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:

Random Conversation on the Way to the Mall

Day 24

Random conversation on the way to the mall…

Keith: (Noticing someone’s brightly colored pants as he walked by) Wow, look at those green jeans.

Denise: Remember Mr. Green Jeans? And Captain Kangaroo.

K: Yes.

D: Was Captain Kangaroo just on local stations? Or maybe that was Sheriff John who was local on L.A. stations.

K: I don’t know. I was lucky; I could get reception for both San Diego and L.A. stations.

D: You were lucky! You had more choices than I did.

K: The local stations in L.A. were odd numbers–like 9, 11, 13.

D: Yes, 5 too.  And the big three networks were on 2, 4, and 7.

K: CBS on 2, NBC on 4, ABC on 7. I remember those.

D: What were the letters on the local stations? Like KTTV?

K: Channel 11. KTLA was 5.

D: It’s weird how we remember station numbers from our childhood.

K. Yes, I don’t remember the numbers from any other place I’ve lived.

D: Do you remember the San Diego stations from when you were a kid too?

K: I think so.  ABC was on 10.

D: Were we supposed to exit there?

K: Yes, but we were busy talking about television stations.

Where do those random conversations come from? I am filled with gratitude that I get to have a partner to live with during this pandemic. No telling what I would be talking to myself about!


Our parents used to let us watch these guys.



Just Stop

Day 19, not 18!

Yesterday morning I woke up to a third busy day, but a challenge from this poem (and again from Glenda) about slowing down and smelling the hyacinths. (It is a backwards poem, so you have to slow down and read it right to left.)

I decided to finish my work as soon as possible and dust off that book I’ve been neglecting.

Later in the day, I was still busy with previously neglected deadlines for video editing and spelling bee work. So I continued working and neglected to “spend a lifetime in a book this afternoon.”

Now it’s early in a new day, and I am going to savor the moments today.

I read another new challenge yesterday: “unless you are ready to part with things you are holding on to–there will be no room for new wisdom, new ideas, new innovation, new reasoning, new anything. There is great wisdom in parting.

Ok. Today I am going to stop thinking I’m indispensable, and spend a lifetime in Suleika Jaouad’s memoir.

Freedom to Admit Defeat

Day 17

Today I woke up with another yo-yo day planned. DIBELS screening for second graders, followed by two more Grade 11 Sociology classes. However, I woke up early and remembered that I had not prepared the Slides for the screening, which has to be done in a Zoom breakout room.

I hate to admit defeat against my calendar and my neglected to-do lists, but today I had to. I couldn’t go to school and pick up the test papers and get the Slides ready by period 1, so I was able to excuse myself. It is one of the good things about being a volunteer. If it happened last year, I would have killed myself to get it done, even if haphazardly and incomplete. But everything will be fine. Everything would have been fine last year, too, but it hurts my ego to not be on top of things. I don’t like to admit defeat.

However, I have had a good and stress-free day, with more time to work on video editing for church and my Ethical ELA Quick Write poem today called the Arabic form by Marwa Helal. (And I didn’t get the Slides ready!)

If you haven’t heard of the poetry going on over at Ethical ELA, you should check it out. In April, we will write a poem each day. I started in 2020, and it has been great for my soul. (Thank you, Glenda!) Learn more and subscribe here.

Yo-Yo Teaching Today

Day 16

Today I had to get to school at 6:45 for a Covid test, which is required for all teachers every day they are in school. It was self-administered, and we did it in socially-distant small groups at a time for those of us who were just learning how. Next time we can do it on our own. Mine was negative. That’s good.

Then I went to period 1, where grade 11 students presented their social media platform creations, which had to be designed according to the audience they surveyed and studied. It was fun to get to see the passion with which they created and shared. Sometimes after a presentation, a group would ask me if I would want to install their app. I wasn’t sure if my enthusiastic yes was a positive for a teen or a negative!

Next I ran home, had a snack and did my first yo-yo swing to get ready for my grade 1 tutoring small group. We had scavenger hunts for red items, outgrown items, something that rhymes with blue. We listened for rhyming words, clapped together word parts and made compound words and other phonological awareness activities, and then we took an exercise brain break while we tried to read number words.  We had a dance break, marched, bowed, jumped and flew like Superman.

This is such a fun brain break. Click on the image or the link here to go to this and more on the Minds in Bloom blog post.

Then yo-yo back to grade 11 presentations on Zoom and dealing in the chat box with students who were unprepared or had conflicts with their team–issues that they should have dealt with sooner than in class.

The day proceeded like a yo-yo, which I’m glad I don’t do on a regular basis. I think I only have two more Tuesdays like this!

Our Trip to the Embassy

Day 15

Yesterday my husband and I had an appointment at the U.S. Embassy. We booked the first available appointment two weeks before. We each needed to sign a document and have them notarized.

Yesterday we left ourselves 40 minutes to get to the Embassy, which was about ten minutes away. Sure enough, we walked up to the gate and pulled out our passports, papers to be signed, and appointment verification. Then he looked at me and asked about my appointment. Oops, we thought. We only have one appointment. “May I go with him?” I asked.

“I’ll talk to my supervisor. In the meantime, you can wait in your car until five minutes before your appointment.”

“Yes, sir,” my husband said to this first person we met.

We waited and sat in the car and began to notice the details of the Embassy, which looks like a military base under protection. Rolls and rolls of razor wire on every perimeter. We wondered if it looks like our U.S. Capitol these days. Why is America so afraid? we thought aloud. We know about many of the experiences in the world that have made us afraid. It’s also related to power. Powerless countries, it seemed to us, don’t have to live at the same level of fear as we do.

We went back to the gate at 8:55 a.m. There was a new man there, probably the supervisor, who was very polite and thanked us for waiting. He said we could proceed with our one appointment, instead of two. He pointed across a lane to a ramp up to a sidewalk that had a rope barrier along the right side and a wall border on the left. I marched right up the ramp, took a 90-degree right turn, trying to follow his orders precisely. My husband, on the other hand, cut diagonally across the lane to an opening in the rope ten meters down. What? I thought!

When we caught up, I said, “You better be careful. I feel like someone is sitting in a guard tower ready to shoot us if we take a wrong turn.” I’m sure I was overly-anxious and exaggerating, but it felt all very strange and barren and foreign and cold.

We walked and walked, about the length of a soccer field to another right turn. We went into a small airport-like security system. We emptied our pockets, putting everything in a bin. These were scanned, then we walked through the scanner. We were also wanded this way and that, even though nothing beeped when we walked through. Finally, we were given a tag to pick up our things later. We were allowed to keep our passports and the papers we needed signing. Oh, yes, and my husband’s wallet so he could pay $50 each for the notary’s work.

We came out of that room and finally saw the Embassy building. We took a wrong turn to go up a set of stairs, but we were being watched. Fortunately, we didn’t get shot. Instead, we were politely shown where we missed our turned and escorted back.

We went inside. The three windows looked like the way prisoners talk to visitors with thick glass and microphones. However, it was also like a bank teller with a little doorway to slide our papers and passports inside. We got to take our masks off for a bit to assure him that we were the same people on our passports. Then he notarized our signatures, and we were off.

We backtracked our same steps as we picked up our belongings. The whole time took about twenty minutes.

Everyone was so professional and helpful. And really we didn’t see any guns. (Although I suspect there were some there, out of our eyesight.) Another thing that might be interesting, the only American we encountered was the notary public who witnessed our signatures. The other workers were all ex-patriates.

Of course, there are no photos in this post because our phones were not allowed on the premises.

A Puzzling Ring

Day 14

Last night we were in a jewelry store looking for a wedding band for my husband who keeps inadvertently throwing his away. It has become too big for him and since it’s the weight of a behemoth, he keeps shaking it into the trash can.

While we were finding a nice tungsten band for him, my eye caught sight of the puzzle rings. “Oh,” I said, “That reminds of of when I was a kid. I had one with 12 wire-thin bands. I loved that thing, and it was easy to figure out.”

I began trying them on, and then he weighed the one I liked to see how much the silver would cost. He gave us a two-for-one offer, and I bought a new ring. That is really unlike me. Maybe it’s because during the pandemic I stopped wearing earrings, so I needed a little bling.

My picture, so I would remember how to put it together later. Little did I know!

It was wired together with a fine wire, twisted on the outside. It would would have been worse than having a cat claw on my palm if I left it there. The shopkeeper kept trying to sand it down and make it smoother for me so I could keep it on. It just got more deadly. I thought it was a senseless suggestion to leave the wire on there. “It’s a puzzle ring! I want to see it in pieces.” Finally, after lots of convincing he helped me get the wire unfastened and removed. Now I had a puzzle in my hand. The shopkeeper was appalled. Of course, I had no idea how to put it back together, so on the way home I alternately tried to solve the puzzle while walking or wore one of the bands on my finger, while the others danced along with my arm swings.

When I got home, I realized this was beyond my memory and expertise. I had a vague recollection of me and 12-band puzzle being easy and making sense, whereas my cousin’s ring with fewer bands did not. I began watching videos and slowly step-by-step I got all the way to Step 2 before bed.

Today I woke up and went back to solving it, first thing. Even though I only had one hour before I had to be somewhere, I knew I wouldn’t rest until I got it. I made it to Step 3, but something was always wrong. So I didn’t quite get that third band down properly, but I realized I was on the way, I just knew it! I watched more videos. Pause. Work. Start video. Pause. Twist and turn. Start over because I lost Step 1 and Step 2. Watch the video again. Realize that on the video, the wide angle band goes first and on top, but consider that with my ring it is the opposite–the sharper angle goes first. Try. Fail. Switch back to the way the video told me because what do I know, anyway.

Then we had to drive to the U.S. Embassy to have our signatures notarized. I showed my husband proudly on the way down the elevator! Look Step 3, solid!

I was driving, so I had to wait. We got there early so I worked another 30 minutes because–God forbid that we would get to go inside the Embassy before our appointment. We had to stay in the car and wait. No luck with the ring in that 30 minutes, though.

I came home and said, “OK, this is it. I am getting to Step 4 now! I will get this done today, or I will still be sitting here when Jesus returns.” All other work, messages, and plans went on hold, and fortunately I forgot my phone in the car, so that couldn’t be a distraction.

Yes, ten minutes later I did it.

Success! And when did my hands turn into my mother’s?

The God Who Hears and Sees Me

Day 13

Yesterday a friend and I had the privilege of meeting a young woman, who with her three roommates had a house fire a few days ago. Fortunately it was in the afternoon when the air conditioner started the fire. Many neighbors were able to see the smoke and warn everyone to get out. She had been asleep in one of the rooms on the ground floor.

She shared the details with us–about the children let down from second story windows and the many neighbors who were there to catch them. That all the children and adults got out without injury or smoke inhalation. She was so thankful that God had given her another life to live. The idea that God allows bad things to happen to us to make us stronger came up. They asked me what I thought about that.

I was happy to speak. All I could do was tell a story, though.

Hagar was a slave who was given to her old master as a second wife in order to have a baby, so her old mistress, who appeared to be barren, could have children. When she became pregnant her mistress started abusing her and made life unbearable enough that Hagar ran away into the wilderness.

Pretty bleak story of misery and loss for this young woman.

Enter God. God found her, called her by name, and asked where she had been and where she was going. The Lord told her the baby she was carrying was a son, and she would name him Ishmael, which means God hears, for the Lord had heard her misery.

She was told to go back to her mistress, and knowing she was heard and seen by God, she did it. She gave the Lord who spoke to her a name: “You-are-the-God-who-sees-me” she called God because she had seen the one who sees her.

I then explained what I believe. The world is broken, but God hears and sees and redeems us out of the brokenness.

Pain and misery are hard to make sense of, but Hagar’s story gives me hope.