March 23 – More Open Write Poems

March 23, 2023

On Tuesday, at Ethical ELA, we wrote a poem about “Seeing the Stranger” with Katrina Morris. I was really touched by the mentor poem “Self-Portrait With Woman On The Subway” by Hayan Charara, You can read it at the link above. It made me think of a regret I had  a few months ago when I met Noor, whose name means light in Arabic.


On that rainy, windy day
We sat in the notary public office,
Waiting, all of us,
“Assalamu Alaikum,” my husband greeted.
“Alaikum Salaam,” her husband responded.
After more greetings,
and my husband’s Arabic was exhausted,
they switched to English and introductions, like
“We lived in Bahrain for eight years”
And “We’re Palestinian from Jordan.”
Her husband went on to ask if we missed bidets.
“Oh, yes,” my husband exclaimed,
“we had them installed the minute we moved back to the U.S.”
Noor sat quietly, eye averted, a bit shocked by the toilet talk.
But the topics changed,
and we all started passing time
We talked about sage in tea and sumac.
And where to shop for the foods they needed.
I shared a photo of my dear friend in Bahrain,
Who was also Palestinian from Jordan.
I showed some of the food she had served me,
And some of my attempts at making her recipes.
“I’ll cook for you,” she said.
They told us how Noor was a support teacher,
studying to try to pass the CBEST
so she could become a licensed teacher.
Then our notary came out, and we signed our paperwork.
Eventually, we left
while they were still waiting for another office,
We left with hearty goodbyes and nice-to-meet-yous,
But none of us made any attempt to stay in contact.
This young couple,
who lived only an hour from us.
This Noor,
this radiant light,
who had only been in this country for one year,
who may have needed language help,
who may have cooked for me.
I was the older woman, the white woman
who has lived here for seven decades.
Why didn’t I offer her my phone number?

On Wednesday we played with words with Denise Hill in a prompt called Metaphor Mumbo Jumbo Jam. I wrote some nonsense today about the following idioms written backwards: jam on the brakes, egg on your face, left in the cold, eat like a horse, sell like hotcakes, take a rain check, and like a cakewalk.


Brakes on the jam
Baby in a pram

Face on your egg
A girl named Meg

Cold in the left
Rock with a cleft

Horse like an eat
Ride on the street

Cakes hot like sell
What is that smell?

Check rain a take
Jump in the lake

Walk cake a like
Fly on your bike


I am participating in the March Slice of Life Challenge: A slice a day for all of March. Thank you, Two Writing Teachers!

9 thoughts on “March 23 – More Open Write Poems

  1. Denise,
    I LOVE both your poems. Nor tugs on my heart strings and I can feel the wistfulness emanating from you.
    Smoidi was so much fun! Playing with words in a joyful manner always brings a smile to my face.

  2. Denise, I love both of the poems for the beauty of the language and expression. That twisted idiom poem from yesterday with Denise Hill just sticks with me, the jingle and lilt of words that you captured here in this verse. Rock on, my writer friend!

  3. Your poem about Noor was so powerful. We have all had regrets like that before. I made so many connections, as we are both/have been expats. I’m sure you touched her in your interactions by knowing some of her language and making connections to her culture.

  4. Two very different topics explored in these 2 poems. Many after honestly writing about a regret, you needed the time to write in a silly manner, too. Your words about Noor share such an honest exchange. Connections bring us together yet, we cautiously stay in our lane. I’m glad you wrote about her as she seems to be sticking with you.

  5. Denise, I so enjoyed reading your poems on Ethical ELA this month. Just think we have 30 days of poetry writing ahead. I also appreciated Heather’s mentor text. It was so moving! I am always amazed at the powerful poetry that everyone creates just like yours. I do like the Noor one better because I understand the regret and you have such vivid imagery through that narrative poem, but your second one is delightful and I bet your grandson would love hearing you read it.

  6. Idioms spelled backwards is a cool word and sounds like what you’ve done, ludic language. “Cold in the left/Rock with a cleft” is only one great example!
    About “Noor” and the mentor text from Ethical ELA (and the title really gets me, “Self-Portrait” she the narrator sees self in the reaction to another)…my heart brakes, and breaks. Haven’t we all wished we’d reached out beyond that moment, a missed opportunity. Hopefully next time…Maybe, just maybe, you’ll see her again if she lives only an hour away?

  7. Denise, I loved your poems on Ethical ELA this past week, and I look forward to our April poetry challenge. Thank you so much!!

  8. Denise,
    I also enjoyed Tuesday’s and Wednesday’s prompts and particularly liked the mentor poem Tuesday. I had fun w/ the idioms, especially since I got to write a naughty poem. I’m wondering if you’re going to try and find the lady you wrote about Tuesday.

    1. I would like to find her. I’m afraid I don’t have enough info though. We didn’t catch their last name(s); they might be different from each other, if she kept her father’s name. Maybe a serendipitous encounter when we are in her town at a middle eastern market. I will definitely be thinking of her!

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