Remnants of history
(that blouse for the Sadie Hawkins dance,
the dress that I wore when I interviewed for my first job,
a scrap from the bridesmaids’ dresses my mom made for my wedding,
and hundreds more forgotten memories)
I’ve carried around for forty years,
cut into perfect circles,
each stitched lovingly around the edges
by Aunt Thelma, and now by me,
to make what she called a yo-yo,
now find new purpose.
This whole project is a scrap craft from things I have on hand. My inspiration is this landmark building in Manama–the Bahrain World Trade Center. It always leads people to Manama, the capital city. My Aunt Thelma was the quintessential crafter. She cut hundreds of circles and stitched them into yo-yos. Now, as I near retirement, I have finally got serious about using them to make something. It’s far from finished, but I’m having fun.
Tammi Belko was the host today for Ethical ELA’s Open Write. Her prompt was to create a One Sentence Poem. Since I’ve had this quilt on my mind lately, that became my topic for my poem. (I have no idea if it’s really only one sentence!)
Yesterday’s prompt came from Tammi too. She introduced a new-to-me Sevenling poem. She has students use it to share about a book they have read–as a hook or a character sketch. I thought it has great potential for that. Check out the link for many other examples of poems written in this form. Here is my sevenling about E.B. White’s The Trumpet of the Swan.
Sevenling (He Works Hard)
He works hard to restore his honor,
Paying off his father’s debts, and
Waiting for his true love to respond.
He goes to school and takes on odd jobs—
Camp counselor where he learns to play, night club performer,
And Boston Public Garden entertainer.
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.
It’s already Wednesday, Inauguration Day. I have refrained from watching the news the last couple of days because of lots of other daytime and evening commitments. This morning I woke up thinking about this post and a poem I didn’t write yesterday. Since it’s still Tuesday in parts of the U.S., I got up writing a poem about walls.
The world is due for a big change after one more sleep for the United States. I’m praying for justice and walls to come down during the next administration.
I am also posting my “Walls” poem and others that I’ve been trying to keep up with this week on Ethical ELA.
I open the letter
breathed by you
I sit at the seashore
and chew on the manna
flow of justice,
17 January 2021 Evidence with Susie Morice
Read Susie’s poem called “Thin Ice” to take a sad journey with her (at the link above).
Today’s sky was covered in buttermilk–
streaked, like the sides of a
finished glass of it.
I thought of my childhood when
three generations of relatives
sat around the table
eating beans and cornbread. Earlier
ancestors hailed from Georgia,
so we still remembered–
after dinner everyone got
a tall glass of buttermilk
so they could crumble another
piece of cornbread
in and eat it
with an iced tea spoon. Meandering
rivulets, like today’s clouds,
ran down the glasses as we finished.
Today’s buttermilk sky was
a welcome winter anomaly. I didn’t see
buttermilk white, but instead I saw passionless
smoky curdles. Gray tinged
with subtle pinks as the sun tried
to push through the foggy undertones.
Skies are small here. City buildings
take up a lot of room. Today’s
buttermilk sky was stunted,
and as I walked to school
trying to glimpse more of the soured sky,
I thought back to the giant skies
above Iowa’s farmland. Now there
was a place one
could get lost in the sweet sky–
Cirrus, stratus, cumulus
galore. The sky was
generous and gracious
and made room for all. Layers
and layers of clouds
fill the heights, depths,
and breadth of the expanse
in every direction, in
every shade of white
they dance across the azure sky
Thinking of buttermilk
and big skies
made me home sick today.
The moon held me in her gaze tonight
as I walked through the city.
She asked me why I didn’t
pay closer attention to her
(sometimes I don’t notice her at all)
but here she was
on full display
even amid the screaming
glare and clutter of the city lights.
Her heart was full, and her
body was a sweet smiling sliver.
She spoke to me kindly, and
asked if I had any questions for her.
Yes, I did, and right there
in the busy street,
I poured out my questions.
Luna, you’re just a toddler today,
Do your cheeks hurt with that ear-to-ear beam?
How do you keep track of all your phases? Which one is your favorite?
Did you have ears to hear the spoken Word that made you ruler of the night sky?
Do you give quick comebacks for jumping cow and green cheese jokes?
When Jesus was born, how did you feel being subordinate to that bright star?
How powerful is it to ripple the oceans with your constant pull on the earth?
How many wars have you seen? How many rapes have your eyes endured?
Do you wish you had wind? Have you ever seen an alien?
How many night skies have you lit up? How many skinny dippers have made you blush?
Did you weep when the astronauts left their footprint on you?
She answered me,
indulging me with her serene replies.
I continued, hoping for more wisdom…
How did we ever elect that man? He’s made such a…
That’s enough, dear, she interrupted, Get along now.
Spirit of ’76 Grad and first time voter–
With a month to spare, I was
Eligible to vote in my first presidential election
I registered as an independent
Jimmy Carter earned my vote
That was an easy choice even for
a teen who cared more about getting a date with
Rick than about politics
But I did notice Watergate and a pardon,
Gerald Ford didn’t stand a chance, I thought
I continued through the years as an independent–
always looking at the two candidates
voting at times for Republicans,
other times for Democrats
When Obama was running in 2008, though– Yes, we can! Hope! I was enthralled.
I went out and changed my 30-year independent
status to Democrat, so I could caucus for
Obama in Iowa.
After the caucus, I went straight back
to being Independent.
I always thought there was strength in
I was proud to be discerning, diplomatic Denise
I saw both sides. I was a good listener
and autonomous thinker.
Presidential elections are personal,
aren’t they? I didn’t want the party to decide.
I wanted to decide for myself.
When trump came down the garish escalator
in 2015 and spoke of Mexicans the way he did,
I couldn’t believe he didn’t get ostracized and
chased away from the process.
Republicans ate it up
and he ate up their souls
Somewhere during that primary season,
I became a
Democrat for good.
The Holy Bible,
MAGA Version, 2020,
A Bible chock-full of capsized values for:
The power-hungry court packers
Those in fear of losing white power
Those who have ‘Merica confused with the Kingdom of God
Those whose guns are heavier than their God
Those who demand religious exemptions for loving and serving others
Despite that word adulterated–this version
has nothing to do with adults
but is babyish and petty at best
At its worst it exists to
usurp divine authority in order to
promote white supremacy
The MAGA version follows
in a long line of
Slavery version, 1850
Anti-science version, 1925
Jim Crow version, 1950
Moral Majority version, 1979 (Actually a de facto fight for the Revised Jim Crow version, but conveniently touted as anti-abortion in order to protect themselves from impropriety)
Tea Party version, 2010
My own personalized
often needs to be
plucked out as well
Purged and replaced with
The real Word of God
Breath of Heaven
Word made flesh
Lived among us
Killed by false translations of his day
Died to love us
Her first move, she was just over one year old. She had no idea on that drive from Iowa to Michigan that her dad had added an extra three-hours to the all-night journey when he followed the road signs to Council Bluffs instead of Dubuque after dinner in Des Moines. She slept peacefully through it all in the car seat. When she woke up, the box of tissue entertained her throughout the early morning traffic in Chicago. She tossed each Kleenex whimsically throughout the backseat for an early snowfall while Dad took his turn sleeping on the camping mattress in the back of the pickup.
Four years later we did it again. Busy selling our winter gear at the thousand-dollar yard sale, we prepared to leave Michigan for Phoenix. She looked up and saw her big yellow school bus neglectfully leaving her behind. Marcus later told her he was afraid she was sick. “Mom, there goes the bus!” We raced into the house and got ready, driving to afternoon kindergarten. I stood outside Mrs. Bigler’s classroom and cried like a baby as I explained why we were late. This experienced kindergarten teacher tried to cheer the young mother, “Don’t worry. It’s only October. She will forget about us and just have memories of her new class.” What? That offered no comfort.
A few days later, she and I were sitting in the bathroom. She sobbing and me trying to find a quiet place to console her where we wouldn’t wake the household of new friends who were accommodating us until our house was ready. At home, on this Saturday morning, the sun was shining and the pancakes would have been on the griddle, but in this new time zone, it was an unearthly hour for crying. She wrote me a note with a blue crayon, “Keep Marcus.” I joined her in sobbing.
And then we moved again. This time after she finished her freshman year in high school of all indefensible decisions. My husband tells people she never forgave us for that move. But she did, at least outwardly, formally. We took her from Arizona back to Iowa, the town of her birth. The girl, who later became her best high school friend, at one time was a baby she had seen-not-seen at the doctor’s office when both of their mom’s held each other’s hands as they waited their turn to have their two-month-olds inoculated. Fifteen years after the shots, she did fine in her new high school. She joined cross country, drama, speech, quiz bowl, debate. She took AP classes and had some great experiences. At least I try to convince myself she did.
Before too long it was time for college. She packed her bags and hardly looked back. Sailing club on Lake Michigan, knitting club, including late night practice sessions and chats in dorm rooms with new lifelong friends, service and volunteer work, excellent success in classes. I asked her that Christmas, “How are you doing it? You are rocking your first year of college!” My firstborn’s answer stung but didn’t surprise. “I left home three years ago.”
Work, purposeful work,
Work that builds,
I work with all I am–
Never just punching a clock
But I pour myself into the work
Work, created especially for me
Good work assigned Work and care for Eden, Adam
That was God’s directive
That is God’s directive to me
Work, more than you did
Yesterday Take care of the earth
Work to heal
To bring Her
Back from defilement Take care of people
Work for justice
Seeds of peace, that have
Not been planted–
Do good work
And get into
Brokenness and heartbreak, loss of job
Bickering teachers overwhelmed
Safety protocol mistakes
Covid deaths and counting
White House renegade
Peace and hope
Strolling along the shore
Cooperating with Truth
Foaming bubble bath to my neck
Leaning on the everlasting arms
seeing my phone
slip from my hands into
in the microwavable
Was like watching
tumble over the railing
on the upper floor
at the mall but
Instead of smashing
on the tile
into the sauce
My first reaction
was to pull it up from
its shallow bath
It only took a half-inch dip
My phone barely waded in
Hardly got its feet wet
I don’t know beans about
how to save a phone
in a cooking calamity
It will be fine
I told myself
I took a quick lick
across the bottom
where the speaker
and charge port sit
because the slits were
I gave the whole phone
a once-over with the dish cloth
I sucked on the end to
extract more tomato sauce
Just to be sure
Then I promptly forgot about it
The phone worked fine all day
But on seeing the
15% battery warning.
I went to plug it in
No lightning bolt
I checked the plug for
I wiggled the cords
Oh yeah, the beans
As my husband and I sat
through the rest of the Zoom
meeting, I thought about telling
him. (Our mic was muted.)
No, I better wait.
When we finished, I nonchalantly said,
I dropped my phone into the beans at lunch.
He said, You need a new phone anyway.
What? I said. No I don’t. THIS is my phone.
I just need it to charge.
He plugged it in and
I switched the cord
to a different outlet.
It’s up to 83% now,
so I think the beans are history.
Think playing house–
but maybe not that kind–
come with me to the
at Grove Avenue Elementary School
a hundred trees planted so close
they barely have elbow room
aromatherapy for us
minty, herbal with a touch
of honey and lemon
no sun rays make it to the floor
so nothing grows
tamped-down, hardened clay
becomes our earthen tile
pencil-like leaves fall and gather
the floors swept with our hands
readied for the building
we mound the leafy walls
throughout the grove
the bell rings for us to go back to class
play as long as possible
before running to avoid being late
immediately start watching the clock
when is our next recess?
finally…run to the grove
choose our favorite spot and build again–
living room, den, bathrooms and
bedrooms, lavish and profuse
this forest is our mansion
gladness gleaned from the grove
Leaping Into the Story
The story is with us, with us for a lifetime.
The story is within us, much beyond
Our lifetimes. Story passed on to our heirs. Little or
Much property doesn’t matter, but generation after generation
All become heirs of our beliefs–
Tenets of toxicity,
Positions of poison,
Cesspools of say-sos.
Four hundreds years of unjust stories.
Let justice roll down like water.
Righteousness like an endless stream.
The story of humanity makes
Us alive to Truth. Will we listen to the Truth?
Will we make amends? Hear the story.
Tell the story. Tell
Tell the stories for the just world we yearn for.
March for Truth. Truth that will set
Us free. Then maybe we can
Leap into a changed storyline.
Rose of Saffron
Out in the open
In the full sun
Lies the costliest of all
For thousands of years
It is true
The Crocus Satimus corm
Initiates the process
First lying dormant
Through the heat of summer
Does its wizardry underground
Then the autumn crocus
Burgeons and blossoms
Six purple petals
Cradle the crimson stigmas
And yellow styles
Carefully pluck out the
Three red threads,
Dry and store safely–
150 flowers are needed to make
One gram of spice
(400 flowers to match the mass of a penny)
Use saffron for
healing and health
Creating golden ambrosial delights
Beauty of the beloved
I remember when my newly-married sister brought home hippie gifts.
I remember the year was 1965, tumultuous and troubled. I was seven. I jumped for joy when she presented her gifts.
I remember the gifts were only something I had longed for.
I remember never thinking I would really own my own. They were more stylish than anything I had ever worn before.
I remember the granny sunglasses and maxi dresses for my ten-year-old sister and me
I remember them as if I were holding them in my hands now.
I remember mine was sunny yellow with small white designs. My sister’s was identical to mine, except it was sky blue.
I remember racing in to put on our dresses.
I remember slicking my straight pixie hairdo to my head so I looked like Twiggy.
I remember my sister with her longer unruly waves, opted to be more Janis Joplin.
I remember standing on the sidewalk, pretending to smoke cigarettes, head tilted to peer over my glasses.
I remember watching over many rooftops and across the river as the smoke rose over Watts.
I remember vaguely wondering if the world was going to end.
I think I could turn away from dirty diapers, they are so fetid and disturbing.
I stand and look at hundreds of crammed nappies that, in many cases, haven’t been changed in decades.
They do not work for 99% of the people, but are hollow gongs.
They do not serve, but are crafty, selfish liars.
They do not care about dismantling systemic racism and wealth inequality.
Not one is honest or empathetic, but rather cold and venal.
Not one feels the pain of the people they came to serve.
Not one is willing to walk a road of suffering to love others.
So these Pamper piles must be voted out of office.
They bring disgrace to our nation.
I wonder if I overgeneralized my disdain
Did I miss any worthy to retain?
“Politicians are a lot like diapers. They should be changed frequently, and for the same reason.”
~Tom Dobbs, Robin Williams’ character in Man of the Year (2006)
“Congratulations, life will get tougher!”
Title of fear at my high school
Already worried for the future
Defeat, anger, discontent, failure
What did my future hold?
I was unprepared for college
I was unprepared for work
I was unmotivated, yet scared
In church for the first time in years
I left that night still afraid
But this “tougher” sermon
Went out the door with me
Somehow gave me a future