March 23 – More Open Write Poems

March 23, 2023

On Tuesday, at Ethical ELA, we wrote a poem about “Seeing the Stranger” with Katrina Morris. I was really touched by the mentor poem “Self-Portrait With Woman On The Subway” by Hayan Charara, You can read it at the link above. It made me think of a regret I had  a few months ago when I met Noor, whose name means light in Arabic.


On that rainy, windy day
We sat in the notary public office,
Waiting, all of us,
“Assalamu Alaikum,” my husband greeted.
“Alaikum Salaam,” her husband responded.
After more greetings,
and my husband’s Arabic was exhausted,
they switched to English and introductions, like
“We lived in Bahrain for eight years”
And “We’re Palestinian from Jordan.”
Her husband went on to ask if we missed bidets.
“Oh, yes,” my husband exclaimed,
“we had them installed the minute we moved back to the U.S.”
Noor sat quietly, eye averted, a bit shocked by the toilet talk.
But the topics changed,
and we all started passing time
We talked about sage in tea and sumac.
And where to shop for the foods they needed.
I shared a photo of my dear friend in Bahrain,
Who was also Palestinian from Jordan.
I showed some of the food she had served me,
And some of my attempts at making her recipes.
“I’ll cook for you,” she said.
They told us how Noor was a support teacher,
studying to try to pass the CBEST
so she could become a licensed teacher.
Then our notary came out, and we signed our paperwork.
Eventually, we left
while they were still waiting for another office,
We left with hearty goodbyes and nice-to-meet-yous,
But none of us made any attempt to stay in contact.
This young couple,
who lived only an hour from us.
This Noor,
this radiant light,
who had only been in this country for one year,
who may have needed language help,
who may have cooked for me.
I was the older woman, the white woman
who has lived here for seven decades.
Why didn’t I offer her my phone number?

On Wednesday we played with words with Denise Hill in a prompt called Metaphor Mumbo Jumbo Jam. I wrote some nonsense today about the following idioms written backwards: jam on the brakes, egg on your face, left in the cold, eat like a horse, sell like hotcakes, take a rain check, and like a cakewalk.


Brakes on the jam
Baby in a pram

Face on your egg
A girl named Meg

Cold in the left
Rock with a cleft

Horse like an eat
Ride on the street

Cakes hot like sell
What is that smell?

Check rain a take
Jump in the lake

Walk cake a like
Fly on your bike


I am participating in the March Slice of Life Challenge: A slice a day for all of March. Thank you, Two Writing Teachers!

September and October 2022 – OPEN WRITE

November 23 with Tammi Belko “Color Personality Poems”

I am Orange,
optimistic and friendly
Yes, let’s do it.

I am Orange,
perceptive and nurturing
What do you need?

I am Orange, and
need to practice self-care
OK, I need a break

I am Orange

November 22 with Katrina Morris “Ekphrastic Poetry”

Dark and pastel petals play
Filaments reach to the light
Your art journey grew that day
Dark and pastel petals play
Some of your future fears allayed
With Mr. Furlong’s keen foresight
Dark and pastel petals play
Filaments reach to the light

November 21 with Kim Johnson “Unphotographed”


You were resting with four others
on the bench in the Souq at City Centre,
sitting at various levels,
one on the back of the bench
two on laps,
all looking in one direction
generations of faces,
or eyes, really–
black abayas
draping your bodies,
niqab veiling
your faces

My uncovered face passed by you all.
In my curiosity about this unfamiliar scene
I wanted to remember your striking family,
so as I passed by I filled up my eyes,
and you smiled at me with yours


November 20 with Kim Johnson “One-Word Poem”

How Many More Times Will Professor Kevin Nadel Wake Up to Yet Another LGBTQ+ Hate Crime?


November 19 with Kim Johnson “The Monostitch: One-Line Poem”


Old and new friends, free books, and great big ideas

October 19 with Scott McCloskey “(Bad) Advice”

How to Not Deal

Burn all your candles on both ends (at the same time, of course).
Don’t ever stop to journal, write, think, or pray.
Play loud music, while watching a scary movie on Netflix.
If anyone asks how you are–how you really are–don’t tell them.
Or, you can say, “fine” (that’s safe).
Eat the whole package of coconut caramel dreams.
Smoke a pack or two of cigarettes.
Blame others, it’s all their fault anyway.


October 18 with Denise Hill “American Sentences”

National Unity Day–it’s a day for standing up to bullies.
What if someone would have stood up to me when I bullied Mark Bailey?
I’ve come far since sixth grade, but tomorrow’s day reminds me of hatred.
How was I so empty and hurting that I wanted to hurt instead?
To attempt to make someone else more emptied and hurting than myself?

October 17 with Carolina López “I’ve Been Writing this Since”

I’ve been writing this since
I was too young to remember
you, with your toddler curls bobbing,
squeezing me with obvious pride.
You were finally a big sister.
And since we slept together in the same
big bed, sharing treats and secrets,
Since I took money from your giant-sized
piggy bank without asking.

I’ve been writing this since
you were a senior who thought
you were too cool for this
pesky freshman, but you told Mom
my bad news and she came to
pick me and my broken heart up
from school that day.

I’ve been writing this since
you cooked Mexican food for our
rehearsal dinner and chili and a
salad bar for our reception, and since
you wouldn’t come out for the family
photo until I got a little bridezilla, saying,
“In 30 years I won’t remember that the
chili was burned, but I’ll see that she
isn’t in the photo.” And you came and
managed to not burn the chili.

I’ve been writing this since you
were in the hospital for a hysterectomy
because of ovarian cancer
before you were able to have any
children of your own. While I had two
and you never did. Since you spoiled
my girls with expensive gifts like Gameboys,
and baked them cakes and took care of
them when I had surgery myself.

I’ve been writing this since that summer
when you told me the house next door
to yours might be for sale and we went to
the county office and wrote a letter to the
nephew of the owner who had died, since
you took care of it all those years we were
overseas, and now since I’ve come to live
here and be your neighbor.

I’ve been writing this since Saturday
when we went garage sale-ing and
filled up your truck with bargains and
treasures and since today when we
tore tiles and dry wall off the
shower walls at the Mountain house,
and I’ll be writing it still tomorrow when
you do your tile artwork and I help.

I’ll be writing this when I’m too old to remember

October 16 with Anna J. Small Roseboro “Living Between Two Worlds”

Peering down the hallway
at dozens of doors
lining both the left and right sides
so many of them bolted shut now

Once I oscillated back and forth
choosing the best possibility
regardless of affiliation
I valued nonpartisanship

Doors I used to seriously consider
are now permanently closed for me
The hallway has gotten so wide
absolutely cavernous really

I find myself on the left side
interested only in those doors
for democracy is under attack
our republic is at stake

Elections and peaceful transfer
of power are foundational
Other issues can wait
We need a blue tsunami

October 15 with Anna J. Small Roseboro “It’s All in the Mind”

The audacity of hope
Helps us cope
When all seems night
Hope holds us

Helps us cope
A smile, a shelter
Hope holds us
Safe in everlasting arms

A smile, a shelter
Unshakable and sure
Safe in everlasting arms
Wait and hope

Unshakable and sure
See the stars
Wait and hope
Sing boundless beauty

See the stars
When all seems night
Sing boundless beauty
The audacity of hope

March Open Write on Ethical ELA

13 March 2021
Weddings at Recess with Kim Johnson

Little girls
Safely tucked inside
The tan station wagon
Keeping bears at bay in
Their cozy steel and glass refuge
Yellowstone was known for audacious gutsy grizzlies
She arrived one night and ate our bacon
And scarfed the boysenberry jam from the can then
Took a stroll throughout the campsite leaving dusty and sticky
Pawprints across the teenagers’ sleeping bags and tarp “bed”
But the torpid teens slept like a shipwreck
Throughout the visitation. The next morning buzz
Fascinated, yet terrorized three little girls
Who thankfully returned to their
Station wagon that night
Safely peacefully tucked
Inside their

Second Grade Pain with Kim Johnson

14 March 2021
Homemade Dresses

Homemade dresses with rickrack trim
Love from my mother’s hands and heart
Seven new dresses for her seven-year-old daughter
I started second grade in style

Love from my mother’s hands and heart
Even though she was busy with six other children
I started second grade in style
Proudly chose which to wear on the first day

Even though she was busy with six other children
My mom, without a husband to help, did her best
Proudly chose which to wear on the first day
Proud to tell my teachers who made them

My mom, without a husband, to help, did her best
Seven new dresses for her seven-year-old daughter
Proud to tell my teacher who made them
Homemade dresses with rickrack trim

Stacey Joy shared a Pantoum creator, which makes these poems so easy to create. I just tried it out with this one:

You are God.
Who am I?
You are the light in my days
The keeper of my darkness

Who am I?
You hear me and you know me
The keeper of my darkness
You see into all my fears

You hear me and you know me
God of all comfort and hope
You see into all my fears
You are my redeemer

God of all comfort and hope
You are God.
You are my redeemer
You are the light in my days

15 March 2021
Your Life’s Table of Contents with Dr. Kim Johnson

“My Book of Poetry”
A Table of Contents

One, one
Lots of Fun

Two, two

Three, three

Four, four
Closing doors

Five, five
All my drives

Six, six
Getting in a fix

Seven, Seven
God’s in heaven

Eight, eight
Things I hate

Nine, nine
Joys of mine

Ten, then
Do it again

16 March 2021
License Plate Poems with Katrina Morris

٨ع ٲ ە ࢽ

Y ࢽ ە

Quٲt ع

17 March 2021
Backwards Poetry with Katrina Morris

This form is by Marwa Helal.

The Arabic ط

A Poem to Be Read From Right to Left

ط taa letter the see I Whenever
back me brings it
school of day first my to
.Bahrain in
٤ January was day The
.January ٤ here say they as or
teacher kindergarten English new the was I
.year mid starting
.days ten for country the in been had I
knew already who children were students My
culture Bahraini more
.will ever I than language and
class Arabic an through sat I
table tiny rainbow a at
by surrounded
.children young
here worked things how learning :Me
.orientation facto de my in
.me loved already children the knew I
babies these with start to gift a What
.fears my all than bigger were hearts whose
*tomatoes for is taa that learning :They
in taas of line a write to how and
.determination wobbly
ط ط ط ط ط ط ط ط
.style Arabic
period Next
,up lined we
,right turned
,hall the down
,upstairs went
,left turned
teacher nervous their of classroom the into
–learning continued and
style English in time this
.hard something do also could I believe me helped They
* حرف الطاء طماطم