We meet five days a month and every day in April, when it’s called #Verselove. Below I’m posting a poem I wrote yesterday. You can join in on this week’s past prompts– Saturday, Sunday, and Monday–or join us Tuesday and Wednesday for more writing wonderfulness.
All dressed up
And no one knows
The foolishness inside.
Interim wisdom shows
But once mouth opens
And words tumble out
The ass is revealed
Stupidity, now no doubt Inspiration from: The Ass in the Lion’s Skin and a proverb:
Even fools are thought wise when they keep silent;
with their mouths shut, they seem intelligent.
I loved reading Giovanni’s “Kidnap” poem–those last lines where kid and nap are separated is fun. James Weldon Johnson is a favorite; he lifts my spirit, even with this line I chose, “God of our silent tears” from James Weldon Johnson’s “Lift Every Voice and Sing”
God, are you there? It’s me, Denise of endless hope, but thinking our world teeters on the brink. Do not be silent. Please, come and change our tears into joyous laughter.
Another golden shovel is from Jimmy Carter’s “Considering the Void”: “an infinity of suns”
an earth of time brings an infinity of stories–pleas of possibility, suns of soul
Sense and know–
Wild and loathed things,
Turn to the sun and
Dance on the rainswept days,
Someday you’ll see those who have
No voice, they’ll need someone, and you’ll
Remember your loves, all your years of
Tending the fragile; you will be the one.
Since April, 2020, I have been part of the poetry writing community at Ethical ELA–Open Write (five days monthly) and #Verselove (every April). That first April, while the world was in pandemic lockdown, a healing poetry community came together to write and support one another. This January, while I was traveling in Bahrain, jet-lagged and busy eating and visiting dear friends, I forgot about the five-day Open Write until the last day, when I wrote a quick “postcard” poem about Bahrain.
This week, I went back and had my own Open Write , writing one poem a day using the other prompts I missed last month. I’ve linked each prompt below, where you can hopefully find inspiration for your own writing, and maybe for your students too.
I am proud of my humility
I am kinder than I sometimes act
I am confident yet uncertain
I am creative yet fruitless
I am resourceful yet unimaginative
I am savvy yet slow
I am adept yet inept
I am conflicted
Every day as she got up,
Jamie G. called down the stairs
to her early-rising father.
Five years ago, on February 14, 2018,
she stopped calling,
silenced by a gunman
at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.
She was just a freshman.
Today she could have been
in her second year as a Florida Gator,
but she forfeited her future because of political cowardice.
frozen in time,
no new memories
for her and her family to create.
How many more voices will be lost
before we take action?
Some thoughts in the poem above came from Jamie’s father, Fred Guttenberg, and a quote from Mike Barnicle on last Friday’s (2/20) Morning Joe clip.
It’s difficult to believe You will win,
that You will forever be
a refuge for the hopeless.
It’s hard to trust that Your goodness
will shine like the dawn,
that Your deliverance
will break through the doom
as bright as the noonday sun.
When will that happen?
How long must the oppressed wait?
Do I still believe in You?
Will I fight for You to break through the chaos?
So many people continue to soldier on for Justice.
(I’m ashamed I don’t seek you wholeheartedly)
Others prowl and scratch hoping Justice will be obscured.
(I don’t want to be part of that group.)
So I must commit to join You,
for silence is not a neutral position.
I do believe in Justice, but, please,
help my unbelief.
I am the green
that hurts your eyes,
brilliant and dazzling,
bright and ubiquitous.
Here in the Emerald City,
the sprinkles come in
a circadian rhythm of sogginess.
Moss carpets wood and stone.
Ferns pop and ivies creep
Green, the only color.
The tangles of yarn
Are becoming a blanket.
Right now, they are sitting by
my Mother’s Day gift of board books—Chicka Chicka Boom Boom, The Very Hungry Caterpillar,
and I’ll Love You Forever, (yes, I will)
that I will read to you,
Sweet baby, on Facetime.
But now we wait for your arrival, Healthy and whole
Bearing life and
To our world
So I can enjoy the
smell of chocolate chip cookies
lingering in my home, I bake.
When I crave rhubarb crisp
with ice cream, I bake.
When I want to tear my hands
into a warm crusty loaf
of sourdough, I bake.
I bake for myself.
I bake for others, too,
so I can spread out
the fat and happiness.
I bake to reach back
I bake warm, flaky biscuits using
Grandpa Sockwell Leodore Hamilton’s recipe,
biscuits that can’t hold all the
honey and butter dripping off them.
I bake Aunt Thelma’s corn bread
and Grandma’s foolproof pie crust.
And I bake into the future
to create the best peanut butter brownie
for your wedding and
vegan carrot cake muffins
Al Raja School and
Bahrainis, so helpful and kind,
Camping in the desert and
Doctors at American Mission Hospital,
English Language Congregation and
Freedom to worship here,
Galleries of arts and crafts and
Hummus at our favorite restaurant,
Indian food in the homes of dear ones,
Juices, freshly squeezed,
Karak tea at
Mango gelato at
Onions from India for thirty cents a pound and
Petrol for less than $2 a gallon,
Quality friendships are family now,
Rava dosa with dried fruits and nuts at
Table crowded with friends and
Vinolia and Victoria, dear friends, and
World Trade Center of Bahrain,
eXpatriates bringing their cultures here,
You–should you want to come and visit–and
Zaatar and labneh on khubz
Pothos, both running wild
Resistant to being compiled
Aloe, plump, to burns applying
Coleus, afraid it’s dying
Plumeria, trying to sprout
Plastic succulent, quite stout
Avocado, trunk so slim
My plants–a green, sweet hymn
Today’s Ethical ELA Open Write prompt by Allison Berryhill is to write a poem about a student. I had a hard time writing today; I have so many students on my mind. I have love and appreciate them all. They’ve been patient with me. I tried lots of poems on, but nothing stuck. Now, finally I decided on a found poem from my journal entries, all these lines were written during the first weeks of school that very first semester. When I started, I had been in this new culture for one week, trying to cope with jet lag and just figuring things out. I started teaching mid-year and was assigned to teach English to kindergarteners, a grade I had never taught before.
Getting to know Mohammed R.
Wondering if I made a mistake
Lost all my confidence
Literally running around
Dread coming back
I need to fail forward
Today was better
Snacks in the teacher’s lounge
I don’t know how to eat them
Daily reminders I’m in such
A different place
There are a few moments of hope
each day, but more often just
painful learning events and despair.
Today was different. One class came in
And I almost made it in delighted control.
Learning? Who knows? Manners, yes.
Toilet? Water? Ball? I can’t understand them
when they say these words, and these are some
of the only words they say and know.
My only Arabic is just
the letter ط (tah) and shukran.
I had a dream the students and I were
engaged as a learning community,
it was a powerful gift,
But the gap between what is
and what may be in the future is wide.
Just when I think (knocking on wood)
that the day is going well,
Another class comes in and kicks my butt.
wanted to sit by me at recess.
Today was a day of hope—
Al Raja School means school of hope,
but is it really?
Is there hope, Lord?
I actually liked this day.
I was able to read a story and
they all listened,
they seemed to understand.
We went to the zoo today.
Mohammed R. whispered in my ear,
“I know a funny word.”
“Oh, what’s that?” I asked.
“Bananapants!” he laughed.
Anne Abbot created a game
that I was still playing
over a hundred years later.
“Go Fish” it was,
only with authors–
Tennyson, Poe, Longfellow
(a poet whose feet showed it),
Stevenson, Dickens, Irving,
Shakespeare, more white men,
and one white woman–
Louisa May Alcott–
somewhat of a mirror for me,
from southern California,
who matched authors
93% of the authors were white men
with funny hair and clothes.
Elizabeth Hobbs Keckley
and many more.
Heck, even Anne herself
was an author.
The system, though,
wasn’t interested in being inclusive,
wasn’t interested in giving voice
to others less powerful,
wasn’t interested in giving
little girls and little boys
to reflect possibilities.
They were selling a card game.
Yesterday at our family Bible study
“We are having problems
with this book. We’re trying to have
an open mind and keep reading, but
there are some ableist and racist things,
like Peter’s scary hair.
What’s with that?”
What she said (this young woman
who is teaching her parents)
lead me to go back and review the authors
of the books I’ve read this summer:
White male authors: 5
Black male authors: 1
Black female authors: 1
White female authors: 1
I am not making and selling a card game,
I am choosing what books to read.
I chose 63% white male authors.
Well, more accurately, my partner
(another white male)
chose two of my five books
for our family study.
Today I came back to notice,
and, praise God,
I am still alive,
with at least
a little time to
become a better ancestor.