Slice of Life – We the Peoples?

Today’s Slice of Life at TwoWritingTeachers.org, 6 July 2021

Last Monday Kate Messner sent out the first week’s #teacherswrite summer camp prompt. We were to go outside and breathe intentionally and write. It was a hot day, but I did go out and breathe and write. I wrote a post about that here.  I had yet to take this challenge though: “think about a time when you were growing up and you felt peaceful and whole.” So for my Slice of Life today, I wrote this…

We the Peoples?

When I was a little girl, I spent most weekends
in the land of the peoples of
the Serrano, the Chemehuevi, and the Cahuilla.
We worked hard to clean up the place
homesteaded by Grandpa thirty years earlier.
It had been sitting empty
except for the birds and other creatures
who found shelter through the broken windows.
Weekends of hiking, exploring, and collecting memories,
along with picking up stuff abandoned long ago
by homesteaders who bought five acres of land
in baby homesteading grants,
many sight unseen. They
built 12 x 16-foot shacks
on parcels without water
or situated in a wash.
Most didn’t stay.

When I was a little girl, I spent most weekends
in the land of the peoples of
the Serrano, the Chemehuevi, and the Cahuilla.
The homesteaders who came and built
were not native peoples who in centuries before
ate and survived in this rich Mohave desert.
Most homesteaders wanted
a vacation getaway from Los Angeles.
Some were like my grandfather
who left his work in policing
because of his emphysema,
and came for better air to breathe.
After we cleaned up the “cabin” (we called it),
my grandma eventually moved in
to live the rest of her years. After she died,
my mother lived her last thirty years
in that same cabin.

When I was a little girl, I spent most weekends
in the land of the peoples of
the Serrano, the Chemehuevi, and the Cahuilla.
I felt peaceful and whole
growing on weekends in this place
that held my family’s history.
Free to be wild and roam in safety far away
from the busyness of the suburbs,
away from the L.A. smog,
which ravaged the air back then.

When I was a little girl, I spent most weekends
in the land of the peoples of
the Serrano, the Chemehuevi, and the Cahuilla,
though I don’t remember ever knowing
anyone from these people groups.
Most of the people I saw were white.
I was a person full of privileges–
a car and the means to travel two-and-a-half
hours to get away every weekend,
generations of loving family surrounding me,
skin that didn’t get questioned by police,
skin that was never stopped from
going anywhere we wanted,
but instead gently warned
to be wise for our own safety,

When I was a little girl, I spent most weekends
in the land of the peoples of
the Serrano, the Chemehuevi, and the Cahuilla.
I felt peaceful and whole in this place,
Full of the privileges afforded
white people in a system made by and for them.
I lived in a nation of we the people,
not we the peoples.
Though I felt peaceful and whole,
how many peoples around me
did not feel the same?

The following is a check-in for the #teacherswrite Week 1 with Jen Vincent.

What are your goals for Teachers Write?
I participated in Kate’s #teacherswrite summer camp in the past in 2012 and 2017. I also dabbled in the summers between those two years. I did not participate at all in 2018-2020. Now, here I am again. I have been writing more than ever since the pandemic started, mostly poems and blog posts. So when I saw the tweets about #teacherswrite, I was excited and wanted to try again. Funny though, I didn’t even make a goal this year. I have other kinds of goals that include writing. Here is my summer list of goals. However, I am not writing a children’s novel like I tried to and never finished in 2017. (Maybe next year I’ll come back to that children’s novel.) This July, I think I will just follow the prompts. The one goal I have is to be more descriptive and take more time with the writing on my blog posts. (I sometimes write too much, and it’s boring, as you can see here.) Also, now that I’ve seen Kate Messner’s Week 2 prompt where she takes us on an adventure of picture book writing about ourselves, I will take that challenge–I wonder what I will learn about the child that became this adult.

How did you do this week? Did you meet your weekly goal(s)?
Because I didn’t have any writing goals, I just watched for Kate’s email and thought I would let that inspire me. I am already behind, but getting back on track now!

What was the pit of your week? (The hardest part, the non-fun part?)
The pit of my week was not about writing, but I’ve had to say goodbye to some special people who are leaving Bahrain this week. I will be leaving myself in six months. That has been hard to say goodbye, but also being reminded that I will be saying goodbye soon.

What was the peak of your week? (The best part, the most-fun part?)
I’m going to go back to last week because I’m behind on the check-ins and another is coming up in a couple days. On the last weekend of June I participated in The Poetry Marathon, which was writing 24 poems in 24 hours. It was very rewarding and lots of fun. I wrote about it on Friday.

Did you see Kate Messner’s new picture book about Dr. Anthony Fauci? Beautiful!

Slice of Life – Memory Book for Our Beloved Principal

Today’s Slice of Life at TwoWritingTeachers.org, 29 June 2021

Monday, after two weeks working on a memory book for our beloved principal, we were finally ready to turn the files in for printing at the Copy Top. We had made a collage of photos for the cover but had a hard time deciding what to write. We couldn’t settle on a title for the book. We finally decided we would write what has become an unofficial motto of our school this year: “with great love.”

The Copy Top shop is actually closed during our present lockdown. They are only allowed to do pickups and deliveries, so all business happens on the phone, WhatsApp, and from the car in the front of the shop.

I went to the shop and M came out to the car to collect all the needed files. I started to explain that we wanted just three words printed on the cover. He said to send the words in WhatsApp and then gave me his phone number. Before I had a chance to add his number to my phone, he texted me because he got my number from his boss, whom I had been communicating with.

We then had the following conversation:

I laughed after I saw the timing of those texts wondering what he thought of my first “with great love.”

Tuesday Morning…

Just 24 hours later M called and said the book was ready. A presentation was made to the principal on the last working day for the administrative staff. A rewarding job complete!

“We’re all gonna die!”

Today’s Slice of Life at TwoWritingTeachers.org 15 June 2021

We had just been married a few weeks. Keith was on a camping trip with the youth group. On Friday morning, my only day off of the campout, I drove the two-hour trip to enjoy the day with them at the state park.

It had rained the night before, and everything was damp. We spent part of the day dealing with wet camping gear, but also swimming, hiking and other fun.

When dinner time approached, my husband tried to start a campfire for the hotdogs and s’mores. He had a metal can of Kingsford Charcoal Lighter Fluid, the kind you squeeze onto the wood. He tried to start a fire with this damp wood and kindling, throwing matches on that would not fully catch on fire. He doused it some more, then threw another match.

The lit match-squirt pattern continued until finally the fire took hold and shot up during the squirt phase. Our previously non-existent fire leapt from the ground up to become a flame thrower’s masterpiece–a flaming river flowing up from the ground. He instinctively threw the flaming bottle up and out of his hand. “We’re all gonna die!” he yelled. In that split second he pictured the metal can had sucked the fire into the fuel and became a bomb ready to explode (as we had seen on recent news warnings).

Being the brave fool I was, I grabbed not a handful of dirt, but someone’s sleeping bag that had been drying on a makeshift clothesline. I smothered the fire, which had spread out of the fire ring.

I don’t recall where or if it was spreading really; it was damp there in this forest and obviously not a fire tinder box ready to create a forest fire. Fortunately the charcoal fluid bomb fizzled, but the scorched and ruined sleeping bag now needed to be replaced. So, instead of sitting around the campfire, I drove to Target in the nearest town and bought a new sleeping bag so the teenager could sleep that night.

Fast forward 38 years. Last week was our anniversary, and we reminisced about some early memories, this one included. At the time he yelled “We’re all gonna die!” I wondered what I had gotten myself into. He may have wondered about me too.

Today Keith is known in meetings and groups as the non-anxious presence–a wise leader, looked to for surety and strength.

It’s good to not look too soon for the final person another will become–this wisdom is not just for children, but for partners, as well. Thanks be to God that we have hung onto each other through all kinds of exposing behaviors, and I am so grateful.

Image by LUM3N from Pixabay

Inspiration today was from The Isolation Journals, Prompt 151, by Ashley C. Ford taken from a portion of her memoir Somebody’s Daughter, which is a beautiful memoir and this month’s Book Club Pick.

“Think of a memory related to fire. How did it impact you then? What meaning do you forge from it now?”

Slice of Life – End of a Chapter

Slice of Life on TwoWritingTeachers.org 8 June 2021

Today I did one of the last things I will need to do as a teacher at my school. I spent three hours in my room for a final cleaning and organizing blitz. It’s been since February 2020 that I had spent any significant time there. Over the past year and a quarter, I have stopped in occasionally to grab something, but that’s it.

I spent some time today with the teacher who replaced me this year. She had end-of-the-year paperwork to complete, which included listing the resources in her classroom. It was sadly ironic, though, because she hasn’t had this or any classroom this year. She and I looked through the materials, and I identified the resources she needed to be aware of if school ever goes back to anything pre-Covid-like.

I then spent the next 2.5 hours pulling things out of closets and looking through supplies I had neglected for years!  Two cupboards in particular had not received any attention when we stopped teaching in person.

I quickly made a mess!

Too many times I said, “Oh, there is ______!” (that hammer my husband’s been looking for; my hot glue gun; that new journal Fatima gifted me, etc., etc., etc.)  I ended up carrying four bags home for a variety of purposes–to return things to people I borrowed them from, to give away to friends I know will appreciate them, to add to my own supplies from things I purchased and still needed, a book to read, and a few things to repair or work on that will go back to school.

29.7 pounds (I weighed these beasts because it seemed I carried 50 pounds home!)

I told myself I would not bring any more than I could carry in one trip, and I managed to do that. I carried all four bags for the several blocks home, with a few breaks to set it down and rest. (How does that weight thing work? I’ve lost 30 pounds in the last year, and today I felt I needed Super-Woman-strength as I carried an extra thirty pounds home. When I had that extra 30 pounds on my bones and not in my hands, I didn’t even notice it. Hmmm….)

Four bags of trash–just trash–came out of those closets.
That’s better! Ready for the new teacher to organize and go through.

A chapter closed today.

A Slice of Life While Creating a Sestina

Slice of Life on TwoWritingTeachers.org 1 June 2021

Have you ever written a sestina?

This weekend I wrote a tritina because of Liz Garton Scanlon’s Poetry Friday post. It was there she mentioned the sestina, as well.  I had heard of this 39-line French form with six stanzas, and the same six words rotating at the end of each stanza, but I didn’t have much confidence or interest in trying one myself. After trying a tritina, though, I thought I’d give it a go. I started a list of favorite words, trying to decide which six to use. I wrote hope, launch, and cry on my list.

Why cry? I thought. Because I need some sad words in my poem too, I answered myself.

Then I realized what an impossible task it would be to pick the right six words. I need a topic, I thought. So I started brainstorming: family, pandemic, food, vacation, etc.

Instead of continuing with my sestina drafting, though, I decided to go to bed. Before I slept, I sent a last-minute appeal text to my family WhatsApp group:

I woke up in the morning to these words, two from each family member. (Are these really favorite words?)

dappled
germinate
turpitude
exhume
zenith
rambunctious
bizarre
delicate
kindness
non-anxious

and my own:

hope
launch

With bizarre, turpitude and exhume, I figured I didn’t need any sad words, so I left cry off my list.

So now the challenge begins. First of all, I only need six words for my sestina, but I gave myself a bit of a buffer zone by asking for two words. I can choose from these twelve–the six I will use for my end lines, for they will be repeated seven times each. And the other six words I will try to fit in one time anywhere in the poem.

When I looked at these words, no subject jumped out. That’s for sure. So I went to read the newspaper,  actually The Washington Post, online version. When I read this opinion piece by Jonathan Capehart, “Kamala Harris Speaks the Truth About Race Unafraid,” I thought, Ah-ha. Here is my subject. Living overseas, I see all the -isms and -phobias that the U.S. has, plus some. The world has systemic injustice and inequity issues, and America is part of the world. I don’t understand how some people in the U.S. argue that America does not have a problem with racism (or any other -ism or -phobia) (e.g., one hundred years ago today) Do others want to immigrate to the U.S. because it’s perfect and their country isn’t? No, they can see the truth. But at least we say there is liberty and justice for all. With every generation, in every century we have to go “further up and further in” to a just nation, a union becoming more perfect. Speaking the truth–admitting, repenting, and repairing problems–is what makes America good.

I was thinking of these things when I drafted my first sestina:

Speak the Truth: A Sestina 

America: It is sunlight and a future, but dappled,
Still needing to exhume the tangled turpitude
Of isms: racism, sexism, anti-Semitism. The zenith
Of America will near as it produces its delicate
Song of the ages. It will usher in inclusive kindness
And bring forth a love song of rambunctious hope.

Over the past eight years I have met people of hope
In this country of invited workers sweetly dappled
From all over the globe. We’ve met many in kindness,
Sometimes coming from countries where the turpitude
Of governance makes their citizens retreat to this delicate
Pearl in the Gulf. For them, Bahrain is the zenith.

Thankful their career brought them to earn in this zenith,
They send money home to their families in hurting hope.
We’ve met people from 131 nations here in this delicate
Population of one-and-a-half million. The light is dappled
Across the land as people are launched from turpitude
And given a renewed promise to germinate kindness.

When people find that we are from America, kindness
Rises. “Tell us more.” Many long for the ultimate zenith
Of their immigration–to move to America. Moral turpitude
During the past few years, notwithstanding. They hope.
America the Beautiful is beautiful, even though dappled
With phobias–gay, trans, Asian, Islam. Speak the truth–delicate

Harsh, truth–not an attack on the U.S. We aren’t delicate.
America dares to weed out -isms and -phobias, choosing kindness.
Look at the color and fearlessness of the current dappled
Administration. America is not yet perfected to its zenith.
Let us not go back to when America was “great,”  but hope
That, in the future, we will continue to uproot turpitude.

All people are created equal, and it’s turpitude
That bizarrely distorts equality all over this delicate
Earth. No matter how great Bahrain is, people see more hope
Where a Black woman with Asian roots takes her power. Kindness
In America, land of the free; liberty and justice–the zenith.

It is hard, but America faces unafraid our history dappled

In non-anxious, bold turpitude; Yet, at times we choose kindness.
We battle to help the delicate soul of America reach her zenith. 
Hope like Kamala brightens the complexion of America dappled.

By Denise Krebs

Postscript: Poetry gives heart and soul to numbers and patterns. I love to puzzle words, syllables, and meter together to fit poetry forms. However, after being in this process for a while today, wrestling with the six words at the end of each line, I couldn’t also think about iambic pentameter. I can’t even manage consistent meter in a short poem. After counting the syllables in the first few lines, I stopped! I’m publishing this draft without worry of iambs and meter. At least for now. I’ve learned that sestinas are a challenge!

Here is a Sestina generator to help you make a template with the word order for each stanza. I discovered it after I made mine.

If you’ve written a sestina, please share a link in the comments. I’d love to read it.

Tiny Slivers Timeline

Slice of Life on TwoWritingTeachers.org 25 May 2021

Here are a few slivers of my life on Monday in a variety of zappai, septercets, and hay(na)ku.

Tiny Slivers Timeline
A.M.

6:10
up and doom scrolling
unusual for me these days
too early for this

6:30
enjoyed tea, which my
husband prepared, sat with him
while he ate breakfast

6:55
gave
my husband
a buzz haircut

7:10
watched
the news
too much pain

7:30
Rush to the shower
Oops! Class starts soon! Made it! It’s
7:45

8:25
Made oatmeal on stove
Added mashed banana and
Splashed with almond milk

8:40
Spy the ignored dough I thawed
this morning, I baked cookies
for Keith to deliver soon

9:27
Log in to a Zoom meeting
Shared concepts for a farewell
party for our principal

9:54
Finished the meeting
so I came to start this post
Wrote in #MayPoems

10:40
Duolingo–
used up
all my hearts

11:08
Sliced
ripe peaches
to save them

P.M.

12:03
Leftover
pasta and
peaches for lunch

1:30
Phonics
Think Tank
Report to coordinators

3:00
Nap
with hubby
and everything nice

4:03
Teach
Meet with
many MENA teachers

5:20
More
leftovers for
dinner, cook tomorrow

5:40
Painting
and drawing
for poetry inspiration

6:13
Happy call from Poland, but
Alex learns of Bahrain’s new
Ban, Covid numbers. Can’t come.

7:00
Zoom Bible study
Bent woman made whole and straight
Jesus delighted

8:55
Call
to console
a grieving friend

9:30
Time
to read
awhile before bed

9:32
“Have you seen Glitter Bomber?”
My husband asked. “Mark Roper’s
stopping porch pirates.” We binged.

10:17
Okay
That’s enough
Time for bed

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

4 x 4 Poem

Slice of Life on TwoWritingTeachers.org 11 May 2021

I’ve been having fun writing poems in April and now into May. My #MayPoems are very different from our April #Verselove experience.

Each day in May I watch for an opportunity or inspiration to write a new poem, and then I post it on my blog. Today, I decided to experiment with making a new poetry form. It’s a cross between two forms that I’ve seen lately. The 4×4 form is a slight variation on the Quatern, influenced by the Tricube that Matt Forrest has been sharing and writing lately.

Here are the four by four “rules” I followed:

  • 4 syllables in each line
  • 4 lines in each stanza
  • 4 stanzas
  • 4 times repeating a refrain line–line 1 in the first stanza, line 2 in the second stanza, line 3 in the third stanza, and line 4 in the fourth stanza.
  • Bonus: 4 syllables in the title
  • No restrictions on subject, rhyme, or meter.

Voting Questions

Ask the questions:
Is voting a
right? Or is it
only for those

we agree with?
Ask the questions:
MAGA members?
Progressives? All?

Do citizens
all get to vote?
Ask the questions:
Or just those who

preserve ballot
box “purity”?
Jim Crow reborn?
Ask the questions.

About this poem: I’ve been thinking about voting rights a lot lately, as have many of the state legislatures in the U.S. Voter suppression is as old as the nation, which was founded with boatloads of voter restrictions. Today states that in 2020 ran fair and honest elections with record turnouts are still making new laws so that fewer votes will be cast next time. Some of those state legislatures even had their “favored” candidates win, yet they are still passing laws. Insurance, I guess.

Do you want to try a 4×4 poem? Please do share!

May 28, 2021 follow-up. Here are some 4×4 posts with beautiful examples from the Poetry Friday community: