November #OpenWrite

Today’s prompt, “Heal” included the invitation to go back to another prompt I didn’t write before. I went back to April 1, 2019, both prompts from Sarah Donovan.

What is Good?”

Good Work

Good work–
Work, purposeful work,
Work that builds,
Not diminishes
I work with all I am–
Never just punching a clock
But I pour myself into the work

Good work–
Work, created especially for me
Good work assigned
Work and care for Eden, Adam
That was God’s directive
That is God’s directive to me

Good work–
Work, more than you did
Take care of the earth
Work to heal
To bring Her
Back from defilement
Take care of people
Work for justice
Plant peace–
Seeds of peace, that have
Not been planted–

Good work–
Work good
Get ready
Do good work
And get into
Good trouble

breath with Sarah Donovan

Brokenness and heartbreak, loss of job
Bickering teachers overwhelmed
Safety protocol mistakes
Covid deaths and counting
White House renegade
Friend triangles
Knotted neck
Breathe out
Breathe in
Peace and hope
Healthy dinner
Thanksgiving (really)
Strolling along the shore
Cooperating with Truth
Foaming bubble bath to my neck
Leaning on the everlasting arms

receiving with Sarah Donovan

I couldn’t seem to do this prompt today, so I will use my Death poem I wrote this morning for The Isolation Journals.

giving with Sarah Donovan

Giving Learning

What I say to students:

Yes, yes you can!
I love your work.
I’m such a fan.

Do you know?
I don’t.
Let’s give it a go.

Please do.
I am not sure.
Yes to you
and you
and you.

thanks with Sarah Donovan


seeing my phone
slip from my hands into
the hearty
tomato saucy
goodness of
Amy’s Organic
Baked Beans
in the microwavable

Was like watching
a phone
tumble over the railing
on the upper floor
at the mall but
Instead of smashing
on the tile
below, it
into the sauce
so smoothly
so stealthily

My first reaction
was to pull it up from
its shallow bath
It only took a half-inch dip
My phone barely waded in
Hardly got its feet wet
I don’t know beans about
how to save a phone
in a cooking calamity

It will be fine
I told myself
I took a quick lick
across the bottom
where the speaker
and charge port sit
because the slits were
looking crimson
and congested

I gave the whole phone
a once-over with the dish cloth
I sucked on the end to
extract more tomato sauce
Just to be sure
Then I promptly forgot about it

The phone worked fine all day
But on seeing the
15% battery warning.
I went to plug it in

No power
No lightning bolt
I checked the plug for
I wiggled the cords
Oh yeah, the beans

As my husband and I sat
through the rest of the Zoom
meeting, I thought about telling
him. (Our mic was muted.)
No, I better wait.

When we finished, I nonchalantly said,
I dropped my phone into the beans at lunch.
He said, You need a new phone anyway.
What? I said. No I don’t. THIS is my phone.
I just need it to charge.
He plugged it in and
I switched the cord
to a different outlet.
It worked.
It’s up to 83% now,
so I think the beans are history.

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

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
Confronting, and
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.
Assumptions of white innocence
Assumptions of black guilt

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?

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,
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
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
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
academic year
and I’m helping as needed
until the new teacher can get her visa
to travel here

It was a good decision

August Open Write on Ethical ELA

15 August 2020
Indelible Moments with Emily Yamasaki

Image by esudroff from Pixabay

I am the confident and careful driver, unaware of dangers
His ’67 truck was given to my mom
when Uncle Guy died
because Grandma didn’t drive
And had no use for it
A few years later our neighbor got a new camper

I am the confident and careful driver, unaware of dangers
Their second-hand cabover camper
Became our home that summer
It was the hermit crab shell
our Chevy had been longing for
Though maybe still needing to grow into
Top-heavy in the wind
Barreling down the highway

I am the confident and careful driver, unaware of dangers
I was still 16 years old that summer,
less than a year’s driving experience
And awfully unseasoned when it
Came to that extra ton on my back
We shook, rattled and rolled through
Deserts and over mountain passes

I am the confident and careful driver, unaware of dangers
Aunt Josephine didn’t believe I was, though
She came with us for part of that trip and
Peeking through the crawl window in the truck cab,
Over her shoulder
She’d give my mom a play-by-play of my driving
Harassed Mom just wanted a rest while I took a turn
My shaggy-haired 14-year-old brother was my co-pilot

I am the confident and careful driver, unaware of dangers
That summer we took a loop tour of the West–
California to Arizona to Utah,
Wyoming, Montana, Idaho, Washington, B.C., Oregon
and back to California
And we did it all without incident or accident

I am the confident and careful driver, unaware of dangers
I wonder why I didn’t remember that when
My own girls learned to drive
When they took the wheel, I sat in the passenger seat
Digging my nails into the upholstery
Flinching when they got too close to the shoulder

Why did I become a confident and careful driver,
overly aware of dangers when I became the mom?

16 August 2020
Pantoum Poem to Hold a Worry by Emily Yamasaki
Each day I feel a battle over my thoughts. I can get lost in the bad news, or I can retain hope and God-ness in my life. Today, I had to write two poem containers to hold the battling thoughts within me. Inspiration came from a quote by St. Ignatius. “In the case of those who are making progress from good to better, the good angel touches the soul gently, lightly, sweetly, as a drop of water enters a sponge, while the evil spirit touches it sharply, with noise and disturbance, like a drop of water falling on a rock.” and from Psalm 36:5-6.

Everyday Thoughts, Part 1

Everyday thoughts
Screamers of doom
What will it be today?
Explosions at port

Screamers of doom
Racist rants of rancor
Explosions of violent virus
Disrupting, disturbing, distressing

Racists ranting revulsion
Water slapping a rock, noisily
Disrupting, distressing, disturbing
Confusing, jarring, upsetting

Water slamming the rock, violently
What will it be today?
Confusing, jarring, upsetting
Everyday thoughts

Everyday Thoughts, Part 2

Everyday thoughts
Justice like an ocean
What will it be today?
Love as limitless as the skies

Justice like an ocean
Grace, faith, hope and
Love as vast as the heavens
Joy, peace, and patience

Grace, faith, hope and love
Water soaking into a sponge, lightly
Joy, peace, and patience
Unfolding, permeating, spreading

Water saturating a sponge, sweetly
What will it be today?
Unfolding, permeating, spreading
Everyday thoughts

Image by congerdesign from Pixabay
CC BY 2.0 by mrsdkebs 

17 August 2020
“Weather” by Claudia Rankine with Andy Schoenborn


By Denise Krebs
(with the beginning and ending lines taken from Claudia Rankine’s “Weather”)

On a scrap of paper in the archive is
Written the sea surface temperature for August.
As usual it’s gone up.
Turns out
in a pandemic everyone
is without a healthy
Everything is an anomaly.
The Postal Service climate has long been
A ridge of high pressure
smashing our mail system
And the forests replete with fires
The Apple Fire cost $51 million
to beat it back to 90% contained
(thems a lot of apples)
Fires then moved on to other locales:
Hills, Lake, Red, Elk,
Hog, Whale,
USPS and more.
(dispatchers clip the names wisely
so they’ll be sure to save
for fires yet to fight)
Heavy rains and
Powerful thunderstorms this week in southern California
(Wait, it never rains in southern California)
Now it’s
with a chance of Postal trucks being towed away
Smoky with the burning of the
Constitution and
firenados of
ballots twisting into disenfranchisement
Low pressure trough of
on mailboxes
Greenhouse effect suffocating the
mail-sorting machines
Above average chance of
1000-year heatwave that will
sizzle and singe and annihilate the GOP
Breaking! Extreme weather alert:
Late summer storm of
stupidity and oleanders
being reported on the east coast.
I say weather but I
a November that won’t be held off. This
nothing, no one forgotten. We are here for the
blue tsunami
that’s storming because what’s taken

18 August 2020
The “Re” in Relationships with Andy Shoenborn

If I could spend the day with you,
we would work hard.
While we worked
we would recall stories about mama dogs having puppies,
the noises on Aunt Josephine’s farm,
and sneaking candy.
We would start at dawn
and drive to the end of the road
where no one lives
to feed the coyotes
the freezer-burned turkey
you’ve had since before Mom died.
We would paint a wall or two,
upholster that old chair on the back porch,
and haul the dinosaur of a ringer washing machine
to the Ranch House for decor.
While we work, we would drink iced tea
all afternoon until our back teeth floated,
but we wouldn’t stop to eat any lunch.
We would climb Abel’s Mountain
and I’d hold them while you wired the wings
on the pterodactyl sculpture you are building.
When evening finally came,
we would come inside
and you would throw together
some incredible, decadent and unhealthy dinner
like nachos with extra cheese and avocado slices.
We’d dip them into the salsa
you whipped up last night at midnight.
Then we would watch the Democratic National Convention.
Afterwards, we’d go outside
and lie under the stars,
watching for remnants
of the Perseid Meteor Shower.
Tomorrow we would do it again,
same song, different verse.

19 August 2020
The Moment of Change with Amy Ludwig VanDerwater

The Fall

Once upon a time they were kept apart
But the most crafty and cagey creature
(for Goodness sake, why?)
took the good and stirred in the evil
Introduced Knowing right and wrong

That cunning creature asked questions
Really? Are you starving here? Don’t you get anything to eat?
Oh, yes, we eat. We eat everything…except…uh…
I mean…not everything, exactly…
just…just not from that one in the middle…
Ahhh, they say that’s the best one.
No. I don’t think so. We’ll die.
Mwahahaha! Do you believe that lie?
Think for yourself. It will open your eyes. Be like Creator.

It does look delicious.

They ate.
They hid.
They hid their knowing.
They no longer knew only Good Garden.
They now also knew evil empire.
They spread their
to the rest of us.
We hide.

But Goodness calls,

“Where are you?”

July Open Write

Saturday, 18 July 2020 – Rondeau with Mo Daley

Our Final Trip Home

Awaiting our final trip home
Enduring months of the unknown
We’ve been here seven years so great
Always knew the expiry date
A seizure has gripped us and shown

A pompous plague pens a new tome
We will sacrifice to atone
And appease the curse to create
Our final trip home

Have we now reaped what we have sown?
How long before we will have grown
Beyond this harbinger of hate?
I yearn to stop and end the wait
Our final trip home

Sunday, 19 July 2020 – An ode with Tracie McCormick

Ode to Ginger Spice Cookies

Oh, ginger spice, you bring joy to life
Your honest and prodigious flavors yearn
To share their beauty and reduce strife
Thank you for your irresistible warmth.

Oh, ginger spice, your flavors dance on my tongue
Sweet, salty, biting hot and spicy
Your flavors blend so fine, but remain unsung
Rivulets of deliciousness flowing within.

Oh, ginger spice, how to describe your color?
brownish-red, bronze, chestnut, copper–
Those are not quite right–they seem a little duller
That’s why you have your own exclusive eponym.

Oh, ginger spice, you are covered with cracks
and crevices, dipped in sugar and teeming with
reasons to overindulge. My healthy eating slacks
As I enjoy one, two, three, four, five, six…

Enough for everyone…

Monday, 20 July 2020 – Ghazel form by Mo Daley

The Jar of Oil

My husband is dead, now what?
My sons will be sold to pay my debt–(the jar of oil?)

Elisha help me, please? What should I do?
What do you have? Nothing, but the jar of oil.

Go borrow jars from all the neighbors
And with them put the jar of oil.

Get a stack, a heap, a mess, a pack,
Get a bevy, a bunch, a load, a lot–the jar of oil.

Then fill them up. Fill them up?
Using what? The jar of oil.

So she and her sons went into her home
Nestled in, the doors were shut–the jar of oil.

She poured and kept pouring into each vessel.
The boys fetched another (This is nuts!)–the jar of oil.

When all the jars were entirely full
the copious cascade cut–the jar of oil.

Elisha simply directed, Go sell the oil.
Pay your debt, live from the glut–the jar of oil.

God’s specialty is filling to abundance what is empty.
In 2020 Denise was emptied to her gut–the jar of oil.

II Kings 4:1-7

Tuesday, 21 July 2020 – Monotetra by Tracie McCormick and Mo Daley

John Lewis

Racism’s scars and stains knew he.
Bloodied, unafraid, fighter free
Forging Beloved Community
Gift of esprit, Gift of esprit

The ‘Conscience of Congress’ is right
Which others will take up his fight?
Remain hopeful, not take to flight
Even at night, Even at night

The menace of his later years
Just one more foe he had to clear
Remained unconquered through our tears
Courage not fears, Courage not fears

John Lewis, determined tower
The unbowed master of the hour
Strong, but gentle as a flower
Rest in Power, Rest in Power

I was inspired by this article: “‘Invictus’ was among John Lewis’s favorite poems. It captures his indomitable spirit.” I incorporated some words from ‘Invictus’ by William Ernest Henley, and some of John Lewis’s words, as well. Here is another joyful video to watch today, a tribute to John Lewis from Stephen Colbert and Jon Batiste.

Wednesday, 22 July 2020 – Praise Poem with Brian Glaser

There’s a story in this place
A story no one told me
My ancestors
My teachers
My textbooks
Were whitewashed tombs
The Greatest Generation
Family vets came home from war
bought houses in the suburbs
and graduated from college
Thanks to hard work and persistence
Why didn’t they let me see
the decaying and decrepit
bones inside the tomb?
Family vets came home from war
bought houses in the suburbs
and graduated from college
Thanks to the GI Bill that
worked primarily for white veterans

Bill Barr, you are wrong when you said,
“Well, history is written by the winners,
so it largely depends on
who’s writing the history.”
We’re done with that.
The introductory essay
by Nikole Hannah-Jones
in The 1619 Project won a Pulitzer.

Story, come anew
Story, come afresh
Story, call us onto your lap
Hold us gently and whisper truth into our ears
And if we don’t hear it this time,
slap us upside the head
Tell us a story to retell to ourselves
A story to tell and retell
to future generations
We’ll be better ancestors
Better teachers
Writing better textbooks
We’ll break the unspoken
Racial contract, the one that denies
All people are created equal
Come quickly, Story

For five days, each month, I write with other teacher-poets at EthicalELA for Open Write. Read more about it or sign up here.

#OpenWrite for June 2020

June 20, 2020 – List Poem and Lift a Word prompt

Doctor Solomon
Servant of God and humanity
Older with underlying conditions
Did not stop his work
Urgent care physician
Contracted Covid-19
We prayed

  • for a miracle
  • for healing
  • that you would go home to your wife, to your grandchildren
  • for you to laugh and listen as always
  • for us to hear your wisdom again
  • for you to pray for us again

Again and again
But today you died
Rest in peace, dear Dr. Solomon,
Today you are with Jesus in Paradise.

My sweet teacher-mentor-fellow-poem-writing sisters left some healing comments and gratitude for Dr. Solomon. See them here.

June 21, 2020 – Father’s Day Small Fiction
I wrote this poem with another prompt for The Isolation Journals. See A Gift From My Father.

June 22, 2020 – Memory Poem

Playing House
Think playing house–
but maybe not that kind–
come with me to the
eucalyptus grove
at Grove Avenue Elementary School
a hundred trees planted so close
they barely have elbow room
aromatherapy for us
minty, herbal with a touch
of honey and lemon
no sun rays make it to the floor
so nothing grows
tamped-down, hardened clay
becomes our earthen tile
pencil-like leaves fall and gather
the floors swept with our hands
construction materials
readied for the building
we mound the leafy walls
zig-zagging willy-nilly
throughout the grove
the bell rings for us to go back to class
play as long as possible
before running to avoid being late
immediately start watching the clock
when is our next recess?
finally…run to the grove
choose our favorite spot and build again–
living room, den, bathrooms and
bedrooms, lavish and profuse
this forest is our mansion
gladness gleaned from the grove

June 23, 2020 – Marcher or Leaper?

Leaping Into the Story
The story is with us, with us for a lifetime.
The story is within us, much beyond
Our lifetimes. Story passed on to our heirs. Little or
Much property doesn’t matter, but generation after generation
All become heirs of our beliefs–
Tenets of toxicity,
Positions of poison,
Cesspools of say-sos.
Four hundreds years of unjust stories.
Let justice roll down like water.
Righteousness like an endless stream.
The story of humanity makes
Us alive to Truth. Will we listen to the Truth?
Will we make amends? Hear the story.
Tell the story. Tell
The Truth.
Tell the stories for the just world we yearn for.
March for Truth. Truth that will set
Us free. Then maybe we can
Leap into a changed storyline.

June 24, 2020 – Writing with Melanie Crowder

Rose of Saffron
Out in the open
In the full sun
Lies the costliest of all

For thousands of years
It is true
The Crocus Satimus corm
Initiates the process
First lying dormant
Through the heat of summer
Does its wizardry underground

Then the autumn crocus
Burgeons and blossoms
Six purple petals
Cradle the crimson stigmas
And yellow styles

Gentle hands
Carefully pluck out the
Three red threads,
Dry and store safely–
150 flowers are needed to make
One gram of spice
(400 flowers to match the mass of a penny)
Use saffron for
Fancy fragrances
healing and health
Creating golden ambrosial delights
Beauty of the beloved