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 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.
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.
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”
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
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
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
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
Though we only finished one semester
we already are thinking of the
new academic school year
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
To be sure
I was sad to leave Bahrain
but my husband’s visa would expire
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
and I’m helping as needed
until the new teacher can get her visa
to travel here
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.
I was surprised anyone came back, really. I thought maybe they would be conveniently absent or beg to switch to online school, where the faces and voices are clearer.
Because they came, I had a better day. Maybe their being present helped me speak more slowly, loudly, articulately, and with more purpose. And to work harder to hear them and listen to them fully.
Today was also the first Tuesday in six months that I forgot to do my Slice of Life post. I woke up Wednesday morning, still late Tuesday night in the U.S., and made this post my first priority. I won’t give up my pandemic priorities of living and being more than a school teacher.
So I got up to write this tiny sliver of my life on Tuesday, 8 September 2020.
Today is day 194 in Bahrain’s Covid-19 chapter. Cases are going up, but restaurants have opened and in-person school began on Sunday for a few students who signed up for the blended-learning option. It is Prompt 108 in The Isolation Journals with Suleika Jaouad. Ash Parsons has shared a prompt today to write words to describe ten mental images from the last 24 hours.
A little girl had her mask on backwards, with the blue side inside. “Is your mask on the right way?” I asked. “Yes,” she told me. “OK, that’s good–as long as we keep the germs on the outside, that’s the important part.” What else to say?
Looking at my schedule for perhaps the tenth time this weekend. On my first day of school: “What do you think about that extra English class on Tuesdays?” I asked a colleague. “What extra English class?” We compared schedules. One of us has the wrong one again.
Later in the day we got a message, “Check your schedules; they changed again.”
Yes, two English classes on Tuesdays, but not on the virtual classes. So now the students who are coming to school have 2.5 hours of English a week. The online students have 70 minutes of English. That doesn’t seem equitable, does it.
Am I seeing anything these days that is not related to school and the stress of teaching in this crazy pandemic?
Take care of your feelings and build
an unforgettable school year. We are back
and even when it doesn’t feel like it, things will get better.
I wrote a Golden Shovel poem for today. It’s when you use the words from a quote, a short verse, or a line from a poem to begin or end each line. “Build back better” is one of Biden’s slogans. It was mentioned a lot at the Democratic convention. I am confident we will build our schools, health care and economic systems–and yes, our whole country–back better. (By the way, are you registered to vote?)
Today we met the students on Zoom. Every single one of the grade 5 students came with enthusiasm and joy at being in school again. It gave us hope and made us all smile! (And all the unanswered questions could be forgotten for a short time.)
Walking briskly indoors (or outdoors when the weather permits)
Sipping a pot of karak tea
Finishing a good book
Chatting with a friend
Writing, writing, writing
Communicating with my husband
Cooking something delicious
One line that goes through many of my energy multipliers is that I love being productive. That’s why cooking, baking, reading, writing, creating, and walking all end with an accomplishment–something I can say I made or finished.
Good communication is also a value, especially deepening one-on-one and small group relationships.
I noticed there is just one thing that has me sitting quietly alone. Sipping tea. I love to drink tea, especially spicy, sweet, milky karak tea. However, even though it is on my list of multiplying energy, I am not usually doing it only. I am typically multitasking–reading, writing or working on my computer. while I sip. So, is it really an energy multiplier or just something I love to drink?