue?

A Spiritual Journey Thursday offering


While walking with my son this week, out of nowhere a shape descends upon us…

A dog. Not just any dog…

A pit bull.

Wriggling all over for joy, jumping up as if he knows us.

Begging to be petted and to play.

Glossy back coat, merry eyes, laughing face (yes really). Still a puppy, soft-mouthing our hands in greeting. Same as my older son’s pit, Henry, does.

“He is beautiful,” I say to my son. “He must belong to somebody.”

“I wish he was mine,” says my boy. Never mind that he already owns one of the mightiest breeds of all time: a dachshund.

The dog follows us home. We put him in our backyard until we can locate his owner. He doesn’t like being left alone. He cries when we are out of sight. He rejoices on our return. When we sit on on the deck chairs, he lies at our feet; when we rise, he rises to stand by, ready and willing to do whatever it is we are getting ready to do.

We learn from asking around the neighborhood that he’s roamed the streets before and that people shoo him away. Uninvited dogs, especially pits, are not especially welcome. I begin to think about harm that could befall him, aside from the danger of being in the street: What might a startled, frightened, or angry person do to him?

He raises his head as if he hears my thoughts. He looks at me with a wistful expression.

We find his owners. We send him home.

The next morning, he’s back. Curled up on our front porch mat.

Poor sweet boy. He shouldn’t be allowed to roam…or maybe he’s just an escape artist.

And I realize how powerless I am to do anything except hope for his safety and enjoy him whenever he should visit. He’s not mine and he’s disappeared again. I find myself missing him, looking for him.

He’s on my mind as Spiritual Journey Thursday rolls around; he seems, somehow, to be connected to the question, “What is virtue?” The four cardinal virtues of classical philosophy and Christian theology are Prudence (wisdom), Justice (righteousness) Fortitude (strength; overcoming fear), and Temperance (restraint; self-control). We usually think of virtue as people demonstrating goodness or excellence of character (the virtuous woman of Proverbs 31), or as the beneficial quality of a thing: patience is a virtue.

I cannot help thinking that this pit embodies virtue, too. He’s a good dog. He is loving. He is eager to share his affection and exuberant joy with whomever he encounters…he’s perceptive, willing to to serve, and, I suspect, highly trainable even if somewhat uncontainable at present. Above all, he’s one of God’s creatures.

Which reminds me that within the angelic hierarchy of Judeo-Christian tradition is a class of angels known as Virtues. They are connected to motion and order of the cosmos, dispensers of grace, exceptional courage, unshakeable faith, and miracles. They are balance-bringers; in a world so unbalanced of late, the angelic Virtues must have their hands full. As I write, I imagine them roaming the streets, unseen, fervently seeking ways they can impart divine strength.

I am not sure of connections between the Virtues and the mass adoption of dogs during the COVID pandemic…just musing over shapes that heavenly comfort, courage, and sustained strength might take.

Most of all I think about the desire to serve, to do good versus harm in a spirit of fear and distrust.

Perhaps…perhaps virtue arises where it is welcomed, and when it does, it opens our eyes to the virtue of others.

*******

with thanks to my Spiritual Journey writing friends and to Linda Mitchell for hosting on this first Thursday in August. As it turns out, “virtue” is supposed to be theme for September. Today the group is focusing on “respect.” I caught this after I wrote the post, alas, which leaves me with a choice: write another one and save this for September or let this one fly, regardless. I’m choosing to post now. It is, after all, written from a place of respect for the cosmically happy adventurer we’ve taken to calling “Harold.”