A Walk in the Neighborhood

Today’s Slice of Life at TwoWritingTeachers.org

This evening my husband and I took a walk around the block. We had some tiny errands so we headed out with four full bags–two were just trash that needed to be dumped in the bin down the street. Two were full of second-hand clothes to be donated in a donation bin on the corner. Then we walked around another corner to get a house key made. I stood outside because the shop was small and there were already a couple of people inside. The photo above shows my view.

I stood and watched the traffic go by, and then I noticed the green palm tree in the planter in front of the shop. Each day in September, for my 1SE (One Second Every Day) app, I took a video of something green growing in Manama. This seemed like a lovely opportunity with the palm, but also the red metro bus, a wailing siren and ambulance coming, and our church lit up in the background. There was even an almost full moon above. I grabbed my husband’s phone inside the shop just in time to catch the scene.

 

Teal

Today is Sunday, Day 215 in Bahrain’s Coronavirus time, and Prompt #111 in The Isolation Journals by Suleika Jaouad. This week’s prompt was written by NYC teacher, Cara Zimmer. She challenged us to write a color poem using synesthesia, a literary device that is a deliberate confusion of the senses.

Teal
Teal is the satisfying ocean smell of cyan serendipities.
It feels like the refreshing eye of the Persian Gulf peacock
And tastes like the blue morpho dipping into a waterfall.
Teal is the sound of a mermaid’s balayage of rainbows painting a masterpiece.
Teal feels like a surfeit of raspberries.
It smells like an opulent sweven of fairies.
Teal tastes like the susurrous symphony of the trees.
It is the savory sight of the unassuming prism of perfumes.
Teal smells like an imbroglio between two youthful unicorns.
Teal tastes like the bread of heaven.
Teal is an epiphany of the syzygy of God
without a scintilla of hopelessness.
Teal is hope.

The Isolation Journals – Magic 9

Today is Saturday, Day 214 in Bahrain’s Coronavirus time, and Prompt #110 in The Isolation Journals by Suleika Jaouad. This week’s prompt was written by Rachel Schwartzmann. It is about sitting quietly and seeing what thoughts come.

  • Set the timer for 5 minutes.
  • Stare at the wall or nothing.
  • Enjoy the slowness and stillness.
  • Write the thoughts and questions of those moment.

Last week at the Ethical ELA Open Write, we wrote Magic-9 poems. Two of the participants wrote about the stillness that Rachel talked about in her prompt.

I was reminded of The Isolation Journals prompt while I read their poems. Sharon wrote one called “Soulspeak” inspired by the quote: “Quiet the mind, and the soul will speak,” by Ma Jaya Sati Bhagavatiand. Susan wrote a poem called “Behind Eyelids” inspired by a quote from Paul Gauguin: ”I shut my eyes in order to see.”

Their poems inspired me to write my own Magic-9 poem about what I heard during my quiet reflection.

Hope

In blindness I grope
Hope is a winged bird
My parched soul longs to cope
To cling to this good news
The world is a kaleidoscope
Of centurions and servants
Each at the end of their rope
A still small voice I heard
“Never give up Hope”

What came to mind during my five-minute quiet was this first stanza of a poem by Emily Dickinson:

“Hope” is the thing with feathers –
That perches in the soul –
And sings the tune without the words –
And never stops – at all –

Another thing that has been on my mind is a Bible story about the centurion’s faith in Jesus to heal his beloved servant in Matthew 8:5-13.

Open Write for September 2020

I was the host on the #OpenWrite EthicalELA site for Monday and Tuesday

I always look so forward to the Open Write on Ethical ELA. It’s a five-day poetry-writing extravaganza each month.

In September, Barb Edler gave us the writing challenges last Saturday and Sunday. For Monday and Tuesday, I was happy to get to be the host. Yesterday, my prompt was to write a poem based on something in the news, which turned out to be a bit heavy. Today, we wrote Magic-9 poems, which are turning out a bit lighter. Tomorrow we will have a final prompt, usually by a poet or author. (Edit: It was Laura Shoven)

I am honored to be in this group of poet-teachers who know how to encourage each other, write poetry that causes us to dig deep into our hearts, and comment like crazy on each other’s poems.

Below are the poems I wrote for September. Please join us tomorrow or next month on the 17th of October.

Food Memories with Laura Shoven
Lemon-Mint

One dinar apiece
For a lemon-mint
We drove
Straight from AMH
Down Sheikh Isa
Turned right before Adliya Road
Just a short distance
Down the wrong way street
Parked in the alley
That smelled like fresh bread
And into Al Abraaj.
Appu and Lali ordered
Because they had the experience
Turkish bread, hummus, grills and more
But it was the lemon-mint that took our breath away
It looked like a bamboo forest in a frosty glass
It sounded like the fresh breeze at the sea
It felt like a handful of love and satisfaction
It smelled like a cleansing summer rain in Kerala
It tasted like a trio of goddesses–Cool, Sweet, and Sour.
Sit down, enjoy
Good drink
Good food
Good talk
Drink till there was nothing left
Slurping up the last bits of icy sweetness
And wiping the inside of the glass
To get the foamy mint
Onto our fingers to lick it off
We ate and drank
And you told us what it was like
To live and eat in Bahrain
You, smiling and encouraging
Us, pondering our futures

Magic 9 Poem with Me

When the going is hard and slow
The work of patience we’re creating
Warriors in waiting here below
Powerful warriors of patience
Too much wait time will show
Who has the stamina to resist
Laziness and fight to grow
The sweet time spent activating
Time and patience aglow

My Magic Word Quote:
“Patience is waiting. Not passively waiting. That is laziness. But to keep going when the going is hard and slow – that is patience. The two most powerful warriors are patience and time.” Leo Tolstoy

News and New with Me

Say His Name–Ahmaud Arbery

“Come, son, grab your gun
There’s a black burglar
Bounding ’round the block”

In this land
Two armed white men insist on their
right to defend themselves
While one unarmed black man
is not allowed to exercise the same right
Nor to exercise

State laws made to justify
Two people
Chasing,
Confronting, and
Killing
a person
they’ve never met.
Usurping duties of
police, court, jury,
and executioner.

As long as the two
are on the safe side
of the racial contract in ‘Merica
they will be exonerated.
Always
Assumptions of white innocence
Always
Assumptions of black guilt
Always

Americans implicitly know
Who are bound by the rules
And who are exempt
Would your son be allowed to jog
in a new neighborhood?
I know
You know

All men are created equal
(If they are white and own property)
Crooked creed

All men are created equal
(But some are only three-fifths equal)
Crippling creed

Codicil in invisible ink
Yet penned visibly in red blood
On black bodies

Murder is illegal
But fine for white people to
Chase down and kill black people
If they have decided
That those black people scare them
Cowardly creed

These injustices
Push the racial contract into the open
Then it’s up to us to choose
Do we embrace its existence?
Do we contest its existence?
Do we deny its existence?

Hang on, white men.
Hang on, power-hungry,
To your fading entrenchment of
White political power to
“make America great again”

Father and son
Chased a “burglar” jogger
Shot him dead.
Acting in self-defense?

No.
Arrested and charged with murder
Because of national outrage
(But absent the video, then what?)

Centuries overdue,
But now is the time
for more
national outrage,
America.
It’s time for a
Courageous creed

Many words and phrases in this poem were found in the first half of this article in The Atlantic: “The Coronavirus was an Emergency Until Trump Found Out Who Was Dying” by Adam Serwer.

Ego and Homage and with Barb Edler
Homage to My Birthmark

This birthmark is a badge of mystery.
I was initiated into a mostly girls’ club
in my mama’s womb, some secret shared by
Just .3% of all babies born.

This birthmark is the beautiful color of fuchsias
Or red wine depending on the air temperature.
A port wine stain is the official name;
Dry ice was the 20th century treatment.

Because we didn’t burn it off with the ice
And I rarely opted for cosmetic camouflage
This birthmark inspired nicknames by mean kids–
Patch Eye and Pirate–but they didn’t know.

This birthmark is the shape of Australia
For a map lover and Down Under fan like me.
But it is located on my left temple rather than
Situated between the Indian and Pacific Oceans

This birthmark is becoming cobblestoned.
Exaggerated vascular activity paving
A thoroughfare across the pink plot.
I never even saw the masons at work.

This birthmark is invisible most of the time.
My hubby and children look puzzled every
Time new folks ask me about it,
‘Oh, yeah,’ they say.

Decisions with Barb Edler
To Teach or Not to Teach in 2020-2021

Though we only finished one semester
we already are thinking of the
new academic school year
2020-2021
Expecting good re-enrollment numbers
Pretty sure of our staffing needs
Need to hear from you
whether or not you want to
renew your contract
Kindly complete the form
no later than
23 February

To be sure
I was sad to leave Bahrain
but my husband’s visa would expire
during the
2020-2021
academic year, so
I won’t commit for half a year, I’d say
But it might be renewed. They might need me to stay, he’d say
Back and forth, we’d ponder

After days of musing
When the due date came
Enough was unsettled that
I opened the Google Form in the default purple
No, I clicked, I have other plans for the 2020-2021
school year. I will not be returning.
I didn’t really have other plans
I explained to admin
I’ll be here to help as needed

Two days later
Covid-19 ended our school year as we knew it

Now we’re five-weeks into the
blended / virtual learning
2020-2021
academic year
and I’m helping as needed
until the new teacher can get her visa
to travel here

It was a good decision

This is What the Living Do

Today’s Slice of Life at TwoWritingTeachers.org

We capture pictures from inside our homes on our devices and post them on Instagram.

We send Whatsapp messages and make online sticky note cards for friends on their birthday.

We start yet another Zoom meeting and, during Internet instability, we smile and say, “Interesting” in response to something we didn’t really hear.

We surf our news apps and Twitter for the latest buffoonery and buzz.

We pray that our fellow citizens will learn from history so we won’t have to repeat it. 

This is what the living do during a pandemic.

But sometimes we remember when we used to hug and kiss each others’ cheeks, and talk for an hour after church, eating samosas and cookies. We remember moments of hearty laughter around the table with breakfast and a shared pot of tea. We remember singing praises together in church, chock full of people of all nations, but one in Christ. We remember sitting around a bonfire, roasting hot dogs and marshmallows. We remember gatherings at your house with all of us there, eating, singing, laughing, praying. We remember late night talks without masks.

We remember and we wait, for this is what the living do.

Remember, we will do it again.

 

Today is day 203 in Bahrain’s Covid-19 time, Tuesday’s Slice of Life, and Prompt #109 in The Isolation Journals by Suleika Jaouad and inspired by Marie Howe‘s poem, “This is What the Living Do.”