Composing from Compost

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:

I dream a world healed
where your scars are beauty marks.

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.

 

June Open Write – Monday, 21 June 2021

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.

Inspiration

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. 

Love…

Your love is tender

Enveloping like a patchwork quilt

Deep love like a poem

Sweet love like butter cookies

Golden love like sunshine

An agape kind of love

© Stacey L. Joy, April 24, 2021
Used with permission by the poet. All rights reserved.

Process

Look back in your memory for poems or poets that have touched you from this or other writing communities. Find a mentor you want to use and be inspired.

Ideas:

  1. Write a poem with your mentor’s poem as a guide. Go back to the prompts and poems from Saturday, Sunday, last April or anytime to find a mentor. Choose your own topic and try using their form. 
  2. Try choosing a poem from today’s offerings that inspires you. You will be writing a third-generation inspired poem!
  3. Instead of a full form mentor, choose just one favorite line from another poem and incorporate that into your own poem. 
  4. Use Stacey’s mentor form on your own topic. Here is a form to use for her “Love…” poem. 
  5. Please share a link or information about the mentor poem/poet you found, so we can enjoy your inspiration too.
  6. As usual, feel free to write anything you need to today. 

 

Denise’s Original Poem 

Alcohol…

Your alcohol is wounding

burying our family 

in a wet shroud

Penetrating alcohol like the coyote’s yip-howl

Bountiful alcohol like a wake of vultures at dusk

Choking alcohol like a heart attack

A ravaging kind of alcohol

©Denise Krebs, April 24, 2021

 

Your Turn
Come on over to the Ethical ELA site and join us today. Or add a link to your poem in the comments section.

June Open Write, Sunday, 20 June 2021

This weekend 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 2’s prompt.

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!

~Langston Hughes

Inspiration 

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. 

Nimbawaadaan Akiing / I Dream a World
By Margaret Noodin

Nimbawaadaan akiing
I dream a world

atemagag biinaagami
of clean water

gete-mitigoog
ancient trees

gaye gwekaanimad
and changing winds.
continue…

Process

Today, let’s dream for the world harder, more often, and with more clarity and diversity. I look forward to reading your dreams today. 

Ideas: 

  1. 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. 
  2. Use Margaret Noodin’s inspiration by writing in two languages, one line after the other about your dream for the world.
  3. Choose any form you want to experiment with or free verse and write about your infinitely diverse dreams for the world. 
  4. Write whatever is on your heart and mind today.

Original Poem 

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!

Your Turn
Come on over to the Ethical ELA site and join us today. Or add a link to your dream poem in the comments section.

June Open Write – Saturday, 19 June 2021

Today begins Ethical ELA’s Open Write for June, and I have the privilege of leading the prompts for the first three days. Here is a link for Day 1’s prompt as well as shared below:

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. 

Process

Traditionally, Hay(na)ku have:

  • 3 lines
  • 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:
Fruit
Goes bad
When left forgotten

Water
Clean, brilliant
Entices me in

Entrusted with independence
Children sprout
Wings

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 pet
  • 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.

My Example

Signs of Friday
By Denise Krebs

Two plates of food with veggies, rice or pasta and salmon.
Two Friday dinners

Islam
Jumu’ah Mubarak
Holiest of days

Church
Together again
Only the young

Salmon
Our treat
Once a week

Dessert
Ice cream
Usually ice cream

Reading
And relaxing
On the loveseat

Walk
The neighborhood
If weather’s bearable

Napping
Extra sleep
Like Sunday afternoons

Reading
poems and
commenting–Poetry Friday!

Your Turn 
Do you want to try hay(na)ku? Come on over to the Ethical ELA site and join us today. Or add your hay(na)ku in the comments section below.

A Month of Poetry 2021

Day 30 – Congratulations! with Jairus, Christine and Josie

Incendiary Introspection: Musings of Her Anger

Inflammable
Passion, fierce and spirited
Detonator of dynamite
Skipping stones across silent waters
On the mark
My combustible kindling
Looks to ignite.
Peers into conversations,
Dumpsters, everywhere–
Ready with a lit match,
Fierce and fiery,
Burning through
the mundane,
the righteous
and the idiot
with equal flare and fervor

“Where’s my speaker cord, Denise?”
“How should I know? Why are you asking me?”

I need to speak to Denise
and remind her
Of my power to explode, inflame
and burn through relationships.
I should remind her that she hopes for
Passion, fierce and spirited
against intolerance and evil.
Detonator of dynamite
Skipping stones across the silent waters of apathy
How she’s proud when
the flames are harnessed and
accountability and justice occur,
When rights are wronged, and
Unfair rules are reimagined
But then she lights my fire
with random hot-tempered explosions
against her loved ones

I am the one who happily and
promiscuously throws
my flames with aimless abandon.
But she longs for more
precision in pelting
profuse pyrotechnics
at inexcusable injustices.

Day 29 – Environmental Voices Poems with Susie Morice

This is a Golden Shovel poem using part of this quote from Samuel Hall Young, who attributes it to John Muir in his book: Alaska Days with John Muir, chapter 7:237 (1915)Keep close to Nature’s heart, yourself; and break clear away, once in a while, and climb a mountain or spend a week in the woods. Wash your spirit clean from the earth-stains of this sordid, gold seeking crowd in God’s pure air. It will help you in your efforts to bring to these men something better than gold. Don’t lose your freedom and your love of the Earth as God made it.”

What we keep
Is revealed in our close
Connections to
Our blessed oasis. Nature’s
Sacrifice, the whisper of her heart…
Calculates her capacity to carry on. She shivers–Wash
The carbon off your
Knife blade, murderer. Your spirit
must be clean.

Day 28 – How to Say It with Katie Turner

Coat hanger sculpture covered with painted canvas. One side with a starry sky and the other side with a sunflower
Katie’s Sculpture

A Letter to Katie from Her Artwork

Thank you for creating me back when seventh grade was a terror and you were quietly ready to fly back to Arizona where your parents had pulled you away from the only home you remembered. When you created me, sunflowers were shining in your center even if not in your circumstances yet.

You bent that hanger that used to hold your hoodie into one giant ear of understanding for the outcasts, the voiceless, and the refugees–all of us who longed to be counted, even if among the dusty.

Then you covered me with your mom’s pantyhose (of all things) and took away my shame by quickly brushing each square inch with a chromatic makeover right out of southern France. You, whose mother demanded to know why your seventh grade report cards were sprinkled with Cs, painted me with a swirling and dancing starry sky. The cypresses mourned the pitfalls of your unsure future. But paired with those uncertainties of the night was a sun of hope right in the curve of my listening ear. It said everything about what you held dear, what you longed for and believed in: a future.

You, who were to stay and keep learning and growing here in this provincial town.

You, who would keep growing a lifetime of compassionate love and  justice.

You, who make the world a better place as an activist, artist, and writer.

You, who would practice your French and independence by working  on an organic farm in Normandy, sleeping in a barn bedroom, bravely sharing your walls with scritch-scratching farm mice.

You, who moved from Iowa to Illinois to Missouri to Minnesota, while your parents were 7,000 miles away.

You, who have crossed fluctuant oceans and come back again and again to love.

You, who this very weekend with Thomas will go back to the town where you painted me.

Back to the birth place of your dearest friend since seventh grade, for whom you will have a baby shower.

Back to this dear friend who introduced you to her college friend, Thomas.

Day 27 – Secret Connoisseur with Karen Workun

A Fresh Fruit Atlas

Fruits from every land
Fill ships passing through
the Strait of Hormuz,
Destined for our produce stands.
I am a fresh fruit connoisseur.
Covered with playful filaments, the red rambutan
Nestles a smooth and sweet pearly gift from Thailand.
The Fuji apple from China, the size of a softball,
Is as sweet and crisp as a new day.
The tough rich purple of the mangosteen
Opens to show its flowery frosted petals from Indonesia.
Succulent neon navel naranja from Spain
is like opening my Christmas stocking every day.
Mangos from all over the world,
but the ones from Egypt win–
Green and dully camouflaged,
Creamy texture, color of marmalade
luscious and honeyed sweetness within.
The Elaichi banana from Kerala
Fits in the palm of my hand
and tastes like a firm bite of Eden.
The golden kiwi from Italy is like joyful sunshine.
Syrupy sweet melon from Iran,
the dripping juice as sticky as honey.
Yellow Rosemary pear from South Africa,
Delicate white peach from Jordan
Long juicy grapes from India,
Tart, sweet pineapple from the Philippines,
I could go on and on.
I am a fresh fruit connoisseur.

Day 26 – Who Do I Want to Become with Hanna Al-Jibouri

Who I Want to Become

Remnant of hope
pieced together with creation
Dispensing
experiences of love
and doing my best

Compiler of circumstances
Quietly reflective
Without fluster or flurry

Unsnarling the mess I’ve made
of my nest and rebuilding,
disseminating love and hope

Hope giver from the remnant left

Day 25 – The Labels That I Wear with Ellen Stackable

Poor
Angry
Much Afraid
Patch Eye, Pirate
Skinny, Tomboy, Boy
Liar, Reeder’s Digest
Critical, spiteful, ashamed
Self-conscious, inferior, weak
Labels glued on by me and others
Peeled off and traded, God’s grace at work
Denny, friend, youngest sister, daughter
Aunt, softball player, creator
College graduate, teacher
Chief learner, intimate, free
Courageous, powerful
Christian, wife, mother
Storyteller
Curious
Loving
Loved

Day 24 – Snapshots in Time with Susan Ahlbrand

Sisters
A Villanelle

Can we snap a picture, one asked?
Sisters by marriage, by choice, by birth
Hopes for tomorrow, hurts from the past.

Together again at long glad last
Unperceived by the world, our joy on earth.
Can we snap a picture? one asked.

Memories of broken promises recast.
Forgetting behind for this day’s worth
Hopes for tomorrow, hurts from the past.

My eldest’s wedding stole in, too fast
(Just yesterday it was when I gave birth.)
Can we snap a picture, one asked?

These sisters all came, in love unsurpassed.
Unafraid of the pain we may unearth.
Hopes for tomorrow, hurts from the past.

Love and forgiveness, newness amassed.
Put aside sadness and pain; choose mirth.
Can we snap a picture, one asked?
Hopes for tomorrow, hurts from the past.

Day 23 – Perspective Poem with Garin, Sarah, and Noah from OSU

Inspired by a quote in this poem Homesick: A Plea for our Planet
“How do we not mold our hearts after the first spruce tree who raised her hand and begged to be cut into piano keys so the elephants could keep their tusks?”  ~Andrea Gibson

I Did. Now It’s Your Turn, People
A Roundel
(After Andrea Gibson)

Mold yourselves after me?
I am sharply dressed,
But I am just a tree.
You? You aren’t guests.

What you’ve done has messed
Up our home. Don’t you agree?
Elephant isn’t the only one stressed.

Brains and hearts hold the key.
Stop and let us take rest.
Do it, so we can all be free.
You? You aren’t guests.

Day 22 – A Poem for…with Araceli, Deanna and Michelle at OSU

Josh who throws hope around like bells
ringing clear and bright
and asks how everyone’s doing,
who is a tall lighthouse and a shady forest
who is a peaceful hike in Saudi
and a good run on the beach
whose kind walls are made of faith
Josh who listens patiently
as we sit on the cushy chairs in Caribou
and I list all the reasons I can’t do my job.
Josh who believes in me,
sits with his sweet mocha untouched as he
enthusiastically tells of the latest research
and what books he wants to lend me from the
overflowing shelves in his office.
Josh who plans for success for all students
who gently high fives the little ones
who brings jokes for the teens
Josh who disciplines with sharp self-control
who astutely initiates staffing changes
who introduces us to literary giants and
gives us all wigs to put on as we contemplate
our Wildly Important Goal for the year
Josh who plans for success for all of us
whose big ideas surprise, scare, and scintillate
Whose presence brings comfort during conflict,
wisdom when we didn’t know we needed it,
and identifies strength
when we didn’t know we had it.
Josh who throws hope around like bells
ringing clear and bright
is leaving us,
Josh who prays for us
and with us
is leaving us,
Josh whose love and joy fill the school
is leaving us,
and his hope and prayers and love and joy–
his legacy–
will linger after
he’s gone.
Godspeed, Josh.

Day 21 – Haiku-Ode with Madison, Sarah, and Brittany (OSU secondary English education majors)

Chauvin Trial Verdict Day
To our future, on
Accountability day
One small step forward

And may it lead to
Giant leaps ahead for a
More perfect union

We fly to the moon
But so far we can’t keep our
Creed to all people

Created equal
with rights–Life, Liberty and
Happiness-pursuing.

Keep laboring for
Liberty and Justice for
ALL–Self-evident?

Not yet, but coming.
George Floyd will be remembered
New wave of justice

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 – Wire 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

A Pantoum

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 in 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 Stacey 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!

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
Lemon-Mint

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
Chasing,
Confronting, and
Killing
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.
Always
Assumptions of white innocence
Always
Assumptions of black guilt
Always

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?

No.
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,
America.
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
2020-2021
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
2020-2021
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
2020-2021
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

Weather

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
temperature.
Everything is an anomaly.
The Postal Service climate has long been
unsteady
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
words
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
cloudy
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
padlocks
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
mean
a November that won’t be held off. This
time
nothing, no one forgotten. We are here for the
blue tsunami
that’s storming because what’s taken
matters.

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

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
onto 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
knowledge
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

1
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

2
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.

3
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.