Eight months

Numbering the days
God recreated my world
with your arriving

My beloved Micah

One day I will tell you many stories, such as how you don’t like to take naps during the day and how I can manage to rock you to sleep. I like to think of it as Franna-magic. I will tell you that at eight months you suffer separation anxiety when you come to my house and your parents are out of your sight. I will tell you how you cry about that and how I take you outside and then you stop crying because it’s June, everything is so green, and the birds are always singing; you grow still, listening to their lively songs. Best of all, you heard your first cicada in my arms, one loner rattling high in the pines; you lifted your tear-streaked baby face to the sky in wonder. One day I will tell you that when I was a little girl staying with my grandparents in the summertime, the constant rising and falling of hundreds of cicada-rattles became my favorite sound. For me it is an Earth-song of belonging, comfort, hope, resurrection. It sings in my veins. In that sound, my grandmother is near. Perhaps you will love it too, my precious Micah. Maybe it will be one of many bonds we share in all the days and seasons and years to come, a tympani accompaniment to our generations, going on…just know that today and every day, your presence in this world is my new and hallowed heartsong.

XOXOXO forever & ever – Franna

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

The swallows

In a corner
of a window
sheltered by
the carport
at my son’s home

a pair of swallows
built a nest

not well

as my son realized
one morning
when he found
a hatchling
naked, new
and dead
on the concrete
floor

the others
seemed safe
in the faulty nest

until the next day
when my boy
found all
the swallow babies
naked, new
so tiny
so dinosauresque
splayed across
the concrete
floor

some still living

and their mother
fluttering over by
the recycling bin
in the corner
crying
trying
to gather
her broken babies

they couldn’t be saved
my boy told me
with a breaking
in his voice

so I buried them
around
the oak
tree

I cannot think
about the ring
of baby birds
there in the ground
among the roots
of the old live oak

instead I stand
under the carport
noting the stillness
of the air

the silence
naked, new
in the absence
of swallows

somewhere out there
a mama
knows how much
she’s lost

like a child
I wonder
if she grieves

I grieve
for her


Baby swallows singing to their mother. Brookhaven National LaboratoryCC BY-NC-ND 2.0.


Patch of earth

Sunny afternoon
visiting my son

my granddaughter
walks me out
to a patch
of dusty gray soil
shadowed by
the old live oak
not far from
the swingset

here, she says,
is where
we saw the turtle
laying eggs
then she
went away
into the woods

that is the way
of turtles, I say
she will not
come back

my granddaughter nods
and I recall
that her first word
was turtle

my son has placed
fluorescent stake flags
around this patch
of incubating earth

for the benefit
of his expectant
child

Not sure how many eggs are hidden here in this patch of earth so near my granddaughter’s playground.

Empty box turtle shell discovered by my son’s basement. The turtle died some time ago. Not the mother, but apparently she was also an eastern box turtle. Under good conditions, the eastern box turtle can live over a hundred years. It’s a symbol for patience and is also the state reptile of North Carolina.

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