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.
Passion, fierce and spirited
Detonator of dynamite
Skipping stones across silent waters
On the mark
My combustible kindling
Looks to ignite.
Peers into conversations,
Ready with a lit match,
Fierce and fiery,
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
my flames with aimless abandon.
But she longs for more
precision in pelting
at inexcusable injustices.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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–
will linger after
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
Here will be our summer home–
six weeks in
delight and wonder,
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!?
the recipe of
freckling the kitchen
So many fluorescent flecks
threatening to spoil the
into the meeting at 6:50 p.m.
8:50 a.m. Pacific,
the anniversary of
the birth of my beloved–
with carrot caky goodness
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.
the status quo
with her fierce and
Wisdom is married
to knowledge. Though she
holds all the degrees,
she doesn’t assert herself
against pretenders. Wisdom
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.
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.
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
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
The code of hatred: White supremacy
Hope: Dismantle the enemy
My inspiration came from this Instagram post I saw this morning
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 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,
I’ve seen my faults shock and shake.
Ode to Grilled Cheese
How glorious are your
strings of goodness,
golden globs of
thick slices of
buttered and sizzling
in the pan,
crispy and brown,
becoming one with the
You are a wonder.
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
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
in the April of Covid, 2020.
I didn’t know how much
I loved poetry,
But now I know.
Thank you, friends.
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”
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.
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.)
Pray with me
away from here
Poison pulsing through the air,
Trampling and suffocating,
Cruelly wounded by words,
only to have them
“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
Speech to the Spenders; Speech to Those Sinking Our Planet
Say to them,
Say to the private profit proliferators,
the conspicuous consumers,
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.
I Don’t Want to Be a Porcelain Bowl
I don’t want to be a
bowl of porcelain–
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,
beautiful in my brokenness.
Scars and wounds do not
imply defect, but they
are the rich
wounded suffering, and
Even the author of
unabashedly chose to
His scars on.
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!