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.

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

Abundance: Spiritual journey

May. Newness. Longer days, more sunlight. Blossom-laden trees perfume the air, geese with goslings glide across glassy ponds. Along the backroads and byways, the fields have been plowed; John Deere tractors roll over the naked earth, freshly dotted with neat rows of little green plants.

I think of sowing and the harvest to come.

My illustrious daily planner seems to be a cross between almanac and oracle these days. It offers this quote:

Small seeds of gratitude will produce a harvest of hope.

I love it for its own merit, emphasizing gratitude, which I know to be as transformative a force as love, forgiveness, and possibly awe. I envision tiny seeds of gratitude planted in the furrows of the heart, eventually producing a harvest of hope to be stacked and stored for when it is most needed in the future.

And I remember Joseph.

Unlike the chief cupbearer in Genesis 40, who “did not remember Joseph, but forgot him,” after Joseph interpreted his dream, correctly and prophetically. At the time they were in prison with the chief baker, who would be hanged by Pharaoh (yet another accurate dream interpretation by Joseph). To this point, Joseph had endured quite a bit. His mother died just after having his baby brother. His older brothers detested him for being their father’s favorite and for being “this dreamer” (37:19)… perhaps Joseph shouldn’t have told them of his dreams in which they, and their father, Jacob, all bowed to him. His brothers discussed killing him until Reuben, the oldest, intervened. They threw Joseph in a pit instead and sold him as a slave. Joseph is purchased by Potiphar, the captain of the guard of Pharaoh. Joseph serves Potiphar with great efficacy and integrity, so much so that Potiphar “left all he had in Joseph’s charge, and because of him he had no concern about anything but the food he ate” (38:6). Until Potiphar’s wife tried repeatedly to seduce him, that is, becoming so aggressive that Joseph wriggled out of his garment to get away from her… a garment she used to make the accusations which landed him in jail for thirteen years. (Note: This is the second garment that causes trouble for Joseph; the coat of many colors given to him long before by his father didn’t set so well with those brothers. Imagine their initial self-righteousness while tearing it, dipping it in goat’s blood, and presenting it to their father as evidence that Joseph was attacked and killed by wild animals…which, of course, they’d live to regret).

And Joseph is forgotten in prison until Pharaoh has a troubling dream and the restored cupbearer finally remembers him.

Here’s the thing: It was God’s plan all along for Joseph to stand before Pharaoh and interpret his dreams of coming famine, that Pharaoh should be so impressed he’d set Joseph up as prime minister of Egypt, that Joseph should execute his proposed plan for planting and harvesting:

During the seven plentiful years the earth produced abundantly, and he gathered up all the food of these seven years, which occurred in the land of Egypt, and put food in the cities. He put in every city the food from the fields around it. And Joseph stored up grain in great abundance, like the sand of the sea, until he ceased to measure it, for it could not be measured. -Genesis 41:47-49

It is this divine plan of action that eventually saves Joseph’s brothers when they come seeking food in Egypt.

Joseph weeps a lot through several chapters. When his brothers realize who he is, they bow before him (every dream having come true) in fear and trembling… and Joseph chooses reconciliation over retribution. His father is still alive; he brings the whole family to Egypt to survive the famine. The brothers again fear his wrath on the death of their father, but Joseph’s words ring with gratitude to God: “You meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, that many people should be kept alive…” (50:20). And so the Twelve Tribes of Israel were preserved.

Seeds of gratitude, shall we say, protect against spiritual famine, yielding hope to be relied upon in times when faith is tested, as Joseph’s was. He never wavered; this is why I love him. He’s one of my favorite Biblical figures, exhibiting integrity and faith in abundance.

In the midst of our trials, God is at work. In times of bleakness, verdant lushness awaits.

Begin with seeds of gratitude… and expect a harvest of unimaginable abundance.

Joseph Storing Grain During the Seven Years of Plenty. Patrizio Cajés (1540-1612).

*******

with thanks to my Spiritual Journey friends who write on the first Thursday of each month, and to Susan Koehler for hosting today on a theme of “abundance.”

Another roll of metaphor dice

Today on Ethical ELA Stefani Boutelier invites teacher-poets to roll Metaphor Dice, originally created by Taylor Mali for composing poems with students.

I’ve written a few poems based on Metaphor Dice:

Your Ego is a Feckless Maelstrom

Junkyard Loss Is Not Elusive

Guilt Is a Stingy Odyssey

Here’s where today’s roll landed me…

Wearer Beware

seel (as defined by Dictionary.com):

 1. Falconry. to sew shut (the eyes of a falcon) during parts of its training.

 2. Archaic.

  1. to close (the eyes).
  2. to blind.

Bias is a capricious gauntlet 
a gloved hand
infinitely unwieldy 
but nevertheless employed
in stitching closed the eyes
in beckoning talons
begging the question
of rapture in the raptor
of rupture in the captor
over eviscerating prey
which is to say
once worn with intent
to destroy
the capricious gauntlet of bias
may turn, of its own accord,
to reach instead
for one’s own throat

beware the taking up
and the throwing down

Thunder Comes To Gauntlet. stanlupo. CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.

Definito poem

On Day 10 of National Poetry Month, my friend Margaret Simon invites teacher-poets to compose a definito poem for VerseLove on Ethical ELA. It’s a form invented by her friend Heidi Mordhorst: “A free verse poem of 8-12 lines (aimed at readers 8-12 years old) that highlights wordplay as it demonstrates the meaning of a less common word, which always ends the poem.” Margaret’s suggestions: “Choose a word that has a certain fascination to you. You can look for the Word of the Day or any word that comes to mind. Play with the etymology of the word. What do the sounds mean? How does the meaning play with your thoughts? Explore the word using imagery, metaphor, and word play.”

So… I tried, I really tried, two things: 1) Getting away from my OLW, “awe” and 2) Keeping to the recommended 8-12 lines. I failed in both. I did, however, have a lot of fun with the unfolding of this pseudo-definito…

Awe “Definito”

So, Children, 
maybe you have seen something
so wonderful
that you went all shivery inside
and maybe your skin
even got tingly
or goosebumpy

a thing
so beautiful 
that you don’t have a word
for how beautiful it is

the feeling you get when
the sun’s slanted golden light 
breaks through the clouds
after a storm
or when you see a rainbow, 
(not made with crayons,
a real one) in the misty height,
colors glimmering, glowing, blurring, 
an ethereal sight
ethereal? Sorry. It means 
to be so airy and light and beautiful
that the thing almost doesn’t belong
to this world
like stars, crystal-bright
against the black-velvet sky
on a winter’s night

maybe you have felt their stab of
silvery coldness, looking up
while your breath
hangs white
in the air

—yeah, that’s the feeling;
should we stop to
discuss metaphor
again?

No, it doesn’t have to be cold.

It can be a rush of warmth
on seeing a puppy
tiny, pink-mouthed, and so new
that its eyes are not yet open

—please note: The word is not spelled
the same way as what you say:
Awwww!
This, Children, is a homophone,
a poem for another day—

and the feeling might not come
from something you see
at all. 

It can come from something you hear. 
Once I was in an auditorium
where a girl who was trained in opera
sang just one high note;
her lips never moved
I couldn’t see her breathing
and the sound grew bigger
and bigger
and bigger
until the room
and my brain
and my heart 
were filled, almost bursting
with the pure, clear
starlike sound

-oh yes, I can tell by your eyes
and your open mouths
that you are beginning
to understand
awe.

After the tornado

Burrows and seeds poetry

On Day 4 of National Poetry Month, Jennifer Guyor Jowett, inspired by poet Irene Latham, offers this invitation for VerseLove at Ethical ELA: “Create your own burrow. Find a seed at the end of the piece, something to begin your own writing today. Let it serve as a title or beginning line.”

I borrowed some of these beautiful ending lines from fellow VerseLove poet, Kevin Hodgson:

We poets keep watching
for dust, falling,
in flight.

Ars Poetica: Dustcatching

We poets keep watching for dust, falling
we would capture it with our hands
feel it on our tongues as it lands
genesis of words breathing life
dust to dust, falling 
from the stars

from the stars
dust to dust, falling
genesis of words breathing life
feel it on our tongues as it lands 
we would capture it with our hands
we poets keep watching for dust, falling

Stardust. Send me adrift. CC BY-NC-ND 2.0


Ingredient poem

Thanks to John Noreen who hosted yesterday’s Ethical ELA Open Write with the invitation to pay homage to food that comforts and sustains us. John focused on process; he suggested that we “create the way we cook.” He says when he cooks, he takes a central ingredient and gets going, improvising along the way.

Sounds like a metaphor for writing to me…

Daily Writing Staple

An idea forms
inside my brain
like an egg forms
within a bird


one moment
nothing
and the next
the shell
of something


I feel new presence
of fragile life
within

or at least
the provisional sac
of nourishment
for building and 
sustaining life
as it forms

deep inside
living membrane

until it should hatch
and eventually fly
on wings of its own


or

like my breakfast egg
boiled for long enough
at the right temperature
the idea solidifies
and gives life
to me

one simple ingredient
containing a whole world
of possibility

and I almost never settle
for just one.

*******

with thanks also to Two Writing Teachers for the Slice of Life Story Challenge every day in the month of March.

More metaphor dice

My son challenged me to make something with this roll of my metaphor dice: loss, elusive, junkyard.

This is what I have, so far…

Junkyard Loss is Not Elusive 

It is said that imagination
is the junkyard of the brain
where used things lie in limbo
until they are destroyed
taken back by the grass
or called into service again

which is to say
no experience is wasted
only catalogued and stored
in the deep recesses of memory
until the need for it
should arise
in solving a problem
in creating a new thing
in connecting patterns
in different ways of seeing
relating
expressing
understanding

which is to say
that beloved childhood doll
with the cracked face
or the scent of
your father’s shaving cream
or that dog, that dog
that chewed up your best shoes
but slept every night by your side
long ago, so long ago
comes bounding back
for a specific purpose

for there is unseen order
in a junkyard
where used things lie in limbo
until they are called into service again
or destroyed
or taken back
by the grass.


Collaborative Spirit

I will call it
as I see it
from the ever-shifting sands
at the shoreline
looking out
over the vast and raging sea
called School
nowadays

so much debris
in those rolling waves
flotsam and jetsam
of curriculum
of standards
a wreckage of data
certainly broken systems
and even “learning decay”
-phew-
how’s that
for positivity

it is not
that I don’t have faith

I do

I believe in kids

I believe in teachers

I believe in overcoming

I also believe
everyone doesn’t believe

and I know
as I hear the crashing waves
and the gnashing teeth
that the current
will drown us all
if we pull
apart

if only
if only
I could build a sturdy ship
I’d name it
Collaborative Spirit

and
if I could just get everyone
on board

we’d sail
over
and through
and beyond
what we can even
imagine

together

it’s just that
one person
can’t build a ship
(or relation-ship)
alone

no

building the
Collaborative Spirit
takes all hands
on deck

that’s how I call it
that’s how I see it
from the ever-shifting sands
at the shoreline
looking out
over the vast and raging sea
called School
nowadays

Wooden ship on the Rupsa River (Bangladesh). joiseyshowaa. CC BY-SA 2.0