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 others 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.

December Ethical ELA Open Write

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

October Open Write with Ethical ELA

Ways of Looking with Susan Ahlbrand

Ten Ways of Looking at Time

I
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.

II
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.

III
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.
What happened?
Now those high school years are gone.

IV
When it’s lingering

That falling asleep time being held in your arms
after we make love is the best sleep of all.

V
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?

VII
When it ends

Will I be ready?

Tritina with Susan Ahlbrand

Reading

Do I choose or am I chosen by reading?
Sometimes I am lifted out of myself, with a stab
To my heart. Unexpected riches that grieve.

Riches that turn into empathy as I grieve
The axe for the frozen sea within is my reading
As Kafka wisely said books are to stab

Not to make me happy, but to stab.
Books to affect me, allow me to deeply grieve
It is not for the faint of heart, this reading.

Quick pain of the stab and subsequent grief comes from reading.

Take a Word for a Walk with Anna J. Small Roseboro

Hope
Is Hope a winged bird perched
Or flying? Hope who owns nothing–
Makes room for Hope, love, grace–
She’s able to soar, Hope filling
the heavens. God, please more Hope

Allusion with Anna J. Small Roseboro

Rights attacked
Racists backed

Covid fear
What a year

Vote them out
Make it a rout

Good Jesus
He sees us

Swamped boats fill
“Peace, be still”

Calms the storm
Hearts transform

True Jesus
He frees us…

“Don’t fear the deep
I’m not asleep”

Bodies in Motion with Sarah Donovan

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.

Nah, I’m OK.

The Isolation Journals – Magic 9

Today is Saturday, Day 214 in Bahrain’s Coronavirus time, and Prompt #110 in The Isolation Journals by Suleika Jaouad. This week’s prompt was written by Rachel Schwartzmann. It is about sitting quietly and seeing what thoughts come.

  • Set the timer for 5 minutes.
  • Stare at the wall or nothing.
  • Enjoy the slowness and stillness.
  • Write the thoughts and questions of those moment.

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.

Hope

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”

What came to mind during my five-minute quiet was this first stanza of a poem by Emily Dickinson:

“Hope” is the thing with feathers –
That perches in the soul –
And sings the tune without the words –
And never stops – at all –

Another thing that has been on my mind is a Bible story about the centurion’s faith in Jesus to heal his beloved servant in Matthew 8:5-13.