Poetry Friday for Marvelous Mary Lee

Mary Lee Hahn, whose sweet Twitter profile says, “5th grade teacher, reader, blogger, poet-in-training,” is retiring. Congratulations, Mary Lee! Thank you for all the beautiful poetry “training” you share publicly. Children and teachers alike have been blessed with  your learning, writing, and teaching through poetry.

Recently Mary Lee wrote an onomatopoeia poem called “Sleigh Ride.” Here is the first stanza:

say the runners
sliding through the snow

It is a great form for using as a mentor to write about the sounds in a setting, so I share this poem in honor of Mary Lee; I wrote it today while my husband tinkered and made noise in the kitchen.

Keith Makes Healthy Pudding

Whoosh, pop
Says the refrigerator door
Opening for ingredients sweet

Burble, splish, splash
Says the water
Cascading over coming treats

Rattle, clash, grind, hum
Says the blender
Pulverizing nuts and berries

Rap, tap, clackety clack
Says the stainless steel dish
Filling with the dessert it carries

Slurp, yum, delicious
Says watching-and-listening me,
Fortuitous beneficiary

All the best to you, Mary Lee, in your retirement. Of course, I know you will continue your poetry training, writing and sharing, as the lifelong learner, creator and contributor that you are. Here are Mary Lee’s blogs: A Year of Reading and Poetrepository.

Thank you to Christie Wyman for hosting Poetry Friday today, a party honoring Mary Lee Hahn, at her Wondering and Wandering blog. And happy birthday to you today, Christie!

Happy Anniversary, Katie and Thomas!

A Blessed Day in May,
A Pantoum

Kat and Tom Get Married
Sweet news for the ages
A blessed day in May
Filled with love and spirit

Sweet news for the ages
Come to Joshua Tree
Filled with love and spirit
Overflowing into a lifetime

Come to Joshua Tree
Engagement with the bees
Overflowing into a lifetime
Of nectar fun and flowers

Engagement with the bees
Memories to bear the night
Of nectar fun and flowers
So many chapters unwritten

Memories to bear the night
Will sustain a life of laughter
So many chapters unwritten
For this Howlett Home

Will sustain a life of laughter
Of faith, hope, joy and love
For this Howlett Home
Then and now and into the future

Of faith, hope, joy and love
Kat and Tom Get Married
Then and now and into the future
A blessed day in May

Here is a tool to help create your own pantoum.

Flamboyant Tree

Slice of Life on TwoWritingTeachers.org 18 May 2021

Yesterday was my husband’s fourth day off from work in a row. It was Eid Al-Fitr over the long weekend, and now he is back at work.  Normally he works six days a week, so we don’t usually have such an extended time to revivify. It’s been a great week.

Yesterday’s pleasant and relaxed day included:

    • a long walk at the mall because it’s already too hot to walk outside
    • sitting and enjoying a cup of coffee (for him) and tea (for me)
    • shopping for a few needed items at the grocery store
    • time in the kitchen making applesauce and roasting broccoli, carrots, green beans, zucchini, and butternut squash (I love having Tupperwares full of healthy food in the fridge ready to dish up and warm throughout the week)
    • napping and reading
    • book study discussion with our kids (Holy Curiosity by Winn Collier)
    • Tweeting out a request for help to identify the tree below that I noticed at the mall
    • and finally going out to a neighborhood store to get a 5-gallon water refill

On the way up the elevator, after our walk to the store, my husband asked me if I was really happy not working fulltime this year. (After the first quarter this year, I began volunteering at my school.) Without hesitation I said, yes. It is the first year I’ve felt that I am living first and teaching second. For years in the past, I explained, I chose teaching over living. Teaching always held a disproportionate amount of my heart and time. That is a sad truth.

This is the tree I saw at the mall. It reminded me of the jacaranda tree, which I grew up with in California, except for these vibrant flowers.

I tried to figure out what this tree was, but I’m out of practice using a dichotomous key and I couldn’t identify it. I sent a tweet and Brenda kindly answered within five minutes, (reminding me of when I used to like Twitter.)

Today’s poem was inspired by this Flamboyant tree, also called Royal Poinciana tree (Delonix regia) and Flame of the Forest tree in India, as Prarthana later pointed out on Twitter. Our tree here in Bahrain is young or perhaps the climate is not quite right for all those gorgeous and showy blooms. I’ll be keeping my eye on it and see if it adds more color this summer.

Flamboyant Tanka

Flamboyance subdued
Young royalty in waiting
Trustingly hopes for
A brilliant crown of crimson
Meanwhile, playfully dances

Government “Handouts”

In the 1930’s America created a middle class. It was perhaps better than having only extreme wealth and extreme poverty, but it was created with white supremacy at the core. My family benefited from the G.I. Bill after WWII. My parents were able to buy a home. Then in the 70s, because of strong unions and a  good part-time job, I was able to “put myself through” a California State University, which was tuition-free then! My husband worked full time with his union job in a grocery store and put himself through a private college with no loans, even saving money for grad school while he did it.

Now, look at all the black veterans who came home from serving in WWII. Systemic racism kept them from taking advantage of the benefits of The Servicemen’s Readjustment Act of 1944. The same Act that allowed my family to buy a home in the suburbs. Though we were not wealthy, my husband and I came from home-owning families, admission to colleges, and other benefits of being white.

It is time to dig deep and pull out our roots of racism. There are reparations to make. We need to redistribute government aid that is being showered on the wealthy.

I don’t know why “reparations” is such a bad word to white people.

The Story of Being White in ‘Murica

There’s a story in this place.
A father came home from faraway war,
part of the Greatest Generation,
but broken into pieces.
His country helped him pick up those pieces,
cobbling them together with a home loan
and hope from his wife and twins

There’s a story in this place
Five more children came along
and grew up in an L.A. suburb
a stone’s throw,
but a universe away,
from the burning riots
in the redlines of Watts in ’65

There’s a story in this place
A story where all those kids
grew up, not wealthy, but they had
available healthcare,
safe water and air,
funded schools, food security,
safe contact with police
because they were white people
Black and brown people lived
in other neighborhoods.

All those kids grew up
and became home owners
and got jobs that could sustain a family
With scholarships, part time union jobs,
and free tuition–
some of the kids in that suburb
even graduated from university
and became professionals

There’s a story over there
A story of America built
on the backs and blood
of labor stolen
A story I closed my eyes to,
A story heard only
through sanitized textbooks
A continuing story I don’t know
A story of black colleges
bursting at their seams,
“white” colleges unavailable to them,
no room for all the GIs who wanted to go
It’s a story of black veterans
who fought for America
but couldn’t get a loan
A story of black neighborhoods redlined
A story of discrimination that persists today

It is time to brush aside McConnell’s redline
for no new taxes for the wealthy
It is time to shift spending priorities
and lift up the working class
It’s five generations too late for
Forty acres and a mule
Well past time


Sonia has been writing Golden Shovel poems each day in April and May on her blog: Rants of the Newly Old. I read this post last Tuesday for her Slice of Life. Her Golden Shovel poems are based on one of the headlines she reads each day. Each word in the headline becomes the last word in a line of a poem.

Today I heard a quote in an interview with Joe Biden that I decided to use in my own Golden Shovel. He was talking about why he’s an optimist and always keeps the best of people and builds on the positive in his relationships. He said, “I believe in redemption, for myself, as well.”

Of course, redemption is such a full and beautiful word. I couldn’t help but think of Jesus Christ, who is the one inspiring Joe Biden to stay so optimistic. So I wrote this Golden Shovel poem today as if Jesus were talking to the woman in John 8:2-11, a story that’s been on my mind all week.

Every bent branch I
Will lift up. Do believe
You are restored in
Me with no regrets, only redemption.
Recovery and release for
All that weighs heavily. Myself,
I am grace enough, as
The eyes of your heart see: you are well.

Missing #Verselove Already

Today was the first day that we didn’t have a poetry prompt for National Poetry Month at Ethical ELA. It’s May 1, of course, so I missed writing and reading others’ poetry. I went out looking for another prompt. I saw Kevin’s poem and tweet about his inspiration:

I then watched the video Kevin shared by George Ella Lyon talking about the creation and shape of her poem “Whole Round World,” about the “Trimates,” the three scientists who carried on Louis Leakey’s work with primates. You can watch Lyon’s interview here:

She suggested playing with the shape of your poem and using white space to make it like a a sculpture. She also mentions that you have to begin writing the poem first and let the shape emerge. So I went to a new favorite post called “141 Ways to Play, Process, Stretch, Express, Disrupt Words and Form” from Ethical ELA and found a prompt called “Synesthesia and Color” by Jennifer Guyor-Jowett.

I chose these two beautiful colors–Secure Blue and Sequin–because they reminded me of the colors of the skyscrapers here in Manama.

Secure Sequins

The    c  a  m  e  l  s    used to roam near Manama
where the sea foam came all the way up to Bab Al Bahrain.
Savory rice
a                 s
f      t
through the neighborhoods as the herdsmen
prepare to go    w   a   y     o   u   t      to look for
untouched ground for     g      r      a      z      i      n      g.
Sandy lots in the souq remain where bricks are formed by hands.

Now, come,
build the
of progress
sandy buildings
with panels
where the light
shines blue. Secure
for government and
finance. They wonder
at times if the ancestors
hoped for this advancement
when they walked the camels
through the villages to find enough to eat.

Memories of hopes for security and sequins in the desert

Bahrain Financial Harbour in the Manama skyline as seen from the mall where I was this afternoon.