Anna J. Small Roseboro had the prompt for today at Ethical ELA: Composing from Compost. She asked us to think metaphorically about compost and how we can revisit writing to improve it. “Often what we have written in the past can provide nutrients or seeds for future writing.” I loved this line from her poem: “That even when scared, we still can be light” I added it to my compost for today’s poem.
What fun it was. I felt like a gardener! I went to my own compost bin and dug around old poems I had written. I found a poem I wrote at the end of April 2020, a ode to the #verselove community after writing with them for my first month. It’s the second poem in this post. My Golden Shovel below is made with these lines from that poem:
Your poems are cathartic
for the arctic
sea in me
reminding me of open wounds
yet to be restored when
given your remedy
I also took from the compost and planted an idea from Emily D’s dream poem this week in her lines:
Another thing I added was something my Arab friend translated for a speech I was helping her edit: “bouquets of prayers” From what I’ve learned, the Arabic language is filled with beautiful figurative language, poetry, and beautiful images like these. I keep thinking of bouquets of prayers, so you will see it here too.
A Letter to the Open Write Community
Your writing nurtures me. Your poems bring healing. They are catalysts of courage and cathartic for the hurts we have endured. For bringing hope, the poems are warmth that thaws the arctic of my soul, this sea of iced-over emotions. Investing in each other takes time, a gift to me, and mine to you– reminding me of family. Me, the one who only wrote for the audience of my students, but now I am open to writing in this space and beyond. My wounds become shared. The scars yet to become beauty marks, multiplied to become divided. They will be claimed as victories, life restored and filled with joy. When ideas have dimmed, and I have given up out of fear, the fragrance of your poems, these bouquets of prayers, will be the remedy and light for my heart and pen.
We are writing poems at Ethical ELA’s Open Write for June, and I have the privilege of leading the prompts for the first three days. Here is Day 3’s prompt.
Today we are going to choose a mentor poem to help us craft. These mentors can come from anywhere you have read them, but I’d like to encourage you to choose a mentor from a writing community you are a part of–with students, peers, colleagues, or someone here in the Ethical ELA community. For those who have been writing poems with Ethical ELA, I know you have been inspired by fellow teacher-poets in this group. Today I chose a poem by Stacey Joy that struck me. Stacey wrote a sweet and beautiful poem called Love…. I was touched with the beauty and simplicity of her lines of similes.
I Dream A World
I dream a world where man
No other man will scorn,
Where love will bless the earth
And peace its paths adorn
I dream a world where all
Will know sweet freedom’s way,
Where greed no longer saps the soul
Nor avarice blights our day.
A world I dream where black or white,
Whatever race you be,
Will share the bounties of the earth
And every man is free,
Where wretchedness will hang its head
And joy, like a pearl,
Attends the needs of all mankind-
Of such I dream, my world!
During the spring, a poem of the day on Poet.org was by Margaret Noodin. She was inspired by Langston Hughes to dream for the world. About the process she said, “With all we’ve lost and learned this past year, and all that remains to be repaired, I thought perhaps we should all sit down and dream harder and more often with more clarity and infinite diversity.” She inspired me to stop and dream awhile. That’s where our poem is going today.
Margaret Noodin wrote her poem in both Ojibwe and English after Langston Hughes’ “I Dream a World.” Here is the first part of her poem. Do click the link to read or listen to her read her whole poem.
Today, let’s dream for the world harder, more often, and with more clarity and diversity. I look forward to reading your dreams today.
Try a couplet poem in ABCB, like Langston Hughes did. I tried this, using his title phrase and last line of “I Dream a World” for my own poem.
Use Margaret Noodin’s inspiration by writing in two languages, one line after the other about your dream for the world.
Choose any form you want to experiment with or free verse and write about your infinitely diverse dreams for the world.
Write whatever is on your heart and mind today.
I Dream a World By Denise Krebs After Langston Hughes
I dream a world where peace And justice will embrace A world of hope, a future Overflowing with grace I dream of a world where Yielding power prevails A world where all peoples Will prosper, not in travail A world all gathered with Flags of peace unfurled Hope born of love–not hate Of such I dream, my world!
Inspiration The Hay(na)ku is a 21st century poetic form designed by Eileen R. Tabios, a Filipino-American poet, fiction writer, artist and more. The form, which Tabios first called Filipino Haiku. Eileen describes it in an interesting history of hay(na)ku. Lately I’ve been writing a hay(na)ku each day in my planner after the day, a quick and fun way to recap a memorable event or emotion. I was inspired by Tabios’ Counting Journal described in the history of the hay(na)ku.
Traditionally, Hay(na)ku have:
A total of 6 words – 1 in the first, 2 in the second, and 3 in the third
No syllable, rhythm, or meter constraints.
You can also write reverse hay(na)kus.
Examples of hay(na)ku:
When left forgotten
Entices me in
Entrusted with independence
Think of a topic and write a collection of hay(na)ku to capture the many aspects of your topic. Choose:
A season of the year
A month of the year
A day of the week
A holiday or special day in the calendar (Juneteenth, Father’s Day, or whichever day you choose)
A family member
A particular class at school
A favorite book or television series
Any topic you would like to explore
As always, feel free to write in any form or topic you need to and want to write today.
It has been a month since I wrote on this blog. That’s the longest I’ve gone without writing a post during this past Covid year. Living with this pandemic has gotten so long and difficult. People are dying and we can’t even have proper funerals. I miss my family, my friends, and my church. There is only so much cooking and Zooming one can do.
This month I started watching The Man in the High Castle, which is a sci-fi, historical fiction, dystopian World War II series on Amazon Prime. My husband stopped watching after two episodes, but I can’t stop myself. Now I’m on Season 4, and I finally understand what it means to binge watch.
Tomorrow Lent starts and I am going to fast from sweets, even karak tea, which is sweet, spicy and milky tea that I love for a treat a couple of mornings a week. Today, Fat Tuesday, I ate a brownie, a cookie, a chocolate bar, and I had a whole pot of karak. I’m trying to decide if I also want to give up The Man in the High Castle, but I’ll probably finish Season 4 instead. I need more praying and being in God’s presence than watching this, though–that’s for sure!
March is coming. I’m excited to try the Slice of Life Story Challenge again. Last year was the first year I successful wrote each day in March for the SOLSC on the Two Writing Teachers blog. Maybe you would like to join us! Sign up here if you haven’t yet.
Let’s Meet Somewhere
between Paullina and Orange City
where the odor of hogs occupies every pore
ubiquitous as it is noxious
and the gravel dances behind trucks
until it goes rogue and cracks your windshield
Let’s meet for burgers and fries,
where a veggie burger means
tomatoes, onions, and lettuce on your
all-beef patty with a homemade bun
at the greasy spoon that used to be called the Dug Out
Between the gas pumps out front and the toilet out back,
the one with the cracked mirror, no toilet paper,
a cloth roll for drying your hands that long ago was spent
and didn’t get replaced
and where the calcium deposits are so thick
you could chip them off with a strong fingernail
After lunch we’ll go to the ball park
pride of Granville
home of black soil and an immaculate diamond
and watch our Catholic boys beat the ego out of
the Protestants from down the road,
which has a bigger town and a richer school,
but they don’t know baseball
We’ll eat salty sunflower seeds and spit the shells under the bleachers
We’ll drink lemonade and eat watermelon
and stay for the second game of the double header
We’ll laugh and swear,
spit and eat,
talk and enjoy each other’s company
Elizabeth the Integral
Without you, we would be
Less than the whole
Your colleagues and kids
Respect and adore you
You’re loyal and sunny
To know you is to love you
And today is your day!
So we say,
“Thank you, God, for Elizabeth!”
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 others that I’ve been trying to keep up with this week on Ethical ELA.
I open the letter
breathed by you
I sit at the seashore
and chew on the manna
flow of 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).
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
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.
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.
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
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.
The Holy Bible,
MAGA Version, 2020,
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
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
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
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.”
When it began My childhood prayer
growing up in a
“Thief in the Night” church: Jesus, please don’t return until I grow up and get to have my own family.
When it’s focused Softball practice in the park,
softball games every Saturday
and one evening a week,
playing catch in the street until even
the streetlights didn’t make it
safe enough to continue.
Ironing, (yes ironing!) my
Bobby Sox Softball uniform,
getting it ready for tomorrow.
Begging someone to play catch again.
When it’s squandered
We never found the time
to sit together regularly and
talk about faith and life
and the Bible
like we always planned to.
Now those high school years are gone.
When it’s lingering
That falling asleep time being held in your arms
after we make love is the best sleep of all.
When it’s not enough Saying goodbye to my Mom in 2010,
a brother in 2012, a sister
and sister-in-law in 2018. No
more “see you laters.”
VI When it’s unsettled
Covid-19 in 2020, 2021? 2022?
What does the future hold?
Each of us scrambles to borrow a bicycle. Not that many years
Ago I would hop on my own bike and pedal to the start
Of the Go Pink ride. I am in a new time and place, though, so I
Borrow one. Sorry, there’s only one gear that works, my friend tells me.
We ram the old broken thing in my van and drive it
Home. It needs a new seat, says my husband. Ride it down
The street to the shop on the corner, and we’ll see if he has one. He
Walks along, I ride. The crank arm breaks
On the two-block ride. Two, three or three-and-a-half for the saddle;
Five for the gear shifters, ten for the crank, five for the
Derailleur. Why not take
A new one? Only 45 BD, the shop keeper says. OK, says my husband. This one is foldable, good for the car, the little man says, as we
Wheel it out of the shop. Back home,
We put it in our car. I set my alarm for
4:00 a.m. The alarm goes off, I stumble and
Pull on my pink tee-shirt backwards, extra wide shoes to
Alleviate pain from Morton’s neuroma, eat a banana and drive
To the Cycling Bees shop. Bahrain
is flat, the trip is ten
Kilometers, the seat is wide and cushy, my borrowed helmet is too big. I
manage to finish, in all my out-of-shape glory, at the end of the pack.
Thoughts of coronavirus
Haunt me as we talk, sometimes too close–them without
Masks. This is the first bicycle ride of my
Sixties. I remember rides in my
Twenties a bit differently. I devour
Huge plates of pasta at the campsite in Half Moon Bay,
Gorge on ice cream in Monterey—so much more gratifying
to fuel up on a bicycle than in a
Fossil-fueled vehicle. We pedal up
Hills, race down, and try to avoid semis through Big Sur,
80 to 100 miles a day. We do it all
Again the next day.
That was fun! The Cycling Bees have another ride next
week, how about it? The route looks charming, my friend says.