Imagination

When you are six
and visiting your Franna
you always check the candy dish

today you would find
miniature Reese’s Cups

and when you are tired
of playing Connect Four

you and your Franna
might build a tower
out of the checkers
in an ABABAB pattern

and you might fashion
a tiny crown
out of the gold Reese’s foil
and turn the licked-clean
ridged brown candy paper
into hair
that you place on top
of the checker tower

The Tall Queen,
you would say,
just as she falls
and splatters her checker parts
across the table

The Tall Queen
has fallen in battle!

you would exclaim

(methinks that may
be the influence
of your reading
Narnia books)

but at any rate,
a Shorter Queen seems to do
especially when you ask your Franna
for eyes and a mouth
and she gives you labels
and pens
so you can make them yourself

and in answer to your question:
No, I do not think her crown looks
too much like a Viking hat
although surely the Vikings
had queens,
just saying

(to me she looks like she stepped
right out of Wonderland)

but above all
I think the whole moral
of the story here
is that everything which enters
your realm
when you are six
has a purpose
and is
never wasted

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

Making it count (syllabic verse)

Today I have the pleasure of hosting the final day of the June Open Write at Ethical ELA. 

I shared syllabic verse:

My youngest son is a musician. When he was four or five he’d stand at a whiteboard easel making tally marks as he listened to cassettes of his favorite songs. When I asked what he was doing, he replied: “Counting the syllables.”

He meant beats. 

Like heartbeats, rhythms of life surround us. Let us listen and take note. Moments and words count…down to the last syllable. Last year I attended a workshop led by a poet who said: “Experiment with the rhythms of your voice. Find a syllable count that’s natural for you.” 

Process

Perhaps there’s a line of unwritten poetry playing in your mind, waiting for its moment. Now’s the time. Count the syllables. Maybe it’s five, eight, or iambic pentameter. Or simply begin by crafting a line that relates to something important to you (listen for it in the beatings of your heart) and count the syllables. 

Once you know the count, try writing the remainder of your lines with the same number of syllables. See where the beats take you.

Maybe play with more sound by incorporating internal rhyme, alliteration, and so on.

My poem, sparked by the words of a teacher during a memorable job interview, came out in lines of five syllables.

All in for the Kids

In the interview
the candidate said
we don’t get credit
for all we’ve endured
on behalf of kids
in these past two years

and apologized
for the sudden tears

surfacing from depths
immeasurable
a soul subjected
to intense pressure
somehow withstanding
high temperatures
beyond description

the weight of the world
in every teardrop
salt-worth far beyond
the rarest diamond

culminating crown
of love resounding
courage rebounding
in five wondrous words:
“I still want to teach”

*******

As the day progresses, I am savoring the poetry being posted over on Ethical ELA.

Every bit of it counts. In the end, I think that’s the poet’s job…showing just how much.

Every moment
every heartbeat
every today
all tomorrows
count forever

Anagram poetry

Today I had the pleasure of hosting Day Four of the June Open Write at Ethical ELA.

I shared anagram poetry:

Sometimes there’s a need for words when the words won’t come. Sometimes in naming the emotion we open ourselves to finding our words and our way.

As the events in Uvalde unfolded on May 24th, I couldn’t encapsulate my thoughts or my feelings. No words seemed appropriate or meaningful enough. 

One word kept resurfacing: heartbroken. I finally resorted to examining its anagrams. 

Those became a poem.

Process

What are you feeling today? What are you grappling with or celebrating? What words or phrases might you explore with anagrams to express your sorrow, fear, or joy?  You can type your word or expression in this Anagram Generator to get phrases. For example, if you type POETRY BLISS in the generator and select “Anagrams” instead of “Words,” 10,0000 phrases appear, including best prosily, blip oysters, blistery sop, priestly sob, and sibyl tropes, not to mention bless or pity. Tap into your feelings, type in your words (maybe not too many!) and see what comes. Weave the anagrams of your choosing into your own meaningful expression any way you like.

I left my anagram poem simple and stark. It’s what I needed to say.

May 24th (originally entitled Heartbroken)

broken hater
broken Earth

broken heart
heartbroken

Uvalde
valued

*******

I’ve enjoyed reading the many varied poems in response today. Some are gleefully nonsensical, sparking giggles. Some are deeply moving.

What fascinates me with this particular wordplay are the hidden meanings that lie in words, brought to light in rearranging the letters. It’s a unique alchemy, peculiarly lyrical:

it’s all such
lovey trope
lye overtop
overtly Poe

every lop to
ole poverty

love or type
poetry love

If nothing else, imagine a poem made from this elf row danger (flower garden):

Photo: flower anagrams. gilliflowerCC BY-NC-ND 2.0.

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

Things you can do with crayons poem

with thanks to Allison Berryhill for the inspiration on today’s Open Write at Ethical ELA

Things You Can Do with Crayons

admire the colors
gold silver and copper
aren’t the only metallics
anymore
now there’s glitter
neon
and glow-in-the-dark

admire the names:
Macaroni and Cheese
Inchworm
Robin’s Egg Blue
Purple Mountains’ Majesty
Bluetiful 
Mauvelous
—such poetic pun

arrange your favorites
in the shape of your initial
or anything you want
glue them down
in a shadow-box
or on canvas

—drat, broke one
—wait, don’t throw it away
anymore

make something new
instead

break more
on purpose (!!)

slice ‘em 
into dots
for a mosaic

shave ‘em
spice up
your homemade slime

melt ‘em
and not just for candles

pour the running colors
into molds

make Legos
build anything
you can think of

oh and
once in a while
just color

make a scribble-scrabble

if you don’t like it
scrape it off
with your fingernail
and start over

smell ‘em

remember
your childhood

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