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.

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

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

Essence experiment

My kindred-spirit-blogger-teacher-writer friend Lainie Levin had a fun post this week on a favorite exercise with young student writers: playing with suffixes added to your name, then coming up with a definition of the essence of you. Lainie calls this “nounifying yourself.” Here’s her suggested suffix list:

-itude
-ness
-ility
-age
-dom

-ity
-ship
-sion
-ance/ence

-al
-ation
-iety
-ment

Naturally I had to accept her invitation to compose (read more about her process and see fun student examples in her lively post, Word Play – thank you for this, Lainie!)

Frandom

The quality of maintaining a quiet inner realm despite the world’s clamor, where one’s thoughts are free to be one’s own; typically achieved through experiences with reading, writing, nature, and awe.

A drawing of me by my granddaughter last year: Franna in her Frandom?

Shoe poem

For VerseLove on Ethical ELA today, Andy Schoenborn invites teacher-poets to write “tumble down poetry” about shoes:

“For the small spaces they occupy, poems can cause writers to freeze. To break a poem free, try writing a paragraph or two of prose and, then, watch a poem tumble down with this process… today let’s write about shoes. Please take three minutes and write in prose about a pair of shoes that you’ll never forget… Once your paragraph is written, look for naturally occurring repetition, alliteration, striking images, and moments of emphasis fit for enjambments. Then play with the structure and form as a poem ‘tumbles down’ the page.”

It’s amazing, when you stop to think about it, how many shoe stories we have… this memory from long ago quickly overshadowed all others for me today.

Shoe Story

Fifth grade
studying mythology

the teacher says:
Now you will write
your own myth

sometimes myths
are about inventions
or journeys
or transformations

what can I write
about any of these?

I think
I sigh
I look
around the room

rainslapped windows
there was a time when
my parents would have made me
pull galoshes over my shoes

I hate hate hate my shoes
saddle oxfords
— I call them sadlocks
black and white
or in my case, 
black and gray
needing polish
again

everyone else
wears Hush Puppies
suede desert boots

Be grateful
for what you have
I’ve been told
by various grownups
in my life

(who do not have to wear
sadlocks)

I wonder
who ever invented
these stupid stupid shoes

I wonder when shoes
were invented

—wait—

a picture forms in my mind
a boy, living in a village
by the sea
where the sand is soft
where no one needs shoes…

I grab my pencil

I write him into being

this boy who had to save
his village by climbing
the mountain
where sharp rocks cut his feet
where he made shoes
from big leaves, tied
with strips of bark

on his return to the village
everyone started wearing shoes
in honor of their hero,
Shoeani.

Saddle oxfords. MBK (Marjie). CC BY-NC-SA 2.0.

Ancient shoes. Falling Outside The Normal Moral Constraints. CC BY 2.0.

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


Buzzard on the steeple

Here is the church
Here is the steeple
Here sits the buzzard
watching the people.

Most unholy,
it said of the scene
And people dare
to think ME unclean?

Destruction, it said
bowing its head
Will they carry on
’til all are dead?

What’ll be left?
That’s food for thought
So the bird prayed
o’er what we have wrought.



Inspiration: This photo taken by my friend, E. Johnson.
I edited the color to “Noir.”

This is, oddly, my second buzzard post in recent weeks. The first was dedicated to a grieving buzzard who wouldn’t leave his dead mate by the roadside (Carry on). I couldn’t resist using “carry on” again here, connoting the service the buzzard (vulture, actually) provides to the world by eating carrion.

While classified as unclean in the Bible due to its diet making it unsafe for human consumption, the vulture is a mighty agent of cleansing power. Consider: The common turkey vulture is in the condor family Cathartidae, drawn from Greek carthartes, meaning “purifier.” It is the same root for catharsis: purging, purifying, cleansing. The vulture can ingest toxins and bacteria that kill other scavengers. Its head is featherless, easier to clean after its unsanitary work. It holds its wings out wide for the sun to burn away germs.

In some cultures, the bird is considered sacred, especially in those that perform sky burials.

Above all, the vulture has been a powerful symbol since ancient times, most often of life, death, rebirth, protection, and wisdom.

I think about that, looking at this buzzard perched here on the steeple.

Like a bird of pray.

*******

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




Two Shards in the Mosaic of Our Time: Olga and Amellia

I heard their stories over the last week and was deeply moved by their courage...

From the fragments
they rise
glittering
like stars in the heavens
glowing
like sunflowers in the field
turning their faces to the light

iridescent shards
in the mosaic
of our time

a prima ballerina
leaving her homeland
and the Bolshoi
to join the Dutch ballet:
‘I am against war
with all the fibers
of my soul’
 
a little girl
all of seven
consoling others with song 
while sheltered
in a bunker
encouraging help
for her homeland
after escaping to Poland
with her grandmother
standing onstage
before a huge crowd
in traditional dress,
a little nightingale, singing
her national anthem:
The glory and freedom
of Ukraine
has not yet perished…”

They dance and sing
through the brokenness

iridescent shards
in the mosaic of our time

turning their faces to the light
like sunflowers in the field
glowing
like stars in the heavens
glittering
they rise
from the fragments.

Note: The sunflower and nightingale are national symbols of Ukraine

*******

with thanks to Wendy Everard, Tuesday host of Ethical ELA’s Open Write, for the idea of mosaic as a frame for poetry

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