A Month of Poems #VerseLove2020

I wrote poetry with a group at Ethical ELA. The teachers and other writers are amazingly supportive. In this running April 2020 post, I added each day’s poem throughout the month. The poetry challenge will continue five days each month beginning 16-20 May 2020.

Day 30: Congratulations! A last poem
A blitz poem to thank the #Verselove community

Writing with #Verselove
Thank you, mentors
Thank God for writing
Writing poems
Writing hearts
Hearts of longing
Hearts of healing
Healing traumas
Healing brokenness
Brokenness once unspoken
Brokenness poured out in poetry
Poetry of triumph
Poetry of laughter
Laughter in knowing
Laughter in tears
Tears of renewal
Tears of cleansing
Cleaning from old hurts
Cleansing like therapy
Therapy of self-awareness
Therapy of celebration
Celebration of spoken words
Celebration of written words
Words like treasures
Words like flowers
Flowers of magic
Flowers of moods
Moods to relay
Moods to wander
Wander not aimlessly
Wander to ponder
Ponder hindrances
Ponder existence
Existence of whispers
Existence of universal truths
Truths to craft in form
Truths to craft freely
Freely speaking our hearts
Freely reading one another
Another day passed
Another poem written
Written in quiet
Written in embrace
Embrace of new friends
Embrace of sure future
Future of hope
Future of #verselove
#Verselove sustains
#Verselove restores

And another thankful poem I wrote earlier in the month:

An Ode to #Verselove Poets


To my friends:
When I write these it doesn’t mean
I don’t love your poems,
that I’m not truly touched.
I am.

To myself:
But come on, Denise,
that’s all you write.
You are 62 years old.
Learn some precise language
for speaking about what you mean.
How about using a thesaurus?

aced spelling

got me dealing with my own feelings

wisdom from you, my mentors

composing that closing

With your words
my soul you’re jabbing
my heart you’re stabbing
my mind you’re grabbing
my eyes I’m dabbing

Your poems are cathartic
for the arctic
sea in me
reminding me of open wounds
yet to be restored when
given your remedy

Day 29: My Writing Process with Jessica and Kole

A Limerick of My Writing Journey
Wield a half millimeter black roller ball
Indite in my journal, whatever befall
Mind focused on prompt
Diversions I’ll stomp
And tomorrow I’ll pen an overhaul

A List Poem About Why That Limerick is a Lie
While writing it, I…
…answered a teacher query about post-Eid assessment changes
…recorded four Flipgrid video responses
…initiated family trivia night
…answered six What’s App texts
…and two phone calls
…warmed up and ate leftover machboos
…browsed The Washington Post
…watched my husband play a video game
…worked on my genius hour presentation

time…none like the present
8:00 a.m., noon, 3:00 p.m., 8:00 p.m., midnight, 3:00 a.m.

tools…any or all
my rollerball is probably lost, so grab a pencil or a conference freebie ball point or my computer

topics…prompts and non-prompts
letters, emails, recipes, students’ feedback, texts, poems, blog posts, lesson plans

In reality, I cannot articulate my writing process.

Day 28: With Susie Morice and the morning after

Them: Too much experience, grad degree
That puts you here on the salary scale
Me: Can we negotiate?

After several interviews like this
I was frustrated, feeling useless
What else would I do?

My mom’s message to me,
a still, small voice,
restoring me and giving me hope:
“You are a treasure waiting to be discovered.”
Like a fortune cookie with a purpose.

Soon after, I received a teaching job,
fully negotiable
for the little rural Catholic school
that needed teachers, even Protestants,
and couldn’t afford to pay much–
a junior high ELA teacher
with experience and an MA
The morning after, and for seven years
before coming to Bahrain,
I felt like a treasure

Day 27 – Anna J. Small Roseboro and Brother Acrostic

Big brother
Responsible, military
Officer, sheriff, CHP captain
Taught me to swim by throwing me in
He was a father fill-in and when I moved across the country for a boy, he
Even offered me a return ticket just in case
Remembering him today

Baby brother
Responsible, teacher and
Officer in the union
Though we caterwauled and clashed in free-for-alls,
He finally grew bigger, so I stopped beating him up. Today, we
Enjoy friendship and fellowship
Rejoicing today that I have him

Bookend brothers–or the capital letter and period of our
Reed sibling sentence.
One, the oldest twin, the other,
The sweet and welcome baby boy after five girls.
Helpers in their careers and families. He was
Elder by 18 years, so
Rick had a special bond with Keith, but
Suddenly, in 2012, Rick’s heart failed and our sentence faltered.

Day 26 – Sarah Donavan and spoken word poetry

Four Things I’d Say to People Who Are Afraid of Their Spice Cabinet

1 – I used to be too, using cinnamon and basil and oregano and salt and pepper. 

When I felt exotic I’d add a pinch of cumin and a smidgen of chili powder. Nothing louder than what you’d find in a steaming bowl of chowder, though.

2 – Then I got older and bolder and experimented. I always loved to eat savory, flavory dishes, so why not recreate them in my kitchen? I can try. And try I do now because you see.

3 – My spices are becoming a touchstone for me. I look in my cupboard and see so many jars of hope, flavors brimming, ideas bubbling, whole leaves, pods, seeds, some crushed and powdered, as the hours are in my life. My time is limited in this place, in Bahrain where the flavors are exquisite and the spices are pennies. My time is limited on this earth. My time is limited in the kitchen, So,

4 – I want to use every hour, every recipe, every moment, every meal to the fullest. To the tastiest. To the joyful hope of a new beginning.

Day 25 – Jennifer Guyour-Jowett on first memories

Whose Job is More Important?
the first time I was confronted
with the idea that
I was half an orphan
the assignment was an essay
in third grade
“Whose job is more important–Mother’s or Father’s?”
Well, I penned my composition,
Of course, it was my mother’s job
that was most consequential,
most conspicuous at least

  • sweeping
  • cooking
  • making a coat for me at Christmas

At that time, I had no idea who
had picked up the pieces
of my missing father’s job.
Yes, it was Mother’s job
I compelled and convinced myself
What else could a girl without a father conclude?

Day 24 – Emily Yamasaki and a number poem

7 Years
(with inspiration from lines in Emily Yamasaki’s “Dear Emily”)

7 years
Jacob and Rachel–
My husband’s favorite analogy
“Seven years I had to wait for Denise”
Now I know what I didn’t know then.
I could have given myself advice:

At 18 Keith is going to ask you to marry him
Let him down easy
Not yet
You both still have growing up to do
And in 7 years time
you’ll ask him back
Standing in his kitchen
on the 14th of February
He, sick in his brown fuzzy bath robe
You, saying I’m ready

We’re going on four decades now
We’ve said over the years without those 7 years
We would not be together today.
7 years became a gift of a lifetime

Day 23 – Shaun Ingalls and Carl Sandburg

Springtime to Summer in Manama

Here is a season that knows it is going to lose the fight.
One day a breeze blows in the twilight,
almost breathing a bit of chill from the Saudi peninsula.
Another one has a humid breeze from the south east
soaking up the water from the Arabian Gulf,
pouring it on the island.
Not in rain, but in oppressive heaviness.
In April there is an angry dance,
One, lovely springtime weather, warm and welcome.
The dance partner, summer day, is a bully–stifling and scorching.
Dominant and tormenting summer.
It’s coming.
An unbreakable building, building.
Heat dome lying heavy and unmovable.
Over the Middle East there are no Canadian cold fronts
providing relief for a day or two
Summer in all its oppression will win

Day 22 – With Kaitlyn and Ryan, a letter to my 15-year-old self

Dear Denise,

At fifteen, you will be in grade 10, with a new stylish haircut and feeling on top of the world.
You will be dreamily thinking about Steve T. and John B. while you sit in accounting class.
Really, why are you in that class? Get up now and go sign up for Algebra.

At fifteen you will dance with Steve, but that’s all, so quit daydreaming.
You will try out for cheerleading, but you won’t make it.
So, pick yourself up and know that everything will be OK.

At fifteen, you will think you want to follow in your sisters’ footsteps and be a secretary.
It’s okay, you haven’t had many role models, but believe it or not, you will get a BA and an MA.
So, get to that Algebra class and take some AP courses while you’re at it.

At fifteen you will think the world revolves around your reputation at school.
Don’t worry, everyone else thinks the same thing and aren’t paying attention to you.
Know that this too will pass and there is another world where all that doesn’t matter.

At fifteen you think you know it all.
At fifteen you don’t know much.
At fifteen you will be forgiven.
Carry on, you make it to 16 and even 61.
One day at a time.

Love and grace,
Your older self

Day 21 – With Sarah J. Donovan, an Earth Day Ovillejo

Compost Stew
Hey, friend, what are you up to?
Compost stew
Compost stew? Oh, that makes me smile.
Yes, not a pile
Organic bits simmering true.
It’s a stew.
Sent fresh from Mama Earth to you.
Fertile soil, a promise redeemed
“Be fruitful, tender earth,” God beamed.
Compost stew! Yes, not a pile. It’s a stew.

Day 20 – With Annie and Abigail and Richard Siken’s “Detail of the Woods”

Detail of Manama

Where have you been? I’ve been searching.

The cerulean, peacock, and lapis are mirrors of grace.
The flaxen, latte, and honey are granite ready to be born again.

The tan and turquoise colored skyscrapers are melting.
They are melting into the sand and sea.

Sculpture, the art of the intelligence.
Pablo, what did you know?

In the following is grace again.
In the following is hope again.

The beast longs to escape the sculptor’s knife.

Day 19 – Allison Berryhill and “Killing the Rooster” with Sheryl L. Nelms

Rony’s Requiem

Aunt Jo took the match,
drew it against the fence post,
and launched it.

With precision
like a tiny bomb,
It rocketed into the straw bed
where Rony lay in repose

Her stiff equine figure
outlined against the glowing
crackling golden frame of chaff

She was soon joining the flames
at first a perfunctory
fizzling, sizzling
Then soaring, imploring,
and, once her fat fueled the fire,
bellowing and cursing

The charring of flesh and hide
(hide once covered in hair of Mahogany bay)
twisted our insides
nauseated us
caused us to relocate the requiem
to a tolerable distance

My animal-loving sister
eulogized Rony with her tears
and I sat and waited

Day 18 – Susan Ahlbrand inspired by Joni Mitchell’s “Both Sides Now”
This was the first day that I couldn’t even devote 20 minutes to my poem, so I composed a haiku on my way to school. I’m coming back to this prompt, though. It’s a good one. Thanks, Susan.

in these virus days
increased layers of litter
greet and expose us

Day 17 – Kim Johnson and “Line for the Fortune Cookie” by Frank O’Hara

Fortunes for the Oval Office

You will watch The Lord of the Rings trilogy and see your story’s end come about miserably.

You will always be hated and last you’ll forever be rated.

You are not the emperor; put on some damn clothes.

Your “reign” is temporal, everyone but you knows.

Take off “my precious,” you prostituted power pilferer.

Next year you will move south and your country will get back on kilter.

You will learn you are not above the law.

Your kind of pride goes before a fall.

Cast not pearls before swine.

Hire not those who lack a spine.

If you released them from their NDAs, what would your grown children have to say?

You’ll reap what you’ve sown.

Clean your house starting with you alone.

Narcissistic personality disorder is an illness; face it in the holy stillness.

Day 16 – Kim Johnson and “Having a Coke With You” by Frank O’Hara

Having a pot of karak tea with you
is more comforting than
the sound and depth of James’ Earl Jones’ voice
the feeling and chills I get when someone plays with my hair
a frosty glass of water after working in the yard
cozying up with a warm, fluffy blanket
the sound of rain, gentle on a tin roof
the smells of fresh bread and rich earth
the throaty full crooning of Gordon Lightfoot
the sight of seeing you come through the door
and joining me at the table in Naseef’s
(when we no longer need to have virtual tea parties)
which is why I’m telling you about it

Day 15 – Acrostic with Analogy by Margaret Simon

Today is to tomorrow as
Ice is to water as
Moments are to eons as
Ephemerals are to the eternal

Day 14 – Mirror Poem by Padma Venkatraman 

This is a found poem from a blog post by Arlene Hirsch, “Revisiting the Metaphor of the Half Empty Glass

The Glass

stereotypical metaphor

half full
positive thinking
rose-colored glasses
positive action

half empty
negative thinking
what’s missing

Both only see half the whole
Face the facts, we need you both

Conjures up bold

recognizes weaknesses
finds vulnerabilities
points out obstacles
call to action

We need both halves to make a whole

Day 13 – Dreams and Nightmares with Jordy and Nadeen

My Nightmare
(Incorporating Robert Frost “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening”)

My nightmare is when imperative
To-Do Lists are not done

1) Turn in grades
2) Contact parents with missing assignments (Before #1)
3) Rewrite two virtual entrance exams
4) Write my lesson plan so it can be sent out virtually by 6 pm
5) Prepare for Teach Meet tomorrow.
6) Make a Flipgrid video sample for my students.

My favorite items on the to-do list
1) Write a poem on EthicalELA.
2) Comment on my fellow poets’ work
Didn’t make the cut

The nightmares are ruthless, dark and deep
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.

See you tomorrow, friends.

Day 12 – Where I Am From (George Ella Lyon) with Stefani Boutelier

Where I Am From
I am from fresh fruit,
from milk in glass bottles delivered to the porch,
always available, and
Smirnoff’s in the cupboard,
for only my dad to reach.

I am from the white stucco tract house
with green shutters
and seven kids (brimming, entangled,
trying to fit into the puzzle)

I am from the sweet guava tree
in the neighbor’s yard offering
boundless bounty
for those brave enough to climb.

I’m from camping in rugged Yellowstone
and big smiling teeth,
from Virginia and Richard
I’m from the put-on-a-happy-face and be-cute-at-all-costs family.
From “Clean your plate so the neighbors don’t think we’re starving you,” and
“Come home when the street lights turn on.”

I’m from real Jesus, not rubber Jesus,
and a grandma who helped me understand.

I’m Heinz 57,
from Ohio, on one side,
Texas and Georgia, on the other, some
went west with the railroad and made it to California.
I am from cornbread, pinto beans, macaroni and cheese and enchiladas.

I am from the birth of Scotty, my first nephew full of rubella birth defects
and Aunt Thelma, who made everyone laugh and always had See’s candy.

Photos were stored casually in cardboard boxes in my mother’s closet,
scattered memories, remnants of love and doing our best.

Day 11 – Current Event Poem with Kate Currie

No Hand Shakes
Jazz Hands
Elbow bump
Namaste bow
Elegant curtsy
A Hunger Games salute
High five across two meters
Say hello, goodbye, good morning
Smize–smile with your eyes under your mask
Shoulder, hip or foot shakes — just no handshakes

Day 10 – Crag Hill with The Golden Shovel
My poem incorporates William Carlos Williams’ “This is Just to Say

It’s A Good Friday Just to Say

This week started with a parade I

Witnessed. Shouting and waving my palm branches have

Given me hope. Too often I’ve eaten

Of this desire, dreams for the

Future, broken again. Grapes and plums

Crushed into sour wine that

Is poured out and wasted. Were

You informed of this in

Heaven before you agreed to the

Plan? Heaven must have been an icebox

The moment the plan was devised and

Executed. Which

Brings us back to you

Here now getting lead-studded lashes. Were

You tempted to split the earth and let them fall in? Probably.

Crown of thorns, ‘My God” groaning, but saving

Some bit of hope after the forsaking for

A fish-laden breakfast

On the beach. All to forgive

Us, the world, villains, sinners, trespassers, me.

Sour sponge dripping vinegar they

Gave to relieve your pounded nails, pounding head? Were

You aware that your forsaken cries would become delicious

Victory over the grave, so

We would be able to say, ‘It’s Friday, but sweet

Sunday’s coming,’ and

Our scarlet sins could become so

Clean like fire and snowy cold

Day 9 – Jennifer Jacobson Observations

My basil plant is getting smaller and smaller, weaker and weaker

Sweet Basil

Today I noticed
my sweet basil plant
dying in Bahrain.
Try as I might,
I can’t grow it here
All die.

It brought me back to a
better basil time
a summer in Iowa when
I had a basil bush
exuberant and enormous,
verdant and lush,
nourishing my pride
as a gardener.

So much life
so it demanded to be brought
inside for the winter.
I stuck the shovel in
and carefully pulled out a
great mound
of silky clay loam,
the black earth
hugging the roots
of my prodigious prize.

I brought it indoors
in a hulk of a pot
and it satisfied us all winter.
As spring approached
I decided instead of one plant
that next summer
I needed a whole flowerbed
filled with sweet basil.

I clipped and trimmed, and
rooted a dozen-and-a-half
successors, so my
fine plant’s posterity was assured.

I carefully planted each one
giving them plenty of space
to later fill-in
and take over the bed
under our kitchen window.
A year’s feasting forthcoming!
Caprese salads
basil butter on garlic toast
basil vinaigrette
Margherita pizzas
broccoli basil soup
tomato, basil & mushroom frittata
cucumber- and basil-infused water

Never mind.
The bunnies loved the tender shoots

Day 8 – Inner Monologue with Lauryl and Lizzy


Yes, thank you for taking my question.
Wondering who all will get his aggression?
What is the plan?
Here it comes, oh man.

No, sir, I don’t work for them.
Would it be disrespectful to clear my phlegm?
I’m new with the AP.
How can I flee?

I don’t see how that is relevant.
Nasty? Ridiculous? Third-rate?
How did HIllary handle it with such elegance?
I need to escape to reality, I can’t wait.

Yes, sir, but I really just want to know about your plan.
Would anyone be surprised if it included Fox and the Klan?
You mentioned you had a plan.
Oh, for scandals of suits of tan.

Sir, I was just asking about the details.
If I lose the coin toss next time, I’ll yank out my nails.

Day 7 – An ekphrastic poem with Gayle Sands

An ekphrastic poem is written in response to a scene or work of art. I used this image from feminist.org, a photo of Alice Paul at the Seward-Belmont House. I wrote a Fib poem and reverse: 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21,13, 8, 5, 3, 2, 1, 1.

Me too,
You wouldn’t believe
What we done made of this country
Slavery gone, racism stayed to our core, women vote,
But Hillary, Kamela, and Elizabeth are all shut down by 2020
You don’t want to know about 46-1
I won’t even go there, my friend
It is not pretty
Glad we don’t
Have to

Day 6 – K.A. Holt and using poetic devices

My Teapot

My friend sits over the flame
filled with sweet milky goodness
Both arms faithfully rigid
One points down like the arm of the driver
without functioning break lights
That one arm,
though the color of a stop sign,
Does not say, halt,
It says, drink up, dear
The other arm up,
hand held high,
waits to pour out
libations of luxury
in the morning

Day 5 – Stacey Joy Musical Poem

sometimes symphonies
remain unfinished
a long long time ago
he was 43 years old
the devil’s only friend

the day the music died
he was singing
bye bye
too many kids to feed
too many emotions to weed
bye bye cigarettes
bye bye vodka

before they married
his widowed bride
was blind to
all the minor keys
in which he played
his childhood
a telling overture of the whole
rhythm and blues opera
what would an
abusive alcoholic’s
magnum opus
be anyway
maybe it was the
seven kids lost in space
trying not to misstep
bad news on the doorstep

they turned out nice
not into vice
stayed out of jail
tried not to fail
cute at all costs
not too many lost
to dysfunction with alcohol

when promoted to chp captain
asked mom,
watched him on the stage
hands clenched in fists of rage
do you think dad would be proud yet

Day 4 – Stacey Joy and Hair

“Your girls have such big teeth!”
Our neighbor
was giving my mom a compliment.
My teenage sisters looked at her–
eye rolls postponed until after the goodbyes–
And smiled fakely,
light glinting off the
three piano keyboards,
minus the sharps and flats.)

These Reed teeth
Dominate the genes
Because the next generation
was also initiated into
the big teeth club.

An indelible image
comes to mind:
My daughter’s first dental x-ray
“What is this?” I asked, pointing.
The dentist, not alarmed,
“A secondary incisor,
Her front tooth.
For later.”

Is that how Reed teeth look in a three-year-old?

I thought.
Those front teeth were like
masked, menacing miscreants,
lying in wait to strike.
How can we stop the invasion? I wondered.

“Aren’t they too big?” I asked.
“She’ll grow into them.”
Sigh of relief.

Day 3 – Etheree with Glenda Funk

Staff of life
Loaves freshly baked
Multi grain, whole wheat
Sour dough, comforting white
Not just loaves, but bagels, naan,
Muffins, sweet bread, pancakes, corn bread,
Tortillas, chapati, ciabatta
How many pounds and breads before we’re done?

Day 2 – Blitz with Glenda Funk

“Yearner of Rising”

Chief learner
Chief yearner
Yearner of joy
Yearner of purpose
Purpose in knowing
Purpose in giving
Giving to others
Giving myself
Myself even when a mess
Myself even when incomplete
Incomplete in this life
Incomplete alone
Alone but longing to be together
Alone but able to think
Think of the future
Think of joy
Joy that we are not alone
Joy in humanity
Humanity comes out
Humanity grows in crisis
Crisis of enemies
Crisis of belief
Belief in the good of others
Belief in benevolent leaders
Leaders who can be trusted
Leaders who earn our trust
Trust in leaders
Trust only in God
God who is Bread of Life
God who is Water
Water Living
Water cleansing
Cleansing our souls
Cleansing our thoughts
Thoughts of fear
Thoughts of escape
Escape from the unknown
Escape from the solitude
Solitude has its perks
Solitude becomes old
Old as fear
Old as joy
Joy in the Garden
Joy at the empty tomb
Tomb of life
Tomb of Rising
Rising on Easter
Rising for us

Day 1 – I Believe with Sarah Donovan

Is it the challenge I love?
Or is it because
I was taught to be nice,
to be my best.
Always. Always my best.
To be cute
At all costs.

No, I’ve grown since then.
I am fulfilled when
I do a job well.
I was taught to be
diligent, and

I’m up late now
Ten hours working
to edit a 2.5 minute video.

Is it
Joy in accomplishing?
A gift to my church
for Palm Sunday?
The challenge of a new program?
All of the above.

My parents taught me
to be good,
to be nice and
not to make waves.

I got over it.
But I didn’t.