Poetry Friday – In Memory

Jeff, gentle giant
Your heart was big, but failed
Today you are gone

It was the summer Scotty died.
I flew back a month after I moved to Iowa.
After the funeral
we went on a road trip.
Your aunt, Scotty’s grieving mom,
your broken Grandma,
and your stunned Aunt Denise
(who was being driven back to Iowa
to start a new school year
in a new school and new state)
and you, his cousin —
teenage laugher and listener,
so bright-eyed and fun-loving,
with a sly shyness.
You, who made the trip fun,
instead of a drudge.
We drove in the camper,
saw some sights,
took funny photos,
and told stories of Scotty.
It was the year of the Blizzard–
a new ice cream treat.
We stopped
in every small-town DQ
for a new flavor.

Today, thirty-five
years later, you have left us.
Another nephew
gone too soon–death’s order in
this broken world, false again.

It is Poetry Friday, and Laura Purdie Salas has the roundup here, with tankas and a new picture book coming out: If You Want to Knit Some Mittens.

Getting to Know Mohammed

Today’s Ethical ELA Open Write prompt by Allison Berryhill is to write a poem about a student. I had a hard time writing today; I have so many students on my mind. I have love and appreciate them all. They’ve been patient with me. I tried lots of poems on, but nothing stuck. Now, finally I decided on a found poem from my journal entries, all these lines were written during the first weeks of school that very first semester. When I started, I had been in this new culture for one week, trying to cope with jet lag and just figuring things out. I started teaching mid-year and was assigned to teach English to kindergarteners, a grade I had never taught before.

January 2014
Getting to know Mohammed R.

Overwhelmed
Wondering if I made a mistake
Lost all my confidence
Out-of-control
Literally running around
Dread coming back
I need to fail forward
Today was better
Snacks in the teacher’s lounge
I don’t know how to eat them
Daily reminders I’m in such
A different place
There are a few moments of hope
each day, but more often just
painful learning events and despair.
Today was different. One class came in
And I almost made it in delighted control.
Learning? Who knows? Manners, yes.
Toilet? Water? Ball? I can’t understand them
when they say these words, and these are some
of the only words they say and know.
My only Arabic is just
the letter ط (tah) and shukran.
I had a dream the students and I were
engaged as a learning community,
it was a powerful gift,
But the gap between what is
and what may be in the future is wide.
Just when I think (knocking on wood)
that the day is going well,
Another class comes in and kicks my butt.
Sweetness—Mohammed R.
wanted to sit by me at recess.
Today was a day of hope—
Al Raja School means school of hope,
but is it really?
Is there hope, Lord?
I actually liked this day.
I was able to read a story and
they all listened,
they seemed to understand.
We went to the zoo today.
Mohammed R. whispered in my ear,
“I know a funny word.”
“Oh, what’s that?” I asked.
“Bananapants!” he laughed.

Authors

Authors

1861
Anne Abbot created a game
that I was still playing
over a hundred years later.
“Go Fish” it was,
only with authors–
Tennyson, Poe, Longfellow
(a poet whose feet showed it),
Stevenson, Dickens, Irving,
Shakespeare, more white men,
and one white woman–
Louisa May Alcott–
somewhat of a mirror for me,
white girl
from southern California,
who matched authors
with siblings
and cousins.
93% of the authors were white men
with funny hair and clothes.
Conspicuously missing–
Frederick Douglass,
Phyllis Wheatley,
Elizabeth Hobbs Keckley
and many more.
Heck, even Anne herself
was an author.
The system, though,
wasn’t interested in being inclusive,
wasn’t interested in giving voice
to others less powerful,
wasn’t interested in giving
little girls and little boys
different mirrors
to reflect possibilities.
They were selling a card game.

Yesterday at our family Bible study
“We are having problems
with this book. We’re trying to have
an open mind and keep reading, but
there are some ableist and racist things,
like Peter’s scary hair.
What’s with that?”

Today
What she said (this young woman
who is teaching her parents)
lead me to go back and review the authors
of the books I’ve read this summer:
White male authors: 5
Black male authors: 1
Black female authors: 1
White female authors: 1
I am not making and selling a card game,
I am choosing what books to read.
I chose 63% white male authors.
Well, more accurately, my partner
(another white male)
chose two of my five books
for our family study.

Today I came back to notice,
and, praise God,
I am still alive,
with at least
a little time to
become a better ancestor.

Finger Painting

Today’s prompt by Barb Elder for Day 2 of September’s Open Write was “An Out of Body Experience for Sunday, Fun Day”.

Finger Painting

I reach for my tubes of paint,
Nervous as usual,
to try my hand at art.
I squeeze the tentative
joy–plop, drop–
onto the canvas.
I stick my finger in as
I laugh and ask myself,
Are these finger paints?
Yes, indeed. They are
finger paints–
My fingers! Paint!
Then my forearms
My elbows, up to my pits, I am paint
Wow, I exclaim, and
Dive into creating,
All the tubes are squeezed out
All of me now cool, smooth,
shivering onto the surface.
All of me impasto-ed in
Shades of hope and honey,
Fearlessness and fuchsias,
Brilliance and blueberries,
Completeness and coffee,
And the delicious reds of earth and fire.
I relish the moment of freedom
To let go and let the paints.
For a moment I’m in a world where I hear,
“You are lovable, capable, and creative,
You are enough.”

Jigsaw Puzzles

Inspired by Barb Elder for the Open Write prompt at Ethical ELA today: Finding Yourself Again: A Memory Poem.

I was six, old enough,
according to the box,
for the 100-piece puzzles
my nine-year-old sister liked to put together.
She could even handle 250-pieces puzzles.
Shudder. I hated those puzzles.

We were homesick at the farm,
left for an extra week in the summer
while my mom went back home
with older siblings
and younger brother.

We were left to have fun–
climb hay bales,
follow feral kittens,
hold baby lambs,
collect peacock feathers
and drink all the Cokes we wanted,
pulling the glass bottles out
and popping the caps off,
just like we were never allowed
to do at the gas station.
This magical machine was
in my own uncle’s garage,
and it didn’t need coins
to operate it.
The farm was a wonder–
yet my sister would
still cry herself
to sleep every night,
bringing me into her sadness.

My aunt tried her best
to entertain us. She
wanted us to enjoy our time.
My sister found joy in
putting together puzzles during the day.
Not me. They were too hard,
so my aunt said she would
take us to the store and
get me a puzzle I liked.

I remember asking her,
“Do you think they have
ones that aren’t JIGSAW puzzles?”

When we went to Woolworth’s,
there were lots of puzzles in boxes,
and then I saw what I was hoping for–
my dream puzzle.
It had a photo of a kitten
sitting up in a basket
with a pink ribbon
around its neck.
It was 24 big pieces
of paperboard cutouts
that fit neatly in a tray,
puzzles like we had at school.
Not jigsaw puzzles,
which I guess I assumed came
in boxes with small pieces,
rather than indicating
the way they were cut.

My homesickness began
to subside that day,
as this simple act of kindness by
my usually prickly aunt
convinced me of her care.

Poetry Friday – Testudinate

Hello, poet friends, I am honored to be collecting your sweet submissions today; it is my first time hosting the Poetry Friday Roundup. What a joy!

I keep a “Writing Ideas” notebook for inspirations, many of them gathered weekly from your posts. This week I wrote an “In One Word” poem inspired by April Halprin Wayland at TeachingAuthors.com on this August 13, 2021 post. Follow this post for April’s full directions for the “In One Word” poem.

Monday’s Dictionary.com word of the day was testudinate, so I chose to use that one word because it brought to mind the noble Galapagos tortoise with its familiar carapace. More reasons: they are one of my favorite animals, I recently learned galápago is Spanish for tortoise, and I had never seen the word testudinate before.

I used Wordmaker and wrote a list of words that interested me, which was easy to do from the 497 that were found. My poem has about 35 words derived from the letters in testudinate. I love word puzzles and poetry, so when the two intertwine, I’m doubly happy. (I realize I used daunt as a noun in my poem, one of the problems in limiting your word choice!)

Image by Parker_West from Pixabay

Attitudes of Testudinate

When God teased
animals out of dust,
the dust was sent
with extra attitude
into galápago, situated
and sainted
to be one imposing idea
nested in the sun and sand
near the sea.

Half ton of ease,
100+ years to tease adieus
and dine
or not, for they can hold their need
for food and water, the seed
of their last meal can sate
them a year. Their size not stunted
nor tainted
with daunt.

A prehistoric statue?
No, he is life united
a staid sedan
among animals. A titan
suited for us curious students
to attest
that this creation attends
to and attunes
our priorities, unstated
hurries and worries end.
Slowly, slowly the din
dims and we see.

Draft by Denise Krebs

Image by Raúl Blázquez Viedma from Pixabay

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