Holly

History believed in your magic power
Object of healing and deliverance from evil
Legend made you a crown for Saturn’s brow
Lore of Druids: tree of eternal life, that lightning won’t strike
Yuletide of yore endures

The holly tree was believed to have eternal life as it remained green in winter when other trees appeared to die. It is a symbol of endurance. This lovely specimen grows by the playground of the school where I work. Stuff of ancient legends and lore aside, its merry, festive appearance is a spirit-lifter here on the cusp of winter break

Personality color poem

with thanks to Tammi Belko, host of today’s Ethical ELA Open Write. Tammi invited participants to take a personality color test and to write an “I am” poem based on the color results and their traits.

I took the test. I began to write a series of “I am” stanzas when the poem went running off in its own direction…

True Color 

I am
the three bands
on the ring finger
of my left hand:

one worn by
my grandmother
engraved with
her initials
and my grandfather’s
alongside
their wedding date:
December 12, 1936
(the day after
Edward abdicated
for Wallis)

one worn by
my mother-in-law
a 1953 engagement
between a widow
and a widower
with two children each
with the long reach
of duty in Korea
calling

one given
to me
on the day
I married
thirty-seven years
two sons
and two granddaughters
ago…

a poet
named after
fleeting morning ice
may say
nothing gold
can stay

but I endure
because

that is what love does

like many before me

I am gold

*******

Interesting…

Endurance

inspired by Bible study of James 1:1-12

Crucible:
an earthen container
able to withstand
intense heat until
the precious metal
within is purified,
its imperfect portions
sparking off in the air

comes from medieval Latin
crucibulum
meaning ‘night lamp’
possibly one which hung
in front of
a crucifix

perhaps in
cavernous darkness
on crumbling stone walls
a feeble lantern
reflecting on the last
tangible hope
that weeping endures for
a night
but joy comes
in the morning
whether the current battle
is won
or lost

a flickering halo
in the shadows
where faith responds
while carrying
staggering loss
crushing burdens
utter depletion
still believing
still living by
the stillness in
the soul
still trusting in God
despite all

endurance

there’s holiness
in it

Endurance. Mohammadali. CC BY-NC-SA 2.0.

New Oxford American Dictionary

The brokenness of things: 5

part of a story-poem memoir, when I was nine

The nurse affixes
a sling
for my left arm
in its heavy
Z-shaped cast

she helps me
from the hospital bed
into the wheelchair

she wheels me
across the hall
to see the little boy
with the crushed foot
who’s five
who’s been screaming
almost
non-stop

there he is
very small
in his bed
with crib rails

his foot
big with bandages
is suspended in the air
on a tall sling

I see
the surprise
on his tear-streaked face
when he sees
me

This is the girl
from across the hall

says the nurse
She has a broken arm
look

but she’s okay
the doctors have fixed her arm
so it can get well

Hi
I say
because
I can’t think
of anything else

he stares at me
this little boy
with the crushed foot
who is five

but he’s stopped screaming

Hi
he says
at last

he doesn’t smile
exactly

I don’t know
if his foot
is going to be
okay

I just know
as look at him
and he looks at me
that somehow
he
will be

because
I am

Get Well Soontsbl2000.CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

The brokenness of things: 4

part of a story-poem memoir, when I was nine

The pediatric wing
of the hospital
is quiet
in the gray-blueness
of a June afternoon
easing into dusk

muffled sounds and voices
from the nurse’s station
down the hall

alone in my room
my newly-casted arm
is heavy
and awkward
bent in a Z-shape
so the bones
will knot back together
nicely

on the bedside table
two dozen handmade cards
crayon-decorated
by my fourth-grade classmates
brighten the sterile room
Hope you are feeling better SOON!
I’m sorry about your arm
We miss you

I am feeling
surprisingly loved
in these
long and lonely
moments
of nothingness

until a scream
shatters the
gray-blue stillness

a jolt
of electricity
shoots through
my heart

another child
nearby

the scream rises
and falls
into loud sobbing

it goes on
and on

when the nurse comes
to take my vitals
I ask
Who‘s that, screaming

she replies
while taking my pulse
Another patient
across the hall
he’s five

What’s the matter with him
Why is he screaming
like that

she looks at me
I can see
she’s thinking

His foot was crushed
by a lawnmower
He is frightened
and he has a rough road
ahead of him

would you like
to go see him

it might help him
to not be so
afraid

I’m imagining
a little foot
full of crushed bones
how can doctors
ever put all the pieces
back together

it frightens me

I don’t want
to see

but his screams
are terrible
to hear

Okay
I say
I will go

although my heart
is beating
no
no
no

Pediatrics exam roomStanford Medical History Center. CC BY-NC-S

The brokenness of things: 3

part of a story-poem memoir, when I was nine

Two weeks left
of the fourth grade

two days at home
in bed
with a cast
and bags of ice
on my left arm

to be told
on returning
to the orthopedist
for follow-up X-rays
that the bones
have slipped

which means
I’ll be going
to the hospital
where they can
put me under
to figure out
how to position
my arm
for it to heal

I feel small
and alone
so alone
even though
the nurses in
their green scrubs
are kind

think of your favorite things
says one
as she affixes
the rubbery mask
over my my mouth and nose

what do you like to eat
she asks

her eyes are smiling
over her surgical mask

I cannot see her hands

chocolate chip cookies

and for a second
I can taste them
before a chemical taste
tingles in my mouth

my throat is cold
is the last thing I say
as I descend
into
gray
nothingness

A nurse and a surgeon…Etching. CC BY 4.0.

The brokenness of things: 2

part of a story-poem memoir, when I was nine

I never heard
of an orthopedist
until my father
takes me
after the fall
on the playground

and why has he brought
my Baby Ann doll

her plastic fingers
and face
look more smudged
than ever
in the glaring fluorescent light
of the exam room
where I sit
too embarrassed
and in too much pain
to say
I am not eight anymore
I am too old
for dolls now

the orthopedist
looks grim
while surveying
X-rays
of my poor left arm
against the light

not broken
in the typical place

an injection
for what’s about to come

it does no good, really

the orthopedist
braces himself
against the table
grips my damaged arm
with both of his hands

and pulls
and pulls
and pulls

my feral scream
comes of its own accord

that’s when Daddy
cries out

STOP. STOP.

— the orthopedist stops
he wipes his forehead

Daddy is pale
so pale
his blue eyes
animal bright

(in later years
he will say
I couldn’t stand
that man

but I knew
in the moment
he could not stand
my pain)

he stands there
clutching Baby Ann

who smiles at me
in her plastic way

she cannot help me now
but maybe
she’ll get Daddy through

doll hand. David Lee King. CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

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

every one of which
surfaces from depths

immeasurable
a soul subjected
to intense pressure
somehow withstanding
high temperatures
beyond describing

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”

Eye Don’t Cry. corner of art. CC BY-NC-SA 2.0.

Stillness

I find there is nothing that drives away dark thoughts as much as Sunday morning, especially when it follows a night of strange and troubled dreams after a week of increasing tensions at work in a school year that seems never-ending. As I wake, pondering the attrition of humanity in general with a hymn-line playing in my head, Change and decay in all around I see, unable to tell if I am feeling heartsick, soul-sick, or just plain sick, the Sunday stillness settles my spirit. My stomach, on the other hand, needs more time…not sure if I will make it to church or not. A riotous melody from the front porch works like a tonic: a finch fantasia. The mohawk-headed babies that hatched in my door wreath should have flown on by now. I am glad they linger. I need these bright notes. I wish I could interpret them and know exactly what the finches are saying to one another… if they were not here, the silence would be so loud. There is a time for silence and it is not now. It is not the same as stillness. Sunday brings stillness, the finch song brings stillness, the wall clock with whirring crystals brings stillness. I am craving prolonged stillness, I am so tired, but I make myself go.

And if I had not done so, I would have missed it.

Backing out of the garage, closing the door, turning down the driveway… there.

Across the street, lying on the grass in front of a tangled green thicket, a large white cat, so still it seemed an alabaster statue. It didn’t move as I approached. It gazed at me as if it belonged in that very spot (I have never seen it before).

Sphinx-like. Pristine. Regal. Otherworldly. Breathtaking. I think I whispered the word Amazing.

I could have stayed and stared, I think, forever.

But, without movement of any kind, the white cat reminded me that stillness isn’t an untroubling; it is, instead, a submerging, away from surface-level fear, a shaking off, a resting place, a deep abiding.

Which paradoxically involves moving on.

I feel certain it winked at me as I did so.

Curiosity drove me to look it up: Pure white cats are rare, 5% or less of the population.
It didn’t seem to mind my taking its picture.

*******

special thanks to Two Writing Teachers for the weekly Slice of Life Story Challenge