On Day Three of Ethical ELA’s Open Write, Margaret Simon invited participants to “transform art into words” by “choosing a work of art or creative practice and explore phrasing, spaces, and repetition.”
My mind immediately went to Van Gogh and the Immersive Experience I recently attended. The last two lines of my poem are Van Gogh’s own words, written in a letter to his brother, Theo, referencing other artists who were known for painting specific flowers: “You know that Jeannin has the peony, Quost has the hollyhock, but I have the sunflower, in a way.” My poem’s title comes from Van Gogh’s artist friend Gauguin, who loved Vincent’s sunflower paintings in a time when many artists thought they were too rustic a subject. Van Gogh, however, was fond of the flowers. Newly-invented pigments of yellow oil paint enabled him to experiment and innovate, creating the two series of seven paintings collectively known as Sunflowers. At his funeral, the flowers graced his casket; a friend later planted sunflowers on his grave.
“Completely Vincent” Van Gogh, painting sunflowers for Gauguin
Yellow and yellow thirty shades of yellow new alive wilting dying returning with faces forever turning toward the sun light shining in darkness returning returning thanks for my friend for the beauty of these flowers growing in wild array by the paths I walk day by day I offer them to you, my friend can you see in my oil-bouquet all the shades of gratitude so much I cannot even say whether it’s still in me to pray be that as it may today today I have the sunflower in a way
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…
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.
pressed nose wind blows ice floes poem compose heaven knows I love snows
That is all the poetry I have time for today, Dear Readers. I am channeling all of My creative energy into willing MORE snowfall and contemplating how I might lure My People into taking Me out for a romp amid the flying flakes, whereupon I shall be nearly delirious…ecstatic, yes…I ADORE SNOW, it is sublime, exhilarating, the only Thing worthwhile in wintertime besides snuggling close to My People and essentially hibernating although I still expect My meals served ON TIME whilst I experience My own personal hygge.
Deepest thanks to you for pawsing here (oh, I am too punny today! Bahaha! The flakes have made Me giddy!) to read My light verse. But seriously, I have trifled long enough; I have snow to watch…
A hearty fair-weather fare-thee-well, Friends- HRH (Henry Rollins Haley)
Dear Readers, who stumble across this bit of unfortunate correspondence, please note that Henry, aka HRH, is an occasional contributor to my blog — a guest “pawthor,” if you will. He even has his own category on Lit Bits and Pieces. For an essential bit of perspective on what you’re about to encounter, my oldest son belongs to Henry. That is all I can really say in this regard, as Henry would not be dissuaded from airing his grievance … alas… who am I to deny anyone a forum? My humble apologies. – The Management
My Dear Him:
It is with immense forbearance that I have not addressed this issue before now, but the time has come, the Walrus said, to talk of this thing…
You and I have lived inseparably lo, these last five years, beginning with the day you came to redeem Me from a life behind bars (my having landed there through no fault of My own). I shall not go into the haunting particulars of that time, other than to say your appearing was, essentially, the day My life began in earnest.
You have proved yourself, for all intents and purposes, a good and loyal servant to Me, and I would be remiss to leave this unacknowledged. In fact, you remained constant to Me even when you took in the Her and the Little Her with those two lowly mongrel creatures of theirs in tow. I was never consulted on this matter, nor was My authorization sought, a serious violation of and in itself; but due to your theretofore slavish attentions to Me, I deigned out of the generosity of My heart to permit the Hers and their, ahem, dogs. Where We were two, We became, overnight, without the slightest bit of advance notice, six.
Where I have been most accommodating of these arrangements on your behalf, as this menagerie of collected pets seemed to please you, and because I want nothing more than your happiness, second only to My own happiness, parameters have been crossed one too many times. Boundaries have been infringed upon. We have clearly reached The Point of No Return. Accordingly, I have no choice but to lodge a formal complaint in writing (which, as you know, is no small feat, considering that I must type one painstaking letter at a time with the tips of My forenails, which are curved to a ponderous and complicated degree at present due to your failure to perform My pedicure on a regular schedule).
In short: I have tolerated the mongrels and have endeavored to act kindly toward them, even to engage them. I have been gracious and accepting of both Hers, especially when there is a scent of Food or those fond delights called “Treats” on their persons. I have not appreciated the close proximity that the Hers insist on having to you, prompting Me, on occasion, as you will recall, to break up said proximity by wedging Myself between them and you as a reminder that you are, first and foremost, My Him. Let the record duly reflect.
Then, this evening, this very evening, as I tried yet again to fit the whole of Myself into your, might I say, rather pitiably undersized lap, only to be told “You know you cannot fit,” causing Me to retreat to the opposite end of the settee to nurse my wounded feelings…just to watch, right before My very eyes, as the Little Her climbed in exactly where I was told I could not fit. She is, in fact, larger than I, just slightly more vertical, yet you carefully encircle Her in your arms whereas I am left to My lone and lapless Self.
And she sits there, still. The pair of you looking terribly content.
I am hereby officially airing My grievance of this utter injustice and demand that corrective action be taken at once. If the matter is not rectified to My liking… well, I wouldn’t stoop to something destructive in regard to, say, the furniture or carpet, as I have too much wherewithal for that sort of protest; no, I will just continue to stare at this egregious display until you remember to Whom you belong. Which you have so obviously forgotten.
You have been notified.
I am waiting…
Signed, sealed, and delivered this day by HRH (Henry Rollins Haley)
Absolute affrontery. I command you to remove the Little Her from your lap AT ONCE.
The annual Slice of Life Story Challenge with Two Writing Teachers is underway, meaning that I am posting every day in the month of March.
This marks my fifth consecutive year.
Henry politely suggests renaming this Challenge to The Tournament of Champions, Wordsmiths of the World, Master Crafters of the Writing Guild, Order of the Padfoot. He seems quite Sirius. He also believes it would be a kind gesture to rename the site and recommends Too Writing Creatures. He fears the number is misleading.
I’ve been waiting and waiting for the world to know about me!
The world SHOULD know about me! The world NEEDS to know about me!
Here are a few reasons why!
No. 1: My “Me” Acrostic!
(I live and breathe this every day! It’s who I am!)
Determined! Energetic! Ninja-like (only when sneaking socks)! Nosey (hey, I’m a hound who’s gotta know all)! Incredible (IMHO)! Spirited!
Most of all, I love to have FUN FUN FUN…which reminds me of my namesake!
No. 2: My Namesake!
He was a famous drummer! I should be famous! My heart is drumming like mad all the time! Maybe you have heard of Dennis Wilson? We even look EXACTLY ALIKE!
Mirror, mirror, on the wall Who’s the fairest Dennis of all?
Well, gosh, that’s easy – ME!
And, not only am I named for a famous drummer, I do great impressions!
No. 3: Dobby!
A sock, a sock my soul for a sock!
—um, you all know Harry Potter, right? Didja notice how the border in my portrait goes diagonally? Get it? Diagon Alley? Get it? Get it?
Oh, never mind!
I should also be a model for other famous books!
No. 4: Modeling for Children’s Lit!
Here I have A Bad Case of Stripes!
Actually, not bad, surely just a very warm and cozy case of stripes!
Warm and cozy sunny, dozy just dream dream dream but not of Camilla Cream…
Hey! I AM CREAM!…but don’t call me Camilla!
Lastly, I am part of a wildly popular decorating craze!
No. 5: Best. Christmas. Decoration. EVER!
—yikes, that’s all I’ve got time for, I hear a car in the driveway, gotta go, gotta know…! One last thing before I dash off:
I wish you happiness I wish you joy I wish you sun-striped dreams And all your favorite things And safety ’til this 2020 pox is past And a dox upon your house, at last!
—Or, one in your lap, at least!
Thanks for stopping by and getting to know me! You can’t say your world isn’t a tiny bit brighter!
Y’all come back soon, hear?
Dennis is a light in my family’s life for sure, sparking lots of laughter with his lively antics. He’s a one-year-old cream dachshund belonging to my youngest son, a musician and lifelong Beach Boys fan.We brought Dennis home as a tiny puppy (3 lbs.) last December. Here’s to all the dogs that brighten our days...thanks for (hopefully) savoring some silliness and wordplay here.
Thanks also to the amazing Poetry Friday poets and to Buffy Silverman for hosting the Roundup.
Well, it’s a bit early, but I am well-prepared. I might as well sign on.
[logging into Google Classroom]
Now, where is that video link? — aha.
Microphone on, camera on—why, there I am!
Let Me just split My screen [click, click]… pull this window over…
There. Nothing to do now but wai—What’s this? Someone signing on?
Oh! Hello, Principal.
Yes, but of course. You are most welcome. It is My great pleasure. I’ve been quite looking forward to it since the interview…no, I cannot imagine so many teachers taking leave all at once. Tremendous strain, certainly, certainly. The rest of the week at least, you say? Possibly longer? Not to worry. I’ve updated all lessons and classwork activities. Eager to meet the students…what’s that? The dress code? Well, I borrowed this good blue shirt for the occasion…why, thank you. I do love blues. Calming. Shows up well on the screen, I think. A nuisance to button, if I may say… but you were saying—? The dress code is “professional on top” because…oh. I see. I beg your pardon. Let Me readjust…
No, thank you. I certainly appreciate your stopping by, Principal. A great day to you as well…
—Hello, Student! Good morning. You are early. No, no, your teacher is fine, just on a short, shall we say, vacation…
My, how you students are popping up like popcorn! Egads. You’re becoming exponentially tinier on My screen…
Welcome to class today, one and all. Let Me introduce Myself. I am Mr. Henry Rollins Haley. You may call Me Mr. Haley if you prefer, or HRH, which I prefer. I’ll be your substitute virtual teacher while your teacher… ahem….recuperates.
Let us begin by taking attendance.
—Pardon Me, but two of you do not appear to be on My roster. Are you in this class? …Then will you please sign off promptly and go to your own?… Yes, My understanding is that you will have a substitute there also. Someone by the name of ‘Ms. Fluffy,’ I believe. Make haste. What’s that?… My apologies. Let Me rephrase: Hurry on to your own class now. Enjoy your day.
Time for learning to commence! Today we will—wait, that rattling sound—who’s eating Spicy Nacho Doritos?…. How do I know? Of course it isn’t magic. You flatter Me. I happen to be possessed of superior hearing; every single bag of chips has its own distinctive sound, its own signature, if you will…a better question is: Who’s eating Spicy Nacho Doritos at 8:00 in the morning? Is it you, Student XYZ*, there with your camera off? Please turn it on at once… oh! You’re the parent. My apologies… the student is still waking up but will be here shortly? I see. Thank you for letting Me know. By all means, keep the camera off… please…
All right, then, we are ready to delve into our first, if I may say, most exciting activity on—students, I really must ask that you refrain from using the chat feature to have personal conversations unless I direct you to do so, or unless you have a question or comment for Me, of course. I am glad indeed that you’re so happy to see one another and that you are communicating in writing; it warms the very cockles of My heart, truly. I have so looked forward to getting to know each and every one of you, and there is no better way to begin than by this (if I may say) fabulous introductory activity I’ve designed! All right, without further ado—wait, why is everyone frozen on the screen? Hello? Hello? [tapping screen with toenail]. Can you hear Me? Students—?
Dear Google Meet, just a bit of advice: Never state the obvious.
Nevertheless. I shall attempt reconnection.
[refreshes. No Internet access]
[drumming toenails, clickety, clickety, clickety]
I might as well head to the kitchen for a snack until the connection resumes. An energy bar, perhaps…or three or four…
—But I am watching, every single second…
Hello? Anyone there?
Thanks to Two Writing Teachers for the Tuesday Slice of Life Story Challenge and for the vital mission of encouraging writers and writing.
Henry (HRH) dedicates this post to all the teachers out there, in honor of their Herculean efforts and extreme dedication…as well as to all the dogs who faithfully accompany their children in virtual learning, even if they do occasionally lick the screen—the dogs, that is. Children seldom lick the screen.
*Student XYZ: Name has been changed for obvious reasons.
From the pen—um, keyboard, rather—of a favorite guest paw-thor who has his own category here on Lit Bits and Pieces…
Dear, Dear Readers,
It has been far too long since we last communed.
So much has changed.
Where to begin?
Nearly one year ago, my Him ushered Me to a new home with new—how shall I say it?— Beings. A new Her. And a little Her. And two dogs, imagine.
Predictions were made. It was said by Some that I wouldn’t be happy. That I wouldn’t adapt. That I might lash out, because, Some stated, it is the nature of My kind, for We cannot be trusted…
That is where Some make the fatal error, see.
They commit assumicide.
They do not walk in My paws. They do not see with My eyes, do not feel the rhythms of My heart.
Sure, I am—I confess—a bit of a worrier who needs a dab of reassurance here and there.
—Okay, okay, My Him says “constant” reassurance, but.
I have reached a place of peace. A higher state of being.
—Right? I know you’re asking how that’s even possible, with My obvious preexisting highness! But it is true.
This, Dear, Dear Readers, is My secret.
It isn’t found in chasing rabbits. Trust Me, there are too many to catch. More will come to taunt you tomorrow. Not worth it…
It isn’t in staying in the same comfortable place ad infinitum, but in trusting, even when it leads you to somewhere very different.
It is always, always in People, even a small One who moves quite erratically and unnervingly yet drapes Herself around Your neck whilst murmuring “I love you” (I think of Her as my living necklace. My medal of honor. I wear Her with pride. Even as I tolerate Her plunking on a ukulele in excruciating proximity. Whatever happened to lyres, I ask You—?).
It is in learning to tolerate—nay, make friends with!—creatures that breathe the same air and share the same space… it is easier than Some might think. In fact, when all the Two-Leggers are out, those dogs and I have free rein (I prefer ‘reign’) over the dwelling. My old crate, My old safe place, has been disassembled. I need it no more, for now I am never alone, and accordingly feel no need to be “destructive” (although I occasionally recall the flavor of a good book cover with much fondness. Alas.).
Above all, this higher state is achieved in spending every possible moment with The One You Love Best (in My case, Him) which I have done more than ever since last spring, these moments, these days, the joy of My existence.
I wish it to last forever and ever, Amen.
But for now I will simply bask in it for as long as I can, togetherness.
So, from My perch here on the new couch I’ve claimed as My own personal seat of dominion, right beside Him’s desk where He works, I leave you, Dear, Dear Readers, with My perfect picture of peace.
May such be upon you and yours as well.
(Henry Rollins Haley)
To sleep, perchance to dream… of more love to give on waking. Noble beast, Pit sublime, in his state of bliss.
Many thanks to Two Writing Teachers for the Tuesday Slice of Life Story Challenge honoring writers, writing, perspective, and voice.
A good dog is one of life’s greatest gifts. Today’s post is dedicated to Rin, my husband’s childhood pet.
It is late. I am thinking about you sleeping upstairs. I wish I could get up there like I used to; I feel I should be near you tonight.
But I content myself with knowing that you are here and safe.
I think about the first time I saw you.
There you came with your mom and dad, looking at all my brothers and sisters at the place where we were born. As soon as I saw you, I knew: That is my Boy. That is my Boy. I ran straight to you, your arms went around me, and that was the moment we began. How excited you were to give me my name. Rin Tin Tin, you said. He was famous and you look just like him!
I was just happy because you were happy.
Do you remember taking me to classes? I do. How proud I was to learn what you wanted, to make you so pleased with me.
I’d do anything for you, my Boy. I hope you know.
I remember that bad time when I was still a very young dog and you were so sad. When your dad left for work and never came back. I knew you were hurting and afraid; that’s why I stayed so close. I gave you all the comfort I knew how, the warmth of my body, the occasional lick for reassurance. I watched you while you slept in case you woke and needed me.
You’re my everything, Boy. You always were.
Remember how you’d throw a stick for me to fetch, over and over and over, because I never got tired of it? How I miss that! I will still fetch for you, Boy, if you would only let me. That’s why I keep finding sticks and bringing them to you even though I understand you don’t want me to run. I know I am slow and yes, it hurts my old hip—but it is what we do. It is what we always did. So much fun, so much joy. If I could have fit your basketball in my mouth all those hours and days and weeks and years you were out on the backyard court, I’d have played that with you, too. But it was enough for me just to run beside you.
Perhaps tonight I will dream of those days, when we ran and ran and you got tired but I never did. I am tired now. I want you to know that whatever comes, Boy, I would do it all again. Every bit of it.
You’re my life, Boy. I love you so.
Now I lay me down to sleep. I’ll wait for you in the morning.
On the morning after the Boy and I got married, his mother found Rin unresponsive. He’d had a stroke. He died later that day at the vet’s office.
He was thirteen.
—I’ve always believed you knew that you finished your job, Rin. You saw the Boy safely off to his adult life on the last day of your own. Thank you, Rin Tin Tin, good and faithful servant, for giving him your all.