A Month of Poetry 2021

Day 20 – Duality Poem with Brooke, Bailey and Ryan (OSU Education Department preservice teachers)

Regular rotation
Moonth after moonth
Decrescent, increscent
Full wanes to youth

Unsung in radiance
High hopes are sunk
Never to be a beacon
How, when so shrunk?

Linked, but disunited.
Moon: reflecting only
the Light of our galaxy
When veiled, so lonely

Tsunami of shine
Moon unable to refine
As bright as the Sun
Brilliance defined

Day 19 – Summertime Poem with Soshi, Betsy, and Abigail (OSU Secondary English teacher candidates)

The constant conversation:
How many more days?
We’ll leave the day after school’s out.

Finally the day arrives.
We get up early and
climb into the car.
Positioned on the back of the front seats
are the cloth slings my mother sewed,
each painted with our names.
They are filled with snacks
we got to choose ourselves,
plus brand new coloring and puzzle books
and a fresh box of crayons
Late that afternoon we stop half-way
at a cheap motel in St. George, Utah
or maybe Cedar City if we made good time
The next day we get on the road
again early. Our travel bags and
snacks help the day pass
And that evening we arrive in
time for dinner in
Lander, Wyoming.
Here will be our summer home–
six weeks in
cousin-time
delight and wonder,
outdoor exploring,
Yellowstone camping,
sandstone carving,
rodeos,
swimming in the public pool,
even library visits
are magical here.

The forgotten conversation:
How many more days?
Wait! What do you mean it’s time to go home!?

Day 18 – Write Sculpture Writing Poem with Jennifer Jowett

Carrot cake:
the recipe of
anniversaries,
births, weddings,
baptisms of
Shredded carrots
freckling the kitchen
So many fluorescent flecks
threatening to spoil the
surprise
Z
O
O
M
into the meeting at 6:50 p.m.
Bahrain time,
8:50 a.m. Pacific,
for this
pandemic party
Carrot cakes
stealthily baked
with love
in tiny
aluminum pans
delivered to
participants
to celebrate
the anniversary of
the birth of my beloved–
this man,
so good
and kind
and passionate–
with carrot caky goodness

Day 17 – Living Traits Poem With Gayle Sands and Annie

Wisdom was born eons ago
in a small town called Adversity. She has
the bruises and scars
to show she is a graduate of
UWS–the University of the Way of Suffering.
When she gets to an impasse,
Wisdom braves the decision,
she persists and either turns back,
retracing her steps,
or finds a new route.
Wisdom splinters
the status quo
with her fierce and
piercing questions.
Wisdom is married
to knowledge. Though she
holds all the degrees,
she doesn’t assert herself
against pretenders. Wisdom
doesn’t always
outshine the imposters,
but she does outlive them.
Wisdom kisses love, joy, and peace.
Wisdom dines on patience, kindness, and goodness.
Wisdom wears faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.
Wisdom is
as quiet as a heartbeat,
as sweet as a hug after a loss,
and as gentle as a bell of mercy.
She listens more than she speaks,
but when she talks,
those close to her
sit up and listen and she spreads.
When necessary she thunderously
proclaims truth from the peaks
and topples over tables of injustice.
Wisdom leans on the
moral arc of the universe
and brings justice just a little nearer.

Day 16 – The Power of a Question with Angie Braaten

Question?
That question that haunts me to my very core,
the one I avoid.
The one that I shove back
into the depths of my ugly heart
And don’t let it surface.
But others dig deep and have been
doing so this week.

Susan inspired you yesterday.
Angie’s prompt reminded you today.
These and others have asked tough questions.
Why don’t you too, Denise?
Speak it, repent, reframe the question.
Not today. Maybe
Soon.

Day 15 – Title Poem with Stefani Boutelier

Please read the poem first and then read my title below.

Put it on the table
A staging of a fable

Donkey deity in the desert
Matching pants and shirt

Pieces in a collection
Go in that direction

Arrange the type for print
Vinegar will keep the tint

Pick it up and make it right
A string of LED lights

Hunting dog points
Relocate bones and joints

Concrete gets hard
Groups that score in cards

Earth’s star sleeps
That camera pose keep

Part of a tennis match
A whole cohesive batch

Start a campfire
A car’s new tires

Get ready and into the blocks
All the tools in your box

Your heart yearns for that
A suit with a matching hat

Pieces played in the band
Moving the clock’s hands

Direction of the wind
Rows of teeth above your chin

Choose a wedding date
Fix the value at a rate

We could go on for days and days
There are four-hundred, thirty ways

To use my little title word
Three letters–how absurd!

Title: Set

Day 14 – Hate, Outlived with Dr. Padma Venkatraman

Hate is the country with such a long scar
We dole out death sentences far
From courts of law
White power, our flaw
–Street-selling loose cigarettes, death
–Holding a sandwich taken as a threat, death
–Not signaling when moving to the right, death
–Using a bad twenty or having lofty height, death
–Going to the car wash with your new ride, death
–Eating ice cream where you abide, death
–Even sleeping in your own abode, death

Remember their names and the code:
Eric Garner
Casey Goodson
Sandra Bland
George Floyd
Daunte Wright
Botham John
Breonna Taylor

The code of hatred: White supremacy
Hope: Dismantle the enemy

My inspiration came from this Instagram post I saw this morning

Day 13 – What We Take and What’s Been Taken with Andy Schoenborn

Yes, I do want a chocolate-coated,
date-filled cookie, thank you.

Maamouls–a Ramadan gift from
my husband’s co-worker.
I take the wrapper off
and bite into the buttery goodness.
I take another.
How about some chocolate-covered hazelnuts?
Turkish delight and pasta flora?
Gifts of love from my friend.
The pounds I lost last year
are staging a comeback.

The year has taken a toll.

Day 12 – Writing Beside with Penny Kittle

The earthquake trembles under my feet,
not from the San Andreas,
but from my own faults.
Remembering when my seven-year-old
“embarrasses” me at Costco.
The middle-aged woman beside us–
intent on rifling through the mom tees–
hasn’t even noticed the child’s faux pas.
(What actually is the little girl’s blunder?)
But because Mom insists,
she apologizes.
Everyone awkwardly
walks away.
I’ve seen my faults shock and shake.

Day 11 – Day Poem with Scott McCloskey

Ode to Grilled Cheese
How glorious are your
gooey,
melty,
strings of goodness,
golden globs of
nutty,
buttery
deliciousness
nestled inside.
Outside,
thick slices of
homemade
sourdough
buttered and sizzling
in the pan,
crispy and brown,
becoming one with the
cheddar.
You are a wonder.

Day 10 – The Skinny with Denise Krebs

Vaccinated

I winced but smiled with the second dose.
Wondering
Hoping
Dreaming
Drifting
Wondering
Mutants
Spreading
Wildfire
Wondering
With the second dose, I smiled but winced.

Day 9 – Haiku with David Duer

Determination
Needed to survive a world
Blind to crucial needs

Day 8 – Things I Didn’t Know I Loved Poem with Barb Elder

On Noticing

Today I noticed details–
Like the smell of the cardamom
And saffron in my milky tea,
And the way the young mother
Stooped over again to retrieve
The blue binky for the
delighted warm baby,
who was the clear leader
in this game of fetch.

I noticed how much
I don’t like to wear lipstick, but not
Until I was able to stop
And put on a mask instead.
My one lipstick, already years old,
may last another decade at this rate.

I was never able to notice how much I liked to cook,
until I moved into my home last March.
It’s the same flat I had slept in for six years,
but I finally began to live here.
Now I cook, I plan, I write, I read,
I smile, I laugh, I listen, I pray
in this place.
I’m no longer a whirlwind of anxiety
about the next
appointment,
meeting,
service, or
responsibility,
for which I need to run out the door.
I never knew how much
I needed more peace in my living,
But now I know.

I never knew how much I appreciated
noticing these things until I joined
other teacher-poets in this
#verselove community
in the April of Covid, 2020.
I didn’t know how much
I loved poetry,
But now I know.
Thank you, friends.

Day 7 – Mirror Poem with Kim Johnson

Psalm 58 – A Prayer for God to Punish the Wicked
Do you rulers ever give a just decision?
Do you judge everyone fairly?
No! You think only of the evil you can do,
and commit crimes of violence in the land.

Evildoers go wrong all their lives;
they tell lies from the day they are born.
They are full of poison like snakes;
they stop up their ears like a deaf cobra,
which does not hear the voice of the snake charmer,
or the chant of the clever magician.

Break the teeth of these fierce lions, O God.
May they disappear like water draining away;
may they be crushed like weeds on a path.
May they be like snails that dissolve into slime;
may they be like a baby born dead that never sees the light.
Before they know it, they are cut down like weeds;
in his fierce anger God will blow them away
while they are still living.

The righteous will be glad when they see sinners punished;
they will wade through the blood of the wicked.
People will say, “The righteous are indeed rewarded;
there is indeed a God who judges the world.”

My 21st Century Mirror of Vengeance

I learned something about God from this poem,
placed in the good book, and read for eons.
God must have invited
people to speak their truth,
not to hide their emotions,
“break their teeth”
“blow them away like weeds”
“dissolve them like salt on a slug”
but
also
there was no need to
take vengeance in
their own hands and do violence.
“Give it to me,” God said, “I’ll take it from here.”
So, I wait and pray:
We’ve got some unjust and evil
people with power
who still need their teeth broken, God.

Day 6 – A World Trying to Deal Poem with Margaret Simon

I couldn’t get the photo I wrote about out of my mind all day. It’s the last one on the Glimpses of Grief and Resilience article in National Geographic. “This picture reminds me that domestic violence doesn’t start with bruises on the skin, domestic violence begins with words and takes many forms,” says photographer Irina Unruh. (I also alluded to Jenny in Forrest Gump, Jeremiah 6:14, and a reprise of this week’s shadow and mask poems.)

Hang On
Pray with me
fly, fly
away from here

Poison pulsing through the air,
Trampling and suffocating,
Cruelly wounded by words,
only to have them
superficially
dressed with
“Sorry” bandages.
“Let’s go for a drive, baby,
you know I don’t mean it.”
He speaks peace
where there is no peace

Masked by the thing with wings
Little glimpses of hope
Glittering in the sunshine
Come soon, Promise,
For she is still
Hidden in the shadow
Of the pandemic

Day 5 – We Wear the Mask Poem with Anna J. Small Roseboro

I wore the mask of a bully
It hid my cheeks and shaded my eyes,—
I couldn’t speak truth to myself or you
I tormented the weaker ones

It hid my cheeks and shaded my eyes,—
It covered my heart, squeezed out love
I tormented the weaker ones
Fear’s seed grew into deplorable domination

It covered my heart, squeezed out love
I wore the mask of a bully
Fear’s seed grew into deplorable domination
I couldn’t speak truth to myself or you

Day 4 – Say to Them Poem with Allison Berryhill

Speech to the Spenders; Speech to Those Sinking Our Planet
Say to them,
Say to the private profit proliferators,
the conspicuous consumers,
the I-can’t-live-withouts,
and the empty souls needing something,
yet settling for stuff,
“More is not always better.”
Buying that thing will not satisfy your longings.

Try thrifting or bartering.
Wear out the one you already have.
Dig deep and see what’s really missing.
Free yourself by giving freely.

Day 3 – I Don’t Want to Be Poem with Glenda Funk

I Don’t Want to Be a Porcelain Bowl
I don’t want to be a
bowl of porcelain–
pale, translucent
and fully fragile.
I don’t want to be displayed
shamelessly on a
shelf, waiting in the shadows,
perfect but untried.
Smooth and without character.

I want to be a Kintsugi bowl,
flawed and fully fractured,
but gold-veined–
beautiful in my brokenness.
Scars and wounds do not
imply defect, but they
are the rich
integration of
wounded suffering, and
rising empathy.
Even the author of
the Resurrection
unabashedly chose to
rise with
His scars on.

Today’s poem inspiration came from by a New York Times Opinion piece I read today called “Why Is Jesus Still Wounded After His Resurrection?

Kintsugi art by Martin Howard (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Day 2 – Bop Poem with Mo Daley

Procrastination
It is my middle name.
How can I wait
to do the important
’til I’m a tizzied state?
It is my constant shame.

When will I learn?

Videos to make
Cakes to bake
Projects to grade
Bills to be paid
Bops to write
Fights to fight
Bees to crochet
May Day, May Day

When will I learn?

Probably never!
I need to embrace it,
Write the bop
and get on with
the first thing on the list
OK, here I go.

When will I learn?

Day 1 – Shadow Poetry with Stacey Joy

I’ve had George Floyd on my mind all week. I watched and read the transcript of his encounter with the police. He was scared, not scary. And then there was the Filipino-American who was attacked in New York. My God, save us. When you shared the list of metaphorical shadows, I was drawn to this verse in Psalm 91, which has always been a favorite of mine. Yet, today I wonder if it’s easier for me to believe God’s protective wings cover me because I don’t have to fear for my life because of my color.

He who lives in the secret place of the Most High
Shall stay under the shadow of the Almighty. Psalm 91:1

Safe in
Heaven’s
Abode
Direct and
Omnipresent
Word

How do people of color in these
divided states get
to that secret Safe place?
Away from knees on their necks
and hate crimes against their very personhood?
Is God there in Heaven’s
reach? Is there an Abode
for all? Create a just and verdant place, God,
shady with your big wings’ protection.
Stir up good trouble–
Direct distress for us who feel
worthy in our whiteness.
Bring new Omnipresent
Truth in Minneapolis and
beyond. Word of God,
shine in the darkness.

Today is April 1. It is the first day of National Poetry Month. I am excited to Write, Read and Care with a lot of other passionate teachers. I plan to write my first drafts here on this blog post, and then copy and paste it onto a comment on each day’s prompt at the Ethical ELA site.  Do please give it a try and join us!

Letters to the Past

Day 31
Nawal wrote a wonderful post earlier this month: Dear Baba. It includes letters to some people who have died. On this 31st day of #SOL21, I chose to write this post. Thank you for the long list of ideas I still have–gifts from the writing mentors in this Slice of Life Story Challenge community.

Letters to My People

Dear Aunt Thelma,
Thank you for teaching me how to crochet and sew. Thank you for teaching me to laugh at life and myself–that was my favorite lesson from you. You were so patient with all of us. Remember when I stayed with you for a week during the summer after my freshman year of high school. You made me some new clothes to start school. The See’s Candy you always had in your house wasn’t good for you or us, but it sure was fun coming to your house and eating it! I still crochet a little, but I miss you and Lynne, who I could ask any question and get firsthand help. Now, my oldest, Maria, is the ultimate knitter, quilter, sewist (I think she may call herself that instead of a seamstress–it is the 21st century, you know). You would be proud of her. I can go to her for help now.

Dear Grandpa H.,
Thank you for taking me fishing. Remember when I caught that two-pound carp in Lake Mead? You made me feel like a fishing star. You stopped the boat and let us swim whenever we asked. I think of your gentle ways as I grow older.

Dear Grandma H.,
You were the sweet Mama, Grandma, Nana for so many. Thank you for always making your home so accessible to all of us and our friends and whoever needed a place to visit. Your quiet confidence in God inspired me to give of my money, time, and talents to others as an offering to God. Though I would say, you inspired me to become a more discerning critic of organizations who claim to be doing God’s work. Your support for Jim and Tammy Faye, with their questionable values, was an example for me. (After you died, he spent time in prison for fraud of his gullible supporters.) I am glad you didn’t get to see our 46-1 president. I’m afraid you might have been a supporter because he quickly snatched up the dispensationalists to add to his nebulous base. I am glad your legacy of gentleness, love, quiet confidence, and joy live on more than your political and religious beliefs. For her middle name, we gave Katie your name. She never got to meet you, but she carries memories of our time in the desert with her. The next generation grew up going to your house with a new grandma, my mom. Katie and Thomas  became engaged in Joshua Tree and we had their wedding there, in the place you called home. They are even talking about naming a daughter with a variation on your name.

Dear Grandma R.,
I know now that you had a lot of heartbreak and it made you broken, too. I can’t begin to imagine giving birth to seven children and only having three grow up to become adults, and you even outlived one of the adults, my dad. Polio and other diseases ran rampant through your family. Even those who did make it to adulthood came with mismatched limbs and other issues that showed they survived polio. If you were living today, I don’t know if you would believe that some people consider themselves anti-vaxers. I wonder if they would think the same if they walked in your shoes, and can see what disease takes away. Two things I remember about you–your index finger that was half cut off in a factory accident and the Reed’s butterscotch candies you always had on the coffee table. Some things I still try to forget.

Dear Scotty,
You were my first nephew. You were born in August, but should have waited until September. You were born to my oldest sister, who contracted German measles from the little boy she babysat. We didn’t know much about Rubella then, but it is another good thing to be vaccinated against. I’m sure you would agree. You were perfect/not perfect. Partially deaf, partially blind, bad heart and more organ damage than the doctors thought you would ever survive. You never did have that open heart surgery they talked about giving you when you got strong enough. Did you never get strong enough? But you were a fighter and spunky! Remember how we celebrated our August birthdays together with the family. Homemade German Chocolate Cake–We would sit next to each other, and I would eat the cake and you would eat the frosting, which I didn’t like back then, but I do now. I think of you every time I have a chance to eat it. You died the month before we celebrated your 21st birthday together.

Dear Dad,
You left when I was seven. Lots of children were still filling the bursting-at-the-seams home. Your smoking, alcoholism and family history of heart disease were a fatal combination for the young 43-year-old. In spite of your sickness, though, I want to say thank you for working hard to take care of us. You were always worried we would look poor, so you tried to make us eat a lot. (I didn’t like that and often went to bed early because I wouldn’t clean my plate.) I was too young to know about all the issues you and our family faced, but it seems to me like you drove that Department of Water and Power truck to work every day–foreman of a work crew. When you came home the neighborhood kids got to drain the ice water cooler you had in that little door on the truck, filling up the paper cone cups like we were royalty. In those moments, I was proud you were my dad.

On a lighter note. A zappai about today’s breakfast.

I removed the hearts
Like birds nibbling from each peach
Choice watermelon

Feeling Overwhelmed

Day 30

It is not often that I feel overwhelmed, but today I did. It’s now almost midnight in Bahrain, and I have been working at three computers all day long trying to edit songs for a virtual choir for the Good Friday online service.

Here are the three computers–note that they are all waiting for something! (That’s been most of my day!)

When all three computers were rendering, transferring, or uploading gigantic files, I would go to the kitchen and make applesauce or a pot of soup. When I got really frustrated, I walked away and read. I’m still reading Suleika Jaouad’s memoir:

So, as you can see I did not only sit and edit songs in baby steps all day long. The little editing I was able to do came with dozens of hourglasses (on the Windows machines) and spinning rainbows from hell (on the Macbook). Sometimes the hourglass would finish it’s buffering, and sometimes it would close the editing program. Sometimes the rainbow from hell would finish and let me work on the video for a few edits before it got gunked up with the big files, and sometimes it would just shut down.

When it got overwhelming, I walked away to do something for me or something productive. It was either that or throw one of these darn laptops through the wall.

Today, I made a decision though, one I should have made months ago. I will say no to any future editing requests that include big video files. These laptops and Wondershare are not cut out for what I’ve been asking of them. Surely someone else can do this work more reasonably than I! Any successful videos from me come only with hours of patience, ridiculous rendering, TLC, and prayer.

Another Successful Zoom Event

Day 29

Last week we had a successful Spelling Bee at school, and then the next day a successful talent show at church.

On a typical Friday morning, we have about 100 children in grades PreK-12 who come on Zoom for our church’s “church” school. It’s Sunday school on Fridays. We meet together for 30 minutes and then everyone goes to their own Zoom links for a 40-minute class. This past Friday was different though. We planned a 1.5 hour whole group celebration of talents for our church school community. We called it a Talent Showcase. We just wanted it to be a way to praise God with all the talents God has given us.

We had 40 children and teens sign up. We asked them to limit their talent sharing to two minutes. I did the math Friday morning and realized we would go from 9:30 to 10:50–with no breaks or transition times. Yikes! Oh, well. We knew if everyone showed up, we were definitely going to go over our time limit. (I should have done the math earlier! Maybe we would have scheduled 9:30-10:30 for the younger ones and 10:30-11:30 for the older youth. Next time.)

We also discussed how to give warnings as they approached or passed the two-minute mark. We decided not to hold up the yellow 15-second-warning sign since the one who would need to see it would be focused on their violin, making balloon animals, piano, singing, drawing, cooking, or what have you. We decided, if someone went too long, we could just mute them and then start clapping and thanking them. Fortunately, we didn’t have to do that even once! There were just two students who went closer to three minutes, but we let them finish. Many children were actually under the two-minute limit.

The viewers rocked the chat and reaction icons. It was a highlight for me. The audience was giving applause, hearts, confetti, and thumbs up reactions for each participant. I loved how the gallery view lit up like a Christmas tree at the end of each act. Even better they filled up the chat box with messages to “Everyone” (Everyone and hosts were the only ones they were able to chat with). They were so encouraging to each other.

  • “Wow!”
  • “What a song!”
  • “Great job!”
  • “I’ve been in church school with you for years, and I never knew you could play the piano.”
  • Etc., etc., etc.

At the end of the two-hour event, when we were thanking everyone, someone chimed in with an interesting statistic, “We had 1039 chats today!”

I was reminded of our event when I read something in Fran’s post yesterday (and the second day in a row that her post has inspired my SOLSC):

…in regard to the Google Classroom chat feature: “So many more kids share their thoughts this way, more than I’ve ever seen in person. I’m in awe of how much they have to say and how they encourage each other. We use the chat all the time now.” From Fran’s post “Digging for Awe”

Afterwards, the planners laughed about how this event would have looked a year ago when we were literally all new to Zoom. It’s hard to remember some of our foibles…

  • Aunty, I can’t find the chat.”
  • “Dear, you’ll need to unmute. We can see you singing, but we can’t hear you.”
  • “Maybe you’ll have to do a sound check. Do you know how to do that?”
  • “Sorry for those we left in the waiting room for thirty minutes.”
  • “Why don’t you leave and come in again, maybe that will work.”
  • “What’s the password? My cousin can’t get in.”
  • “No, I don’t know how to use Zoom on a phone.”
  • “Maybe we’ll have to finish next week.”

A year later, the 40 participants were 100% successful in sharing their talents live on Zoom with cameras, microphones, occasional screen sharing, and excellent timing. What skills we have learned without even realizing it!

I Was Given a Golden Shovel Today

Day 28
A hopeful Golden Shovel from September 2021 using Biden’s Build Back Better slogan.

Thank you for the challenge and passing on the Golden Shovel to us today, Fran Haley. I saw your post this morning, and I thought it was a great day to write another Golden Shovel poem.  I’ve been thinking about it and doing a little mental digging throughout my day.

Because it’s Palm Sunday, I made that the topic for my poem using William Carlos Williams’ “The Red Wheelbarrow” poem.

So Much Depends Upon Jesus
Hosanna in the Highest, so
very many Hosannas! It seems there is much
joy filling Jerusalem today, but it depends
ultimately upon
your perspective. It’s not all hosannas…We sense a
burst of red
hot anger–religious leaders reinventing the wheel
of hatred, building a barrow
above the tombs, glazed
sepulchers of envy, with
little hope of Hosannas to rain
peace and justice on the earth. Beside
Jesus’s little donkey, the
fickle crowds also heave their temporary praise, white
hot and later we will all become chickens

A year ago this week, I wrote another Golden Shovel poem using a Williams’ poem, “This is Just to Say

It’s A Good Friday Just to Say
This week started with a parade I
Witnessed. Shouting and waving my palm branches have
Given me hope. Too often I’ve eaten
Of this desire, dreams for the
Future, broken again. Grapes and plums
Crushed into sour wine that
Is poured out and wasted. Were
You informed of this in
Heaven before you agreed to the
Plan? Heaven must have been an icebox
The moment the plan was devised and
Executed. Which
Brings us back to you
Here now getting lead-studded lashes. Were
You tempted to split the earth and let them fall in? Probably.
Crown of thorns, ‘My God” groaning, but saving
Some bit of hope after the forsaking for
A fish-laden breakfast
On the beach. All to forgive
Us, the world, villains, sinners, trespassers, me.
Sour sponge dripping vinegar they
Gave to relieve your pounded nails, pounding head? Were
You aware that your forsaken cries would become delicious
Victory over the grave, so
We would be able to say, ‘It’s Friday, but sweet
Sunday’s coming,’ and
Our scarlet sins could become so
Clean like fire and snowy cold

By Laurie Avocado, CC By 2.0