Slice of Life – Losing and Finding

May 21, 2024

I’ve missed the last few Tuesdays. There is a lot I would have been writing had I been here. First and most significantly, my older sister, Judi, died at the end of April. She wasn’t sick, but she just didn’t wake up that last Sunday morning. It’s been a month to think about her and my other siblings, about death and life. Next, I have been in the midst of our final home remodeling projects, new bedroom and bathroom flooring and new closet space in our bedroom.

In honor of Judi and all my siblings, I’ve been writing poems inspired by my siblings for the month of May. On Sunday morning, I sat on the back porch and felt like I was going to church with the birds, reptiles, and mammals that surrounded me. Chipmunks and squirrels scurried about grabbing dropped bird seed. The majestic jackrabbit sauntered in before darting off. The quail, seemed so anxious for their bevies to fill with the first hatching of summer. Lizards did pushups in the sunshine. Finches, thrashers, jays, and doves all shared the bird feeder together. While I sat in this nature church, I wrote a poem using a line from a Jack Gilbert poem.

We watch the quail as they
are ready for the first hatching.
Gleaners gathering seeds and also us
who watch them, noticing their
fill of the allurement of
the living. No need for a
barn or coop to raise their young.
For the green light of
the fragments of consequence, we
winter-on through loss and ends.
That is why what
comes next is all a gift
on this mystic mansion of creation.

A golden shovel from Jack Gilbert‘s poem “Moreover” with this striking line: “We are gleaners who fill the barn for the winter that comes on.”

Slice of Life – A Saturday in St. Paul

23 April 2024

This year's 10 words are: verklempt brackish fossicking lodestar parrot sickly glossy rag flush pickle

I woke up on Saturday to an email in my box with the ten words I needed to use in a poem for the 2 Day Poem Contest. (If you think you might want to participate, you can subscribe to get their email updates for next year’s contest.) I like to try this challenge because it’s like a puzzle.  A two-day version of Wordle or Connections, perhaps.

I took this screenshot and sent it to our family group. My son-in-law and I looked up the words, and he started making jokes about how to use them. Then we continued on our day: out for coffee in glossy mugs, hiking, out to a deli for Reubens or matzo ball soup, on to a consignment shop fossicking for treasures, then home and out to ie Italian Eatery for the best meal in a long time! I think Minneapolis has some of the best food opportunities I’ve ever had the joy of eating.

Anyway, my poem got sent in without much thought except for the joyful time I’ve been having this long weekend with these dears: my daughter, her hubby, and mine. Today we fly home.

Someday, I hope to write a 2 Day Poem with something more than solving another word puzzle.

A Saturday in St. Paul (Ars Poetica)

Poetry, I’ve always said,
is full of the awestruck
Quietness of emotions
In a verklempt rag doll,
Moldable and mending.

Poetry is best served in
glossy, big-handled mugs,
along with a Reuben sandwich
and a pickle spear on the side.

Finding a good poem is
like fossicking at the
vintage store, most items
ignored for others to mine,
but some long for me,
treasures of life to embrace.

Poetry is a bowl of
matzo ball chicken soup
when one is feeling sick,
and reconciliation for the
one who remains sickly.

Poetry is a nature preserve
wrapped up in the big arms
of a lodestar of grace.

When all I feel I can do is
parrot other poets, it is their poetry
that intervenes and freshens
the brackish tears of my heart.

Poetry is the royal flush
of life and literature, a hand of
beauty and hope among
the high and low cards of my history.

More 2 Day Poems: 2021, 2022, 2023

Slice of Life – Quail Coming To Life

16 April 2024

Yesterday I sat in a poetry workshop with Shutta Crum. She led us in three new poetry forms. It was a relaxing time to write and listen to other poets share. The workshop was free, and part of the Jax Poetry Fest, which is hosted by Hope at Hand, a Florida non-profit “that provides art and poetry sessions to vulnerable and at-risk youth populations.”  There are still a dozen or more one-hour workshops available throughout April. The schedule is here.

I wrote yesterday and today about the Gambel’s quail that populate my yard here in the Mojave Desert.

Double Tetractys (Greece)

When her eggs will
hatch. For now she hurries then hides away

again. Springtime is here. She knows it’s close
Prehatch Checklist:
Seek more seeds.
Dust bath.

Pensee (French)

Quail mom
waits for her brood
dreams of little knob’s hatching
nestful under the creosote
in anticipation

Chastushka (Russia)

Waiting, thinking ’bout her babies
(Handy, weather’s not like Hades)
Quailing mother shunning snarers
Watches eggs, this gentle bearer

Today at Ethical ELA’s #Verselove we wrote a praise poem called Kwansaba. I kept my quail theme going.

Sevens Up with Dave Wooley

I wake up to the quail singing
praise. After a winter of denned-down
waiting, they make their sweet company known:
In the flutter and rhythm of wings
In the scurry of food enough pursuit
In their joy of dusty dry bathing
I remind myself to praise this day.

I couldn’t get a good picture today, just this mama quail walking in the brush (lower right hand corner).

Here is a papa quail calling out praise…

Slice of Life – True or False? Perhaps?

9 April 2024

True or False?

  1. I saw the eclipse on the sidewalk on Monday.
  2. I drove through the Morongo grade and spied a big horn sheep on the mountain.
  3. I am hosting over at Ethical ELA’s Verselove today.
  4. I saw two baby giraffes yesterday.

Three of those things are true. One is false. Any guesses?

First, look at these beauties.  A one-month-old and a two-month-old!

Second, the sun was eclipsed by the moon by about 62% where we were Monday. The maximum view happened at 11:14 a.m. We had  finished walking at the zoo at about 10:30, so I didn’t want to leave and find myself sitting in a restaurant at the max time. So we got a sandwich at the zoo snack bar.

I guess I thought it would get noticeably darker, but that sun didn’t miss a beat! I didn’t notice a smidgeon of darkening in the sky. I didn’t have any glasses to look up at the eclipse, so instead I found a shaded spot that allowed tiny images of the sun to shine through. I stood enjoying the view under this trellis at the zoo. When people would venture by, I’d tell them they could see what was happening in the eclipse in the shadows on the sidewalk. It was a conversation starter and fun to see the shadows move about as the flowers above were blowing in the wind.

The third truth is that I am hosting at Ethical ELA today. We are writing True/False poems, and you don’t have to identify which lines are true or false. (If you read my “True or False” post last month, you might want to join us. If you didn’t read it, you still might want to join us!) Click here to check it out.

The lie, you may have figured out, is that I still have not seen another big horn sheep in the wild in Morongo.

Slice of Life – Classical Conditioning Wildlife Quest

2 April 2024

Today’s slice was born yesterday on a trip to Palm Springs. It’s a 45-minute jaunt down into the lower desert. We do it about every week or two for one appointment or shopping trip or another.

Part of the trip includes going through the Morongo grade, which is a mountainous section, just three miles or so long. There is no cell service, and a sign along the road tells us that there are desert bighorn sheep possibly crossing the road.

I’ve been coming to the desert, driving through this grade my whole life (first to visit grandparents, then my mom, and now because I live here), but I had never seen a big horn sheep in the wild until last month when I saw one, not on the grade, but in Joshua Tree National Park . I wrote about it for my Slice of Life on March 5 here.

Over the years, driving through the grade I have always glanced around the hills (when I’m not driving, of course), thinking I might really see one.

Then, lo and behold, for the first time, ever just a week after I saw one in the park, I saw more. This time there were two or three scrawny, thin, probably young sheep on one a cliff on the grade. I was so excited, but of course, my phone was way elsewhere, so I couldn’t get a picture.

Now, like Pavlov’s dog, I know those sheep are there, so on the last two trips down the grade, I have my phone zoomed in three times, and lying ready in my lap. Then I scan the mountains like a detective. I have yet to see another bighorn, but I keep looking for the reward of seeing these creatures in the wild. Yesterday, I wondered how long this classical conditioning reward would last in my wildlife spotting quest.

I took this picture to show you what the hills look like. No sheep yesterday!
Here are some bighorn sheep I saw at the Living Desert Zoo and Gardens in Palm Desert

Poetry Friday – Three Poems from March Open Write

Today is Poetry Friday and Rose Cappelli is hosting with lots of bird watching fun and poems.

Today for Poetry Friday, I’m sharing the prompts (click on the dated links) and some of the poems I wrote this week for Ethical ELA’s Open Write.

Saturday, March 16, 2024 with James Coats

I was a quiet anarchist in high school, subverting the authority of those I deemed unworthy. Mr. B. was one of those who received my disdain. He promised a literary magazine of our creative writing that semester. As the semester wrapped up, we realized it was not going to happen. The haikus and sonnets and reviews and short stories were stuffed in a file on his desk. I asked for the writings he had collected. Then I typed them on ditto masters, copied, collated, and stapled them in my business class. I passed them out to my creative writing peers. That may be the only good thing I did to/for Mr. B. Mostly I was indifferent and disrespectful to a man I judged as lazy and unworthy to be in his position. That semester something good he did for me was refer me to my guidance counselor, a visit to see if something was up, if something was bothering me. There was. I wasn’t honest with the counselor, but I began to face my fears as a result of that visit.

Since my experience with Mr. B., I am always extra careful with students who are disrespectful to me. I know it’s not a reflection of who they are, but maybe it’s something they are going through. (And maybe, I have to realize, it may be something about me too.)

Sunday, March 17, 2024 with Katrina Morrison

Mondegreen is a series of words that result from the mishearing or misinterpretation of a statement or song lyric. Here’s a great example poem on Poetry Foundation by Randall Mann. How many of these song lyrics do you recognize?


Hold me closer Tony Danza
We built this city on sausage rolls
There’s a wino down the road
Give me the Beach Boys and free my soul
The ants are my friends, they’re blowing in the wind
Wrapped up like a douche another lover in the night
I can see clearly now, Lorraine is gone
Saving his life from this warm sausage tea
This is the dawning of the Age of Asparagus
I remove umbilicals
Elton John “Tiny Dancer”
Starship “We Built this City”
Led Zeppelin “Stairway to Heaven”
Uncle Kracker “Drift Away”
Bob Dylan “Blowin’ in the Wind”
Bruce Springsteen “Blinded By the Light”
Johnny Nash “I Can See Clearly Now”
Queen “Bohemian Rhapsody”
Fifth Dimension “Aquarius / Let the Sunshine In”
Hot Chocolate “I Believe in Miracles”

Monday, March 18, 2024 with Wendy EverardMy Double Dactyl
Tuesday, March 19, 2024 with Rex MustonMy Junk Drawer Affirmation

Wednesday, March 20, 2024 with Shelley Martin-Young

Bad things are going to happen.
You won’t get Wordle in six guesses.
You’ll accidentally put light mayo
On the Reuben sandwiches; they
won’t get crisp on the griddle.
You’ll have to wait three months to take
delivery of your custom-built closet.

And then when you go to write
a poem about the bad things,
you will remember your life right
now is nothing if not relaxing.

So, you’ll spend time thinking
about those who aren’t able to
child labor
lack of housing
human trafficking
climate disruption

And you wonder when you will
do more than think about them.


Slice of Life 22 – Rehoming Books Today #sol24

22 March 2024

Quiero aprender español, así que hoy la pregunté a alguien si ella podría ayúdame buscar alguien quien quiere aprender ingles. Tal vez podamos aprender juntas. La pregunté en ingles porque yo no hablo español. Puedo leer y escribir mejor de lo que hablo.

That’s all I’ve got in Spanish.

I’m not sure my paragraph above doesn’t have 101 grammar errors.

Here’s a little more about my day in English…

I had six boxes of books in my truck from the Friends of the Library. When they get too many mysteries or the books are outdated in someone’s opinion, the Friends don’t want to put them in the bookshop, so they need to be “rehomed.” I was helping my sister, who is the volunteer who handles that job of getting the books to nursing homes, community centers, and other places that can use them. First, I went to two of the Little Free Libraries in our town, but I could add only a half dozen or so to each. Then I went to a thrift shop that donates the money they make to a local nonprofit. They were delighted to receive all six boxes of books for their shop. It was the manager of the thrift shop that I mentioned my desire I wrote about in the first paragraph above. I left my phone number and she gave me the phone number of their volunteer coordinator.

I need to stop talking
about speaking Spanish
and just start doing it.

Slice of Life 20 – Junk Drawer Memories #sol24

20 March 2024

We were talking about junk drawers at Ethical ELA yesterday with Rex Muston. I was thinking of my life’s junk drawers all day. Do you have a junk drawer or two or three?

I could have written about my present junk “basket,” which also has a bunch of  empty metal tea tins. I think they are so pretty and that they can be useful, so I add them to the basket. I haven’t put anything in them yet, so they just take up space and make it harder to find my tape and scissors.

I pulled the cans out today. Seven tea tins and one coffee. What should I put in them?

I remember one junk drawer from about 20 years ago. It hadn’t been cleaned out for way too long. I had two children finishing sixth and ninth grades, I was finishing my last year at the school where I had been teaching, I was packing and getting reading to move across the country. We splurged and hired packers along with the movers. Later that summer when I was unpacking yet another cardboard box, I found the contents of that junk drawer just poured out into a box with broken rubber bands, band-aid wrapper, dried up Super Glue, half a pack of sticky gum, broken cellphone charger cable, a key that fits who knows what, a Sharpie with no cap, plus dozens of other gems we had paid to move from Arizona to Iowa.

I chose to write my poem about one junk drawer from my childhood. I think I was six years old. In my memory, I can walk right to that drawer in the house of my childhood and find a rubber band, a paper clip, a bottle of glue, a roll of tape, and sometimes joyfully, a coin, a yoyo, a jack, or a marble. The they in my poem is probably my older sister and one or more parents. I don’t remember for sure, but I wasn’t in as much trouble as I thought I would be.

Down in the Mouth

When I saw myself in the mirror
I began to feel blue,
knowing I was going
to get in trouble.
I would talk a blue streak,
talk until I was
blue in the face
to convince them
I didn’t do anything

You see, I had
been ruminating
through the
junk drawer to find
Finally, I found it!

A tiny blue-topped
plastic bottle.
The bottle seemed
to be clear but it
had some dark liquid
inside. I didn’t
recognize it, so I
carefully untwisted
the lid, put my tongue
inside the cap, and rotated
it around and around.
When I noticed my
fingers turning blue,
I went into the bathroom.
When I saw my lips,
tongue, gums, and even teeth
were blue, I closed and locked
the door, hoping I hadn’t found
something poisonous. It
seemed to keep spreading.
I got soap, water, and
a washcloth and scrubbed–
removing a layer or two of skin
along with some of the stain.

Ah, there is always
something new to learn in
childhood physics and
chemistry. That day, I
learned the power of
food coloring and why
you only need a tiny
bit to do the job.