We gathered together
moms, dads, grandparents
lots of baby siblings
with pomp and circumstance
here we are,
a normal crowd
babies adding their
then giving an ovation
for the second graders
who were present
because their ceremony
in the spring
little morning faces
shining with pride
as their families stand
all of our
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
for the sudden tears
every one of which
surfaces from depths
a soul subjected
to intense pressure
the weight of the world
in every teardrop
salt-worth far beyond
the rarest diamond
of love resounding
in five wondrous words:
“I still want to teach”
If you’re a teacher
you’re probably assessing
current student growth
since the beginning
of this COVID-tainted year
—don’t forget caring
should also include yourself.
Numbers can’t measure
your value and worth.
You’re one of the mightiest
forces on this Earth.
A timely caption in my daily planner
breakfast for all if they want it
so they enter the cafeteria,
pick up a bag with a biscuit or
cereal or french toast sticks
the cafeteria ran out of it yesterday)
or breakfast pizza, whatever
that given day provides,
and wait for a neon-vested
safety patrol in fifth grade
to send them,
one by one,
to my colleague or to me
so we can seat them
protocols say they can’t sit facing
one another at the diagonal,
so seats fill up fast,
and a lengthening line
of masked, bag-clutching children
must stand until somebody in the
crowd finishes eating, meaning that
my colleague or I must dash over
with spray cleaner and a paper towel
(that won’t absorb)
while calling for safety patrol:
“I can take one here!”
the children seem so dazed, sometimes,
like they don’t recognize this planet or
maybe even humanity anymore
but once at the seats,
they open the bags
forgot the jelly
go back and get it
I need a spoon
it’s in your bag, look again
and invariably, the one thing
most often prompting a
little raised hand:
I can’t open my milk
I see. Have you tried?
shaking of small head
well, you must try
some little fingers are more adept
than others…some little faces light
up upon realizing: they actually can
open the milk carton, without help
some must be told, no, not
on that side, see the side with
the arrow, it says open here,
push it back, all the way back,
see these words, push here,
no, not smush, more like pinch,
like this, see?
one by one, the cartons open
like windows in the mind, for one
does have the ability to do things
not attempted before, and the secret
is really in the trying, not relying
is what I am thinking about
as I scrub my hands five times
before I can go finish preparing
four training sessions
for teachers tomorrow,
on professional learning teams
in the time of COVID
even though I’m already tired
and the day’s only just begun
yes, we can
we must try
special thanks to Two Writing Teachers for the weekly Slice of Life Story Challenge
A Skinny Poem, on Day Twelve of National Poetry Month. For me this is an indelible image.
Lunch in the School Cafeteria During COVID-19
Unmasked, they sit, all facing the same direction to eat
all facing the same direction, they sit to eat, unmasked
with thanks to Denise Krebs for the inspiration in #VerseLove on Ethical ELA.
How to write a Skinny Poem:
- Write to a strong image, experience, emotion, event, a work of art….consider the image you want to write about and describe the situation in the first line.
- Only lines 1 and 11 have multiple words. Lines 2-10 are each one word only
- Line 2, 6, and 10 are each the same word.
- Line 11 uses the same words as line 1, but it can be rearranged for your purposes.
- You can also write multiple Skinnys for one longer poem.
with thanks to Margaret Simon who hosted Day Six of #verselove at Ethical ELA, inviting participants to write poems inspired by photos, around the them “A World Trying to Deal.” She included links to commemorative photographs taken during the pandemic shutdown.
I found my inspiration here: 2020 Photos: The Year in the COVID-19 Pandemic (WBUR News). If you scroll, you can find the sidewalk chalk drawing in the play area of an apartment building. Toys lie abandoned beside this chalked message in a child’s handwriting: “the end of the world.”
Here’s my poem, on Day Seven of National Poetry Month.
the end of the world
scrawled in chalk
draped with a lifeless jump rope
attended by an ownerless bike
chalk left lying behind
the end of the world
is how it felt, Children
one year later
let us return
on how we can color it
Photo: Debra Sweet. CC BY
I have heard of found poems. I have not heard of a found haiku. But I offer one today from a favorite book: The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt.
For Day Three of National Poetry Month and in honor of the finches who returned to nest in the wreath on my front door, having mysteriously disappeared last spring during the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.
finch singing out brilliantly
from the wreck of time
A house finch song on the first day of spring. Richard Griffin. CC BY-SA
Written on Day Two of the effects, for Day Two of National Poetry Month
first time, no sweat
carry on as usual
aware of soreness only
when reaching up
into the cabinet
second time, sweat
crawl back to bed
chilled to the bone
insidious feverish price
paid for immunity
Photo: NIAID. CC BY
after having slept
of turning, turning
I throw off
the heavy blanket
to stand shivering
on the chilly cusp
there is no sound
and my heart grasps
before my eyes glimpse
before I know it
I’ve thrown open the door
barefoot in the frost
as birds glide high above
round and round
tracing infinity signs
against rose-gold clouds
in ceremonial welcome
first light, ever bright
parts the pink veils
a sun so, so old
yet so golden-new
and I think
there are no words
only the distant
of feathered wings
from on high
and in that
with thanks to Two Writing Teachers for the weekly Slice of Life invitation to write
and to all who gather here to encourage one another
on the writerly journey
I would write this as a letter but there is no point
as you would not receive it, would not read it, would not respond,
so I write it as verse instead because I want to talk to you
and because poetry, like love, transcends.
It’s dark and gloomy today, steady rain
tossing itself against the windows, not at all
the crisp, bright day it was, that fall
eighteen years ago.
The weather’s playing havoc with my Internet connection
but then, so few things are connecting anymore
as they should, in these dark and gloomy times
—you can’t imagine, even though you lived your own.
One of my favorite stories about you: Little boy,
running hard as you could down the old dirt road,
bursting into the house, “Mother! Mother! I just heard on
Grandma’s radio—President Roosevelt is dead!”
She couldn’t believe it, could she, but soon enough,
everyone was wondering: What will happen to
our country now? Who will lead us out of war?
Is it ever going to end? Is there life beyond?
If you were here, would you recognize our country now?
Eighteen years have come and gone (I think you’d love a GPS
and texting, so much better than e-mail you’d just learned to use)
in the interim of our lifetimes, this last one, an accordion of implosion.
Did I ever tell you I once had a dream
that you and I were standing on a ridge looking out
over a barren land, as if an apocalypse had occurred,
leaving us as the only living things?
You tried to explain but I couldn’t make out the words,
couldn’t understand, but I knew that you knew why and I wasn’t
afraid, mostly just surprised and curious, looking over that desert wasteland
—I ponder now: Is now what I was seeing then?
Although you aren’t here anymore to say, to lead by example
of unfailing duty, to give insight and wisdom, and perhaps courage
—I do wonder if you ever thought of yourself as courageous, despite
your saying that a smart man would have gotten further in life.
No one is smart all the time and how I long to hear
what you have to say, now more than ever, never mind that
I am grown and my children are grown, for I find myself yearning,
returning, to the arrow of the compass that you were.
If I could write the letter, I’d say I miss you, you’ve missed so much,
the boys are well, you’d be so proud. I’d say I took
a corner of your protective cloak and wrapped it
over them for as long as I could, the way you did for me.
If I was granted a wish for changing one thing
in the past, it would be for more carefree times
like the day you raced me on the beach when I was little
and I knew you let me win.
We only did it that once, you running between me and the tide,
your shadow hopping over shells and disintegrating sand castles,
dipping in small hollows, until you swept me up into your young arms,
laughing there with blue eyes, blue sea, in the sunlight.
Yes, that’s what I’d wish, the freedom, the light, the salt, the joy,
the time to play, for it was rare and I doubt if you’d even recall
these moments that stay with me like an old photograph,
fading, becoming fragile, curling up at the edges.
But I still hold on, gently, feeling the pulse of memory
while seeking silences where I can sort
the images and collate them in some semblance of order
when I need it most, and when you seem most near.
These lines won’t bring you back and I don’t wish it, I just trust that
my words, beating like memory, like the waves on the shore,
will ripple on into infinity to the place where our circles coincide,
where you still guide, running between me and the tide.
Just a draft, on the anniversary of Daddy’s passing, September 25th.
Shared for Poetry Friday with thanks to Jone Rush MacCulloch for the invitation to “bring poetry goodness to the world today.”