January Open Write

Today’s Slice of Life at TwoWritingTeachers.org

It’s already Wednesday, Inauguration Day. I have refrained from watching the news the last couple of days because of lots of other daytime and evening commitments. This morning I woke up thinking about this post and a poem I didn’t write yesterday. Since it’s still Tuesday in parts of the U.S., I got up writing a poem about walls.

The world is due for a big change after one more sleep for the United States. I’m praying for justice and walls to come down during the next administration.

I am also posting my “Walls” poem and other that I’ve been trying to keep up with this week on Ethical ELA.

Happy Inauguration Day, everyone!

19 January 2021
Mindful Walking with Stacey Joy

Walls

I walk mindfully
around the cemetery
and I see a wall

Separating us–
the living from the dead. Are
they also mindful?

My mind jumps across
Earth’s span to U.S.
politics and walls

Divides us from
All our neighbors to the south–
At least in spirit

Confines refugees
Hoping for a new start, but
Not life in a cage

Restricts a future
Hope that independents will
Bring some sanity

Splits up lawmakers–
MAGAs versus those who think
insurrection’s bad

Breaks up Washington
Protecting democracy
From rebels within

Fortifies the White
Supremacy legacy–
Make her great, again?

Encloses our hearts
Against the madness and fear
Will we trust again?

Crumbles under the
Weight of justice served up to
All of God’s children

18 January 2021
One Word with Stacey Joy

Gratefully
I open the letter
ever-flowing and
breathed by you

Gratitude
for love,
life,
learning

Gratefully
I sit at the seashore
and chew on the manna

Gratitude
for sustaining,
up-ending,
building

Gratefully
Gratefully
Gratefully

Welcoming the
flow of justice,
ever-flowing justice

17 January 2021
Evidence with Susie Morice
Read Susie’s poem called “Thin Ice” to take a sad journey with her (at the link above).

Buttermilk

Today’s sky was covered in buttermilk–
streaked, like the sides of a
finished glass of it.

I thought of my childhood when
three generations of relatives
sat around the table
eating beans and cornbread. Earlier
ancestors hailed from Georgia,
so we still remembered–
after dinner everyone got
a tall glass of buttermilk
so they could crumble another
piece of cornbread
in and eat it
with an iced tea spoon. Meandering
rivulets, like today’s clouds,
ran down the glasses as we finished.

Today’s buttermilk sky was
a welcome winter anomaly. I didn’t see
buttermilk white, but instead I saw passionless
smoky curdles. Gray tinged
with subtle pinks as the sun tried
to push through the foggy undertones.

Skies are small here. City buildings
take up a lot of room. Today’s
buttermilk sky was stunted,
and as I walked to school
between buildings,
trying to glimpse more of the soured sky,
I thought back to the giant skies
above Iowa’s farmland. Now there
was a place one
could get lost in the sweet sky–
Cirrus, stratus, cumulus
galore. The sky was
generous and gracious
and made room for all. Layers
and layers of clouds
fill the heights, depths,
and breadth of the expanse
in every direction, in
every shade of white
they dance across the azure sky

Thinking of buttermilk
and big skies
made me home sick today.

16 January 2021
Conversations with Susie Morice

Wisdom

The moon held me in her gaze tonight
as I walked through the city.
She asked me why I didn’t
pay closer attention to her
(sometimes I don’t notice her at all)
but here she was
on full display
even amid the screaming
glare and clutter of the city lights.
Her heart was full, and her
body was a sweet smiling sliver.

She spoke to me kindly, and
asked if I had any questions for her.

Yes, I did, and right there
in the busy street,
I poured out my questions.

Luna, you’re just a toddler today,
Do your cheeks hurt with that ear-to-ear beam?

How do you keep track of all your phases?
Which one is your favorite?

Did you have ears to hear the spoken Word
that made you ruler of the night sky?

Do you give quick comebacks for
jumping cow and green cheese jokes?

When Jesus was born, how did you feel
being subordinate to that bright star?

How powerful is it to ripple the oceans
with your constant pull on the earth?

How many wars have you seen?
How many rapes have your eyes endured?

Do you wish you had wind?
Have you ever seen an alien?

How many night skies have you lit up?
How many skinny dippers have made you blush?

Did you weep when the astronauts
left their footprint on you?

She answered me,
indulging me with her serene replies.

I continued, hoping for more wisdom…

How did we ever elect that man?
He’s made such a…

That’s enough, dear, she interrupted,
Get along now.

Waiting

Waiting

Are you ready for Karak tea?
My husband’s gift to pour–
Friday mornings, quietly free
This chai, my drink du jour

On this Advent winter Morning
Emmanuel–God with us
Gift of Ransom from our mourning
Rescued from pain and pus

Rejoice, rejoice–God with us, here
In this place, in becoming–
Sipping sweet, spicy, milky Tea
Pause and smile. He’s coming.

The Isolation Journals with Suleika Jaouad Prompt #120 by Cat Miles.

Write about a beloved drink—about how you make it, a memory associated with it, or the way it connects you to others or yourself.

I combined this with another prompt about using Emily Dickinson’s techniques. I attempted #1, writing about a mundane subject with a bigger idea, and #2, using common meter and rhyme. It was also easy to throw in techniques #3, capitalized nouns, and #4, use of dashes. I think I’ll keep practicing! Especially on #2.

December Ethical ELA

Saturday, 12 December
A Gift with Jennifer Guyor-Jowett
This found poem is a collection of first lines by Emily Dickinson.

So much of Heaven has gone from earth
Faith is the Pierless Bridge
When I count the seeds
I had no time to Hate

You taught me waiting with myself
The way Hope builds his House
By such and such an offering
We pray–to Heaven

I see thee clearer for the Grave
The feet of people walking home
Trudging to Eden–looking backward
Heaven–is what I cannot reach!

There is a Word
As subtle as tomorrow–
Oh, what a grace is this–
That Love is all there is

Who has not found the Heaven below
I shall keep singing

Sunday, 13 December
Find Your Compass with Jennifer Guyor-Jowett

Political Journey

Spirit of ’76 Grad and first time voter–
With a month to spare, I was
Eligible to vote in my first presidential election
I registered as an independent

Jimmy Carter earned my vote
That was an easy choice even for
a teen who cared more about getting a date with
Rick than about politics
But I did notice Watergate and a pardon,
Gerald Ford didn’t stand a chance, I thought

I continued through the years as an independent–
always looking at the two candidates
voting at times for Republicans,
other times for Democrats

When Obama was running in 2008, though–
Yes, we can! Hope! I was enthralled.
I went out and changed my 30-year independent
status to Democrat, so I could caucus for
Obama in Iowa.

After the caucus, I went straight back
to being Independent.
I always thought there was strength in
independence,
I was proud to be discerning, diplomatic Denise
I saw both sides. I was a good listener
and autonomous thinker.
Presidential elections are personal,
aren’t they? I didn’t want the party to decide.
I wanted to decide for myself.

When trump came down the garish escalator
in 2015 and spoke of Mexicans the way he did,
I couldn’t believe he didn’t get ostracized and
chased away from the process.
Republicans ate it up
and he ate up their souls
Somewhere during that primary season,
I became a
Democrat for good.

Monday
Found in Translation by Glenda Funk

Translating the Bible

The Holy Bible,
MAGA Version, 2020,
Adulterated–
A Bible chock-full of capsized values for:

  • The power-hungry court packers
  • Those in fear of losing white power
  • Those who have ‘Merica confused with the Kingdom of God
  • Those whose guns are heavier than their God
  • Those who demand religious exemptions for loving and serving others

Despite that word adulterated–this version
has nothing to do with adults
but is babyish and petty at best
At its worst it exists to
usurp divine authority in order to
promote white supremacy

The MAGA version follows
in a long line of
bastardized translations–

  • Slavery version, 1850
  • Anti-science version, 1925
  • Jim Crow version, 1950
  • Moral Majority version, 1979 (Actually a de facto fight for the Revised Jim Crow version, but conveniently touted as anti-abortion in order to protect themselves from impropriety)
  • Tea Party version, 2010

My own personalized
contaminated translation
often needs to be
plucked out as well
Purged and replaced with
The real Word of God
Breath of Heaven
Word made flesh
Lived among us
Killed by false translations of his day
Died to love us
Love

Tuesday
Mapping Our Voices by Glenda Funk

Mapping Her Goodbyes

Her first move, she was just over one year old. She had no idea on that drive from Iowa to Michigan that her dad had added an extra three-hours to the all-night journey when he followed the road signs to Council Bluffs instead of Dubuque after dinner in Des Moines. She slept peacefully through it all in the car seat. When she woke up, the box of tissue entertained her throughout the early morning traffic in Chicago. She tossed each Kleenex whimsically throughout the backseat for an early snowfall while Dad took his turn sleeping on the camping mattress in the back of the pickup.

Four years later we did it again. Busy selling our winter gear at the thousand-dollar yard sale, we prepared to leave Michigan for Phoenix. She looked up and saw her big yellow school bus neglectfully leaving her behind. Marcus later told her he was afraid she was sick. “Mom, there goes the bus!” We raced into the house and got ready, driving to afternoon kindergarten. I stood outside Mrs. Bigler’s classroom and cried like a baby as I explained why we were late. This experienced kindergarten teacher tried to cheer the young mother, “Don’t worry. It’s only October. She will forget about us and just have memories of her new class.” What? That offered no comfort.

A few days later, she and I were sitting in the bathroom. She sobbing and me trying to find a quiet place to console her where we wouldn’t wake the household of new friends who were accommodating us until our house was ready. At home, on this Saturday morning, the sun was shining and the pancakes would have been on the griddle, but in this new time zone, it was an unearthly hour for crying. She wrote me a note with a blue crayon, “Keep Marcus.” I joined her in sobbing.

And then we moved again. This time after she finished her freshman year in high school of all indefensible decisions. My husband tells people she never forgave us for that move. But she did, at least outwardly, formally. We took her from Arizona back to Iowa, the town of her birth. The girl, who later became her best high school friend, at one time was a baby she had seen-not-seen at the doctor’s office when both of their mom’s held each other’s hands as they waited their turn to have their two-month-olds inoculated. Fifteen years after the shots, she did fine in her new high school. She joined cross country, drama, speech, quiz bowl, debate. She took AP classes and had some great experiences. At least I try to convince myself she did.

Before too long it was time for college. She packed her bags and hardly looked back. Sailing club on Lake Michigan, knitting club, including late night practice sessions and chats in dorm rooms with new lifelong friends, service and volunteer work, excellent success in classes. I asked her that Christmas, “How are you doing it? You are rocking your first year of college!” My firstborn’s answer stung but didn’t surprise. “I left home three years ago.”

Wednesday
Before Picture with Chris Baron

Before the Fireworks

No social distance to my lament
Seemed like a superspreader event

“There’s no COVID!” we labored to feign
Red and white! We celebrate Bahrain!

Flags, hats, sparkles for National Day
Couldn’t get out of everyone’s way

Then the show began, grateful we gazed
We left our fears–fleetingly unfazed

Death

Death

For you, the pandemic is only a
history lesson owned by
old folks who shudder about
having gone to Zoom school
when they were kids.
The fear of fundamentalism
was in its prime back then
And it happened at a time when some
in our country were so poor
they didn’t have
homes, enough food or health care.
Do you believe it?

I am your ancestor and you know little about me
No reason for you to imagine the problems I helpfully solved
or my taste for sweet juicy mango
No reason for you to know that I was a storyteller
and a story writer or that I tried
to help children
own their learning

You will live your life well without knowing how I
could bake chocolate chip cookies as well as Mrs. Field,
nurture sourdough for years without killing it, and
edit videos for online church services.

All my digital files were
put into the Recycle Bin
with one click of
a mouse,
(do you still call them that?)
maybe two clicks.

I remember how I died,
and because I couldn’t stop myself,
Death kindly came for me.

He slowed down for me to smell the
jasmine in the garden,
to eat the spicy rice,
ignoring the chicken.
He let me say goodbye to the butterflies
and cheetahs, the puffins and the elephants
He let me hold a newborn baby, pet a fluffy puppy,
and write once more with a fine pen.
He let me listen to favorites by
Simon and Garfunkel,
Gordon Lightfoot,
and Carole King,
like an old person.

He told me
the unfinished paper piles,
collections of “important” stuff,
unfinished to-do lists
could all be left behind
and no one,
really, no one,
would care.

All those things I had spent decades counting as gain,
I finally was able to count as loss
Looking back,
I can see how
taking Him by the hand
gave me more than
I could ever imagine

Prompt 116 by Mark Wunderlich:
Write a poem in which the speaker is dead but still possesses a consciousness and is capable of thought and speech. Include rich description and concrete physical details, as if the speaker is greedy for the sensory experience of life on earth.

Mentor texts shared by Mark, including one of his own poems. I used ideas or phrases from each of these in my poem:

“Because I Could Not Stop for Death” by Emily Dickinson

“Mummy of a Lady Named Jemutesonekh” by Thomas James

“Our Dust” by C.D. Wright

“To Whom It May Concern” by Mark Wunderlich

and a Bible verse that inspired me Philippians 3:8

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
Yesterday
Take care of the earth
Work to heal
To bring Her
Back from defilement
Take care of people
Work for justice
Repent
Plant peace–
Seeds of peace, that have
Not been planted–
Yet

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
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

thanks

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

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
slipped
sidled
slunk
slithered
stole
shrinkingly
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

So
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

Nothing
No power
No lightning bolt
I checked the plug for
electricity
I wiggled the cords
Beans!
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.