A Month of Poetry 2021

Day 30 – Congratulations! with Jairus, Christine and Josie

Incendiary Introspection: Musings of Her Aimless Anger

Passion, fierce and spirited
Detonator of dynamite
Skipping stones across silent waters
On the mark
My combustible kindling
Looks to ignite.
Peers into conversations,
Dumpsters, everywhere–
Ready with a lit match,
Fierce and fiery,
Burning through
the mundane,
the righteous
and the idiot
with equal flare and fervor

“Where’s my speaker cord, Denise?”
“How should I know? Why are you asking me?”

I need to speak to Denise
and remind her
Of my power to explode, inflame
and burn through relationships.
I should remind her that she hopes for
Passion, fierce and spirited
against intolerance and evil.
Detonator of dynamite
Skipping stones across the silent waters of apathy
How she’s proud when
the flames are harnessed and
accountability and justice occur,
When rights are wronged, and
Unfair rules are reimagined
But then she lights my fire
with random hot-tempered explosions
against her loved ones

I am the one who happily and
promiscuously throws
my flames with aimless abandon.
But she longs for more
precision in pelting
profuse pyrotechnics
at inexcusable injustices.

Day 29 – Environmental Voices Poems with Susie Morice

This is a Golden Shovel poem using part of this quote from Samuel Hall Young, who attributes it to John Muir in his book: Alaska Days with John Muir, chapter 7:237 (1915)Keep close to Nature’s heart, yourself; and break clear away, once in a while, and climb a mountain or spend a week in the woods. Wash your spirit clean from the earth-stains of this sordid, gold seeking crowd in God’s pure air. It will help you in your efforts to bring to these men something better than gold. Don’t lose your freedom and your love of the Earth as God made it.”

What we keep
Is revealed in our close
Connections to
Our blessed oasis. Nature’s
Sacrifice, the whisper of her heart…
Calculates her capacity to carry on. She shivers–Wash
The carbon off your
Knife blade, murderer. Your spirit
must be clean.

Day 28 – How to Say It with Katie Turner

Coat hanger sculpture covered with painted canvas. One side with a starry sky and the other side with a sunflower
Katie’s Sculpture

A Letter to Katie from Her Artwork

Thank you for creating me back when seventh grade was a terror and you were quietly ready to fly back to Arizona where your parents had pulled you away from the only home you remembered. When you created me, sunflowers were shining in your center even if not in your circumstances yet.

You bent that hanger that used to hold your hoodie into one giant ear of understanding for the outcasts, the voiceless, and the refugees–all of us who longed to be counted, even if among the dusty.

Then you covered me with your mom’s pantyhose (of all things) and took away my shame by quickly brushing each square inch with a chromatic makeover right out of southern France. You, whose mother demanded to know why your seventh grade report cards were sprinkled with Cs, painted me with a swirling and dancing starry sky. The cypresses mourned the pitfalls of your unsure future. But paired with those uncertainties of the night was a sun of hope right in the curve of my listening ear. It said everything about what you held dear, what you longed for and believed in: a future.

You, who were to stay and keep learning and growing here in this provincial town.

You, who would keep growing a lifetime of compassionate love and  justice.

You, who make the world a better place as an activist, artist, and writer.

You, who would practice your French and independence by working  on an organic farm in Normandy, sleeping in a barn bedroom, bravely sharing your walls with scritch-scratching farm mice.

You, who moved from Iowa to Illinois to Missouri to Minnesota, while your parents were 7,000 miles away.

You, who have crossed fluctuant oceans and come back again and again to love.

You, who this very weekend with Thomas will go back to the town where you painted me.

Back to the birth place of your dearest friend since seventh grade, for whom you will have a baby shower.

Back to this dear friend who introduced you to her college friend, Thomas.

Day 27 – Secret Connoisseur with Karen Workun

A Fresh Fruit Atlas

Fruits from every land
Fill ships passing through
the Strait of Hormuz,
Destined for our produce stands.
I am a fresh fruit connoisseur.
Covered with playful filaments, the red rambutan
Nestles a smooth and sweet pearly gift from Thailand.
The Fuji apple from China, the size of a softball,
Is as sweet and crisp as a new spring day.
The tough rich purple of the mangosteen
Opens to show its flowery frosted petals from Indonesia.
Succulent neon navel naranja from Spain
is like opening my Christmas stocking every day.
Mangos from all over the world,
but the ones from Egypt win–
Green and dully camouflaged,
Creamy texture, color of marmalade
luscious and honeyed sweetness within.
The Elaichi banana from Kerala
Fits in the palm of my hand
and tastes like a firm bite of Eden.
The golden kiwi from Italy is like joyful sunshine.
Syrupy sweet melon from Iran,
the dripping juice as sticky as honey.
Yellow Rosemary pear from South Africa,
Delicate white donut peach from Jordan
Long juicy grapes from India,
Tart, sweet pineapple from the Philippines,
I could go on and on.
I am a fresh fruit connoisseur.

Day 26 – Who Do I Want to Become with Hanna Al-Jibouri

Who I Want to Become

Remnant of hope
pieced together with creation
experiences of love
and doing my best

Compiler of circumstances
Quietly reflective
Without fluster or flurry

Unsnarling the mess I’ve made
of my nest and rebuilding,
disseminating love and hope

Hope giver from the remnant left

Day 25 – The Labels That I Wear with Ellen Stackable

Much Afraid
Patch Eye, Pirate
Skinny, Tomboy, Boy
Liar, Reeder’s Digest
Critical, spiteful, ashamed
Self-conscious, inferior, weak
Labels glued on by me and others
Peeled off and traded, God’s grace at work
Denny, friend, youngest sister, daughter
Aunt, softball player, creator
College graduate, teacher
Chief learner, intimate, free
Courageous, powerful
Christian, wife, mother

Day 24 – Snapshots in Time with Susan Ahlbrand

A Villanelle

Can we snap a picture, one asked?
Sisters by marriage, by choice, by birth
Hopes for tomorrow, hurts from the past.

Together again at long glad last
Unperceived by the world, our joy on earth.
Can we snap a picture? one asked.

Memories of broken promises recast.
Forgetting behind for this day’s worth
Hopes for tomorrow, hurts from the past.

My eldest’s wedding stole in, too fast
(Just yesterday it was when I gave birth.)
Can we snap a picture, one asked?

These sisters all came, in love unsurpassed.
Unafraid of the pain we may unearth.
Hopes for tomorrow, hurts from the past.

Love and forgiveness, newness amassed.
Put aside sadness and pain; choose mirth.
Can we snap a picture, one asked?
Hopes for tomorrow, hurts from the past.

Day 23 – Perspective Poem with Garin, Sarah, and Noah from OSU

Inspired by a quote in this poem Homesick: A Plea for our Planet
“How do we not mold our hearts after the first spruce tree who raised her hand and begged to be cut into piano keys so the elephants could keep their tusks?”  ~Andrea Gibson

I Did. Now It’s Your Turn, People
A Roundel
(After Andrea Gibson)

Mold yourselves after me?
I am sharply dressed,
But I am just a tree.
You? You aren’t guests.

What you’ve done has messed
Up our home. Don’t you agree?
Elephant isn’t the only one stressed.

Brains and hearts hold the key.
Stop and let us take rest.
Do it, so we can all be free.
You? You aren’t guests.

Day 22 – A Poem for…with Araceli, Deanna and Michelle at OSU

Josh who throws hope around like bells
ringing clear and bright
and asks how everyone’s doing,
who is a tall lighthouse and a shady forest
who is a peaceful hike in Saudi
and a good run on the beach
whose kind walls are made of faith
Josh who listens patiently
as we sit on the cushy chairs in Caribou
and I list all the reasons I can’t do my job.
Josh who believes in me,
sits with his sweet mocha untouched as he
enthusiastically tells of the latest research
and what books he wants to lend me from the
overflowing shelves in his office.
Josh who plans for success for all students
who gently high fives the little ones
who brings jokes for the teens
Josh who disciplines with sharp self-control
who astutely initiates staffing changes
who introduces us to literary giants and
gives us all wigs to put on as we contemplate
our Wildly Important Goal for the year
Josh who plans for success for all of us
whose big ideas surprise, scare, and scintillate
Whose presence brings comfort during conflict,
wisdom when we didn’t know we needed it,
and identifies strength
when we didn’t know we had it.
Josh who throws hope around like bells
ringing clear and bright
is leaving us,
Josh who prays for us
and with us
is leaving us,
Josh whose love and joy fill the school
is leaving us,
and his hope and prayers and love and joy–
his legacy–
will linger after
he’s gone.
Godspeed, Josh.

Day 21 – Haiku-Ode with Madison, Sarah, and Brittany (OSU secondary English education majors)

Chauvin Trial Verdict Day
To our future, on
Accountability day
One small step forward

And may it lead to
Giant leaps ahead for a
More perfect union

We fly to the moon
But so far we can’t keep our
Creed to all people

Created equal
with rights–Life, Liberty and

Keep laboring for
Liberty and Justice for

Not yet, but coming.
George Floyd will be remembered
New wave of justice

Day 20 – Duality Poem with Brooke, Bailey and Ryan (OSU Education Department preservice teachers)

Regular rotation
Moonth after moonth
Decrescent, increscent
Full wanes to youth

Unsung in radiance
High hopes are sunk
Never to be a beacon
How, when so shrunk?

Linked, but disunited.
Moon: reflecting only
the Light of our galaxy
When veiled, so lonely

Tsunami of shine
Moon unable to refine
As bright as the Sun,
Brilliance defined

Day 19 – Summertime Poem with Soshi, Betsy, and Abigail (OSU Secondary English teacher candidates)

The constant conversation:
How many more days?
We’ll leave the day after school’s out.

Finally the day arrives.
We get up early and
climb into the car.
Positioned on the back of the front seats
are the cloth slings my mother sewed,
each painted with our names.
They are filled with snacks
we got to choose ourselves,
plus brand new coloring and puzzle books
and a fresh box of crayons
Late that afternoon we stop half-way
at a cheap motel in St. George, Utah,
or maybe Cedar City if we made good time
The next day we get on the road
again early. Our travel bags and
snacks help the day pass
And that evening we arrive in
time for dinner in
Lander, Wyoming.
Here will be our summer home–
six weeks in
delight and wonder,
outdoor exploring,
Yellowstone camping,
sandstone carving,
swimming in the public pool,
even library visits
are magical here.

The forgotten conversation: How many more days?
Wait! What do you mean it’s time to go home!?

Day 18 – Wire Sculpture Writing Poem with Jennifer Jowett

Carrot cake:
the recipe of
births, weddings,
baptisms of
Shredded carrots
freckling the kitchen
So many fluorescent flecks
threatening to spoil the
into the meeting at 6:50 p.m.
Bahrain time,
8:50 a.m. Pacific,
for this
pandemic party
Carrot cakes
stealthily baked
with love
in tiny
aluminum pans
delivered to
to celebrate
the anniversary of
the birth of my beloved–
this man,
so good
and kind
and passionate–
with carrot caky goodness

Day 17 – Living Traits Poem With Gayle Sands and Annie

Wisdom was born eons ago
in a small town called Adversity. She has
the bruises and scars
to show she is a graduate of
UWS–the University of the Way of Suffering.
When she gets to an impasse,
Wisdom braves the decision,
she persists and either turns back,
retracing her steps,
or finds a new route.
Wisdom splinters
the status quo
with her fierce and
piercing questions.
Wisdom is married
to knowledge. Though she
holds all the degrees,
she doesn’t assert herself
against pretenders. Wisdom
doesn’t always
outshine the imposters,
but she does outlive them.
Wisdom kisses love, joy, and peace.
Wisdom dines on patience, kindness, and goodness.
Wisdom wears faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.
Wisdom is
as quiet as a heartbeat,
as sweet as a hug after a loss,
and as gentle as a bell of mercy.
She listens more than she speaks,
but when she talks,
those close to her
sit up and listen and she spreads.
When necessary she thunderously
proclaims truth from the peaks
and topples over tables of injustice.
Wisdom leans on the
moral arc of the universe
and brings justice just a little nearer.

Day 16 – The Power of a Question with Angie Braaten

That question that haunts me to my very core,
the one I avoid.
The one that I shove back
into the depths of my ugly heart
And don’t let it surface.
But others dig deep and have been
doing so this week.

Susan inspired you yesterday.
Angie’s prompt reminded you today.
These and others have asked tough questions.
Why don’t you too, Denise?
Speak it, repent, reframe the question.
Not today. Maybe

Day 15 – Title Poem with Stefani Boutelier

Please read the poem first and then read my title below.

Lay out the table
A staging of a fable

Donkey deity in the desert
Matching pants and shirt

Pieces in a collection
Go in that direction

Arrange the type for print
Vinegar will keep the tint

Pick it up and make it right
A string of LED lights

Hunting dog points
Relocate bones and joints

Concrete gets hard
Groups that score in cards

Earth’s star sleeps
That camera pose keep

Part of a tennis match
A whole cohesive batch

Start a campfire
A car’s new tires

Get ready and into the blocks
All the tools in your box

Your heart yearns for that
A suit with a matching hat

Pieces played in the band
Moving the clock’s hands

Direction of the wind
Rows of teeth above your chin

Choose a wedding date
Fix the value at a rate

We could go on for days and days
There are more than four hundred ways

To use my little title word
Three letters–how absurd!

Title: Set

Day 14 – Hate, Outlived with Dr. Padma Venkatraman

Hate is the country with such a long scar
We dole out death sentences far
From courts of law
White power, our flaw
–Street-selling loose cigarettes, death
–Holding a sandwich taken as a threat, death
–Not signaling when moving to the right, death
–Using a bad twenty or having lofty height, death
–Going to the car wash with your new ride, death
–Eating ice cream where you abide, death
–Even sleeping in your own abode, death

Remember their names and the code:
Eric Garner
Casey Goodson
Sandra Bland
George Floyd
Daunte Wright
Botham John
Breonna Taylor

The code of hatred: White supremacy
Hope: Dismantle the enemy

My inspiration came from this Instagram post I saw this morning

Day 13 – What We Take and What’s Been Taken with Andy Schoenborn

Yes, I do want a chocolate-coated,
date-filled cookie, thank you.

Maamouls–a Ramadan gift from
my husband’s co-worker.
I take the wrapper off
and bite into the buttery goodness.
I take another.
How about some chocolate-covered hazelnuts?
Turkish delight and pasta flora?
Gifts of love from my friend.
The pounds I lost last year
are staging a comeback.

The year has taken a toll.

Day 12 – Writing Beside with Penny Kittle

The earthquake trembles under my feet,
not from the San Andreas,
but from my own faults.
Remembering when my seven-year-old
“embarrasses” me at Costco.
The middle-aged woman beside us–
intent on rifling through the mom tees–
hasn’t even noticed the child’s faux pas.
(What actually is the little girl’s blunder?)
But because Mom insists,
she apologizes.
Everyone awkwardly
walks away.
I’ve seen my faults shock and shake.

Day 11 – Day Poem with Scott McCloskey

Ode to Grilled Cheese
How glorious are your
strings of goodness,
golden globs of
nestled inside.
thick slices of
buttered and sizzling
in the pan,
crispy and brown,
becoming one with the
You are a wonder.

Day 10 – The Skinny with Denise Krebs


I winced but smiled with the second dose.
With the second dose, I smiled but winced.

Day 9 – Haiku with David Duer

Needed to survive a world
Blind to crucial needs

Day 8 – Things I Didn’t Know I Loved Poem with Barb Elder

On Noticing

Today I noticed details–
Like the smell of the cardamom
And saffron in my milky tea,
And the way the young mother
Stooped over again to retrieve
The blue binky for the
delighted warm baby,
who was the clear leader
in this game of fetch.

I noticed how much
I don’t like to wear lipstick, but not
Until I was able to stop
And put on a mask instead.
My one lipstick, already years old,
may last another decade at this rate.

I was never able to notice how much I liked to cook,
until I moved into my home last March.
It’s the same flat I had slept in for six years,
but I finally began to live here.
Now I cook, I plan, I write, I read,
I smile, I laugh, I listen, I pray
in this place.
I’m no longer a whirlwind of anxiety
about the next
service, or
for which I need to run out the door.
I never knew how much
I needed more peace in my living,
But now I know.

I never knew how much I appreciated
noticing these things until I joined
other teacher-poets in this
#verselove community
in the April of Covid, 2020.
I didn’t know how much
I loved poetry,
But now I know.
Thank you, friends.

Day 7 – Mirror Poem with Kim Johnson

Psalm 58 – A Prayer for God to Punish the Wicked (GNT)
Do you rulers ever give a just decision?
Do you judge everyone fairly?
No! You think only of the evil you can do,
and commit crimes of violence in the land.

Evildoers go wrong all their lives;
they tell lies from the day they are born.
They are full of poison like snakes;
they stop up their ears like a deaf cobra,
which does not hear the voice of the snake charmer,
or the chant of the clever magician.

Break the teeth of these fierce lions, O God.
May they disappear like water draining away;
may they be crushed like weeds on a path.
May they be like snails that dissolve into slime;
may they be like a baby born dead that never sees the light.
Before they know it, they are cut down like weeds;
in his fierce anger God will blow them away
while they are still living.

The righteous will be glad when they see sinners punished;
they will wade through the blood of the wicked.
People will say, “The righteous are indeed rewarded;
there is indeed a God who judges the world.”

My 21st Century Mirror of Vengeance

I learned something about God from this poem,
placed in the good book, and read for eons.
God must have invited
people to speak their truth,
not to hide their emotions,
“break their teeth”
“blow them away like weeds”
“dissolve them like salt on a slug”
there was no need to
take vengeance in
their own hands and do violence.
“Give it to me,” God said, “I’ll take it from here.”
So, I wait and pray:
We’ve got some unjust and evil
people with power
who still need their teeth broken, God.

Day 6 – A World Trying to Deal Poem with Margaret Simon

I couldn’t get the photo I wrote about out of my mind all day. It’s the last one on the Glimpses of Grief and Resilience article in National Geographic. “This picture reminds me that domestic violence doesn’t start with bruises on the skin, domestic violence begins with words and takes many forms,” says photographer Irina Unruh. (I also alluded to Jenny in Forrest Gump, Jeremiah 6:14, and a reprise of this week’s shadow and mask poems.)

Hang On
Pray with me
fly, fly
away from here

Poison pulsing through the air,
Trampling and suffocating,
Cruelly wounded by words,
only to have them
dressed with
“Sorry” bandages.
“Let’s go for a drive, baby,
you know I don’t mean it.”
He speaks peace
where there is no peace

Masked by the thing with wings
Little glimpses of hope
Glittering in the sunshine
Come soon, Promise,
For she is still
Hidden in the shadow
Of the pandemic


Day 5 – We Wear the Mask Poem with Anna J. Small Roseboro

A Pantoum

I wore the mask of a bully
It hid my cheeks and shaded my eyes,—
I couldn’t speak truth to myself or you
I tormented the weaker ones

It hid my cheeks and shaded my eyes,—
It covered my heart, squeezed out love
I tormented the weaker ones
Fear’s seed grew into deplorable domination

It covered my heart, squeezed out love
I wore the mask of a bully
Fear’s seed grew into deplorable domination
I couldn’t speak truth to myself or you

Day 4 – Say to Them Poem with Allison Berryhill

Speech to the Spenders; Speech to Those Sinking Our Planet
Say to them,
Say to the private profit proliferators,
the conspicuous consumers,
the I-can’t-live-withouts,
and the empty souls needing something,
yet settling for stuff,
“More is not always better.”
Buying that thing will not satisfy your longings.

Try thrifting or bartering.
Wear out the one you already have.
Dig deep and see what’s really missing.
Free yourself by giving freely.

Day 3 – I Don’t Want to Be Poem with Glenda Funk

I Don’t Want to Be a Porcelain Bowl
I don’t want to be a
bowl of porcelain–
pale, translucent
and fully fragile.
I don’t want to be displayed
shamelessly on a
shelf, waiting in the shadows,
perfect but untried.
Smooth and without character.

I want to be a Kintsugi bowl,
flawed and fully fractured,
but gold-veined–
beautiful in my brokenness.
Scars and wounds do not
imply defect, but they
are the rich
integration of
wounded suffering, and
rising empathy.
Even the author of
the Resurrection
unabashedly chose to
rise with
His scars on.

Today’s poem inspiration came from by a New York Times Opinion piece I read today called “Why Is Jesus Still Wounded After His Resurrection?

Kintsugi art by Martin Howard (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Day 2 – Bop Poem with Mo Daley

It is my middle name.
How can I wait
to do the important
’til in a tizzied state?
It is my constant shame.

When will I learn?

Videos to make
Cakes to bake
Projects to grade
Bills to be paid
Bops to write
Fights to fight
Bees to crochet
May Day! May Day!

When will I learn?

Probably never!
I need to embrace it,
Write the bop
and get on with
the first thing on the list
OK, here I go.

When will I learn?

Day 1 – Shadow Poetry with Stacey Joy

I’ve had George Floyd on my mind all week. I watched and read the transcript of his encounter with the police. He was scared, not scary. And then there was the Filipino-American who was attacked in New York. My God, save us. When Stacey shared the list of metaphorical shadows, I was drawn to this verse in Psalm 91, which has always been a favorite of mine. Yet, today I wonder if it’s easier for me to believe God’s protective wings cover me because I don’t have to fear for my life because of my color.

He who lives in the secret place of the Most High
Shall stay under the shadow of the Almighty. Psalm 91:1

Safe in
Direct and

How do people of color in these
divided states get
to that secret Safe place?
Away from knees on their necks
and hate crimes against their very personhood?
Is God there in Heaven’s
reach? Is there an Abode
for all? Create a just and verdant place, God,
shady with your big wings’ protection.
Stir up good trouble–
Direct distress for us who feel
worthy in our whiteness.
Bring new Omnipresent
Truth in Minneapolis and
beyond. Word of God,
shine in the darkness.

Today is April 1. It is the first day of National Poetry Month. I am excited to Write, Read and Care with a lot of other passionate teachers. I plan to write my first drafts here on this blog post, and then copy and paste it onto a comment on each day’s prompt at the Ethical ELA site.  Do please give it a try and join us!

My First 5-Day Quick Write

This month’s 5-Day Open Write at EthicalEla was led by Kim Johnson. Here are our poems for May.

I Remember

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.

Duplex Poem

What if we never make it back home?
Will the sky remain blue and the sea tranquil?

The sky will be blue and the sea tranquil.
And the hope in our souls will not be lost.

Hope and love and joy will not be lost.
Even if one of us gets sick and dies?

No, even if one or both get sick and die.
The flowers would flourish, birds will call

Remember the blossoms and birds will call
They won’t be susceptible to viruses

Our cells can be infected with viruses
Might Covid give our nation’s soul a cleansing?

Maybe, but I need my own soul’s cleansing.
It may be a deep journey to get back home.

The Way I Felt poem

The Way I Felt
when my dad died
was befuddled.

My dad was
a hundred miles away
taking a shower.

My mom and the young ones
were at Grandma’s house
for the weekend.

My sister and I stood
under the window
listening to a conversation
we were not invited to.

Mom and Grandma sobbed.
“He was so young.”

My sister mouthed,

Mom and Grandma
drove away with her brother
Uncle Bruce and Aunt Lola.

We were left with
Aunt Lola’s sister.

“Aunt” Dorothy
would have to do
to break the news to us
and take us home.

Turn From inspired by Whitman’s Song of Myself, Stanza 32


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)

The Right Words at the Right Time

“Congratulations, life will get tougher!”
Title of fear at my high school
Baccalaureate service
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

God found me in my angst
And placed me in peace

Click here to participate in the 5-Day #QuickWrite poetry challenges.

A Month of Poems #VerseLove2020

I wrote poetry with a group at Ethical ELA. The teachers and other writers are amazingly supportive. In this running April 2020 post, I added each day’s poem throughout the month. The poetry challenge will continue five days each month beginning 16-20 May 2020.

Day 30: Congratulations! A last poem
A blitz poem to thank the #Verselove community

Writing with #Verselove
Thank you, mentors
Thank God for writing
Writing poems
Writing hearts
Hearts of longing
Hearts of healing
Healing traumas
Healing brokenness
Brokenness once unspoken
Brokenness poured out in poetry
Poetry of triumph
Poetry of laughter
Laughter in knowing
Laughter in tears
Tears of renewal
Tears of cleansing
Cleaning from old hurts
Cleansing like therapy
Therapy of self-awareness
Therapy of celebration
Celebration of spoken words
Celebration of written words
Words like treasures
Words like flowers
Flowers of magic
Flowers of moods
Moods to relay
Moods to wander
Wander not aimlessly
Wander to ponder
Ponder hindrances
Ponder existence
Existence of whispers
Existence of universal truths
Truths to craft in form
Truths to craft freely
Freely speaking our hearts
Freely reading one another
Another day passed
Another poem written
Written in quiet
Written in embrace
Embrace of new friends
Embrace of sure future
Future of hope
Future of #verselove
#Verselove sustains
#Verselove restores

And another thankful poem I wrote earlier in the month:

An Ode to #Verselove Poets


To my friends:
When I write these it doesn’t mean
I don’t love your poems,
that I’m not truly touched.
I am.

To myself:
But come on, Denise,
that’s all you write.
You are 62 years old.
Learn some precise language
for speaking about what you mean.
How about using a thesaurus?

aced spelling

got me dealing with my own feelings

wisdom from you, my mentors

composing that closing

With your words
my soul you’re jabbing
my heart you’re stabbing
my mind you’re grabbing
my eyes I’m dabbing

Your poems are cathartic
for the arctic
sea in me
reminding me of open wounds
yet to be restored when
given your remedy

Day 29: My Writing Process with Jessica and Kole

A Limerick of My Writing Journey
Wield a half millimeter black roller ball
Indite in my journal, whatever befall
Mind focused on prompt
Diversions I’ll stomp
And tomorrow I’ll pen an overhaul

A List Poem About Why That Limerick is a Lie
While writing it, I…
…answered a teacher query about post-Eid assessment changes
…recorded four Flipgrid video responses
…initiated family trivia night
…answered six What’s App texts
…and two phone calls
…warmed up and ate leftover machboos
…browsed The Washington Post
…watched my husband play a video game
…worked on my genius hour presentation

time…none like the present
8:00 a.m., noon, 3:00 p.m., 8:00 p.m., midnight, 3:00 a.m.

tools…any or all
my rollerball is probably lost, so grab a pencil or a conference freebie ball point or my computer

topics…prompts and non-prompts
letters, emails, recipes, students’ feedback, texts, poems, blog posts, lesson plans

In reality, I cannot articulate my writing process.

Day 28: With Susie Morice and the morning after

Them: Too much experience, grad degree
That puts you here on the salary scale
Me: Can we negotiate?

After several interviews like this
I was frustrated, feeling useless
What else would I do?

My mom’s message to me,
a still, small voice,
restoring me and giving me hope:
“You are a treasure waiting to be discovered.”
Like a fortune cookie with a purpose.

Soon after, I received a teaching job,
fully negotiable
for the little rural Catholic school
that needed teachers, even Protestants,
and couldn’t afford to pay much–
a junior high ELA teacher
with experience and an MA
The morning after, and for seven years
before coming to Bahrain,
I felt like a treasure

Day 27 – Anna J. Small Roseboro and Brother Acrostic

Big brother
Responsible, military
Officer, sheriff, CHP captain
Taught me to swim by throwing me in
He was a father fill-in and when I moved across the country for a boy, he
Even offered me a return ticket just in case
Remembering him today

Baby brother
Responsible, teacher and
Officer in the union
Though we caterwauled and clashed in free-for-alls,
He finally grew bigger, so I stopped beating him up. Today, we
Enjoy friendship and fellowship
Rejoicing today that I have him

Bookend brothers–or the capital letter and period of our
Reed sibling sentence.
One, the oldest twin, the other,
The sweet and welcome baby boy after five girls.
Helpers in their careers and families. He was
Elder by 18 years, so
Rick had a special bond with Keith, but
Suddenly, in 2012, Rick’s heart failed and our sentence faltered.

Day 26 – Sarah Donavan and spoken word poetry

Four Things I’d Say to People Who Are Afraid of Their Spice Cabinet

1 – I used to be too, using cinnamon and basil and oregano and salt and pepper. 

When I felt exotic I’d add a pinch of cumin and a smidgen of chili powder. Nothing louder than what you’d find in a steaming bowl of chowder, though.

2 – Then I got older and bolder and experimented. I always loved to eat savory, flavory dishes, so why not recreate them in my kitchen? I can try. And try I do now because you see.

3 – My spices are becoming a touchstone for me. I look in my cupboard and see so many jars of hope, flavors brimming, ideas bubbling, whole leaves, pods, seeds, some crushed and powdered, as the hours are in my life. My time is limited in this place, in Bahrain where the flavors are exquisite and the spices are pennies. My time is limited on this earth. My time is limited in the kitchen, So,

4 – I want to use every hour, every recipe, every moment, every meal to the fullest. To the tastiest. To the joyful hope of a new beginning.

Day 25 – Jennifer Guyour-Jowett on first memories

Whose Job is More Important?
the first time I was confronted
with the idea that
I was half an orphan
the assignment was an essay
in third grade
“Whose job is more important–Mother’s or Father’s?”
Well, I penned my composition,
Of course, it was my mother’s job
that was most consequential,
most conspicuous at least

  • sweeping
  • cooking
  • making a coat for me at Christmas

At that time, I had no idea who
had picked up the pieces
of my missing father’s job.
Yes, it was Mother’s job
I compelled and convinced myself
What else could a girl without a father conclude?

Day 24 – Emily Yamasaki and a number poem

7 Years
(with inspiration from lines in Emily Yamasaki’s “Dear Emily”)

7 years
Jacob and Rachel–
My husband’s favorite analogy
“Seven years I had to wait for Denise”
Now I know what I didn’t know then.
I could have given myself advice:

At 18 Keith is going to ask you to marry him
Let him down easy
Not yet
You both still have growing up to do
And in 7 years time
you’ll ask him back
Standing in his kitchen
on the 14th of February
He, sick in his brown fuzzy bath robe
You, saying I’m ready

We’re going on four decades now
We’ve said over the years without those 7 years
We would not be together today.
7 years became a gift of a lifetime

Day 23 – Shaun Ingalls and Carl Sandburg

Springtime to Summer in Manama

Here is a season that knows it is going to lose the fight.
One day a breeze blows in the twilight,
almost breathing a bit of chill from the Saudi peninsula.
Another one has a humid breeze from the south east
soaking up the water from the Arabian Gulf,
pouring it on the island.
Not in rain, but in oppressive heaviness.
In April there is an angry dance,
One, lovely springtime weather, warm and welcome.
The dance partner, summer day, is a bully–stifling and scorching.
Dominant and tormenting summer.
It’s coming.
An unbreakable building, building.
Heat dome lying heavy and unmovable.
Over the Middle East there are no Canadian cold fronts
providing relief for a day or two
Summer in all its oppression will win

Day 22 – With Kaitlyn and Ryan, a letter to my 15-year-old self

Dear Denise,

At fifteen, you will be in grade 10, with a new stylish haircut and feeling on top of the world.
You will be dreamily thinking about Steve T. and John B. while you sit in accounting class.
Really, why are you in that class? Get up now and go sign up for Algebra.

At fifteen you will dance with Steve, but that’s all, so quit daydreaming.
You will try out for cheerleading, but you won’t make it.
So, pick yourself up and know that everything will be OK.

At fifteen, you will think you want to follow in your sisters’ footsteps and be a secretary.
It’s okay, you haven’t had many role models, but believe it or not, you will get a BA and an MA.
So, get to that Algebra class and take some AP courses while you’re at it.

At fifteen you will think the world revolves around your reputation at school.
Don’t worry, everyone else thinks the same thing and aren’t paying attention to you.
Know that this too will pass and there is another world where all that doesn’t matter.

At fifteen you think you know it all.
At fifteen you don’t know much.
At fifteen you will be forgiven.
Carry on, you make it to 16 and even 61.
One day at a time.

Love and grace,
Your older self

Day 21 – With Sarah J. Donovan, an Earth Day Ovillejo

Compost Stew
Hey, friend, what are you up to?
Compost stew
Compost stew? Oh, that makes me smile.
Yes, not a pile
Organic bits simmering true.
It’s a stew.
Sent fresh from Mama Earth to you.
Fertile soil, a promise redeemed
“Be fruitful, tender earth,” God beamed.
Compost stew! Yes, not a pile. It’s a stew.

Day 20 – With Annie and Abigail and Richard Siken’s “Detail of the Woods”

Detail of Manama

Where have you been? I’ve been searching.

The cerulean, peacock, and lapis are mirrors of grace.
The flaxen, latte, and honey are granite ready to be born again.

The tan and turquoise colored skyscrapers are melting.
They are melting into the sand and sea.

Sculpture, the art of the intelligence.
Pablo, what did you know?

In the following is grace again.
In the following is hope again.

The beast longs to escape the sculptor’s knife.

Day 19 – Allison Berryhill and “Killing the Rooster” with Sheryl L. Nelms

Rony’s Requiem

Aunt Jo took the match,
drew it against the fence post,
and launched it.

With precision
like a tiny bomb,
It rocketed into the straw bed
where Rony lay in repose

Her stiff equine figure
outlined against the glowing
crackling golden frame of chaff

She was soon joining the flames
at first a perfunctory
fizzling, sizzling
Then soaring, imploring,
and, once her fat fueled the fire,
bellowing and cursing

The charring of flesh and hide
(hide once covered in hair of Mahogany bay)
twisted our insides
nauseated us
caused us to relocate the requiem
to a tolerable distance

My animal-loving sister
eulogized Rony with her tears
and I sat and waited

Day 18 – Susan Ahlbrand inspired by Joni Mitchell’s “Both Sides Now”
This was the first day that I couldn’t even devote 20 minutes to my poem, so I composed a haiku on my way to school. I’m coming back to this prompt, though. It’s a good one. Thanks, Susan.

in these virus days
increased layers of litter
greet and expose us

Day 17 – Kim Johnson and “Line for the Fortune Cookie” by Frank O’Hara

Fortunes for the Oval Office

You will watch The Lord of the Rings trilogy and see your story’s end come about miserably.

You will always be hated and last you’ll forever be rated.

You are not the emperor; put on some damn clothes.

Your “reign” is temporal, everyone but you knows.

Take off “my precious,” you prostituted power pilferer.

Next year you will move south and your country will get back on kilter.

You will learn you are not above the law.

Your kind of pride goes before a fall.

Cast not pearls before swine.

Hire not those who lack a spine.

If you released them from their NDAs, what would your grown children have to say?

You’ll reap what you’ve sown.

Clean your house starting with you alone.

Narcissistic personality disorder is an illness; face it in the holy stillness.

Day 16 – Kim Johnson and “Having a Coke With You” by Frank O’Hara

Having a pot of karak tea with you
is more comforting than
the sound and depth of James’ Earl Jones’ voice
the feeling and chills I get when someone plays with my hair
a frosty glass of water after working in the yard
cozying up with a warm, fluffy blanket
the sound of rain, gentle on a tin roof
the smells of fresh bread and rich earth
the throaty full crooning of Gordon Lightfoot
the sight of seeing you come through the door
and joining me at the table in Naseef’s
(when we no longer need to have virtual tea parties)
which is why I’m telling you about it

Day 15 – Acrostic with Analogy by Margaret Simon

Today is to tomorrow as
Ice is to water as
Moments are to eons as
Ephemerals are to the eternal

Day 14 – Mirror Poem by Padma Venkatraman 

This is a found poem from a blog post by Arlene Hirsch, “Revisiting the Metaphor of the Half Empty Glass

The Glass

stereotypical metaphor

half full
positive thinking
rose-colored glasses
positive action

half empty
negative thinking
what’s missing

Both only see half the whole
Face the facts, we need you both

Conjures up bold

recognizes weaknesses
finds vulnerabilities
points out obstacles
call to action

We need both halves to make a whole

Day 13 – Dreams and Nightmares with Jordy and Nadeen

My Nightmare
(Incorporating Robert Frost “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening”)

My nightmare is when imperative
To-Do Lists are not done

1) Turn in grades
2) Contact parents with missing assignments (Before #1)
3) Rewrite two virtual entrance exams
4) Write my lesson plan so it can be sent out virtually by 6 pm
5) Prepare for Teach Meet tomorrow.
6) Make a Flipgrid video sample for my students.

My favorite items on the to-do list
1) Write a poem on EthicalELA.
2) Comment on my fellow poets’ work
Didn’t make the cut

The nightmares are ruthless, dark and deep
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.

See you tomorrow, friends.

Day 12 – Where I Am From (George Ella Lyon) with Stefani Boutelier

Where I Am From
I am from fresh fruit,
from milk in glass bottles delivered to the porch,
always available, and
Smirnoff’s in the cupboard,
for only my dad to reach.

I am from the white stucco tract house
with green shutters
and seven kids (brimming, entangled,
trying to fit into the puzzle)

I am from the sweet guava tree
in the neighbor’s yard offering
boundless bounty
for those brave enough to climb.

I’m from camping in rugged Yellowstone
and big smiling teeth,
from Virginia and Richard
I’m from the put-on-a-happy-face and be-cute-at-all-costs family.
From “Clean your plate so the neighbors don’t think we’re starving you,” and
“Come home when the street lights turn on.”

I’m from real Jesus, not rubber Jesus,
and a grandma who helped me understand.

I’m Heinz 57,
from Ohio, on one side,
Texas and Georgia, on the other, some
went west with the railroad and made it to California.
I am from cornbread, pinto beans, macaroni and cheese and enchiladas.

I am from the birth of Scotty, my first nephew full of rubella birth defects
and Aunt Thelma, who made everyone laugh and always had See’s candy.

Photos were stored casually in cardboard boxes in my mother’s closet,
scattered memories, remnants of love and doing our best.

Day 11 – Current Event Poem with Kate Currie

No Hand Shakes
Jazz Hands
Elbow bump
Namaste bow
Elegant curtsy
A Hunger Games salute
High five across two meters
Say hello, goodbye, good morning
Smize–smile with your eyes under your mask
Shoulder, hip or foot shakes — just no handshakes

Day 10 – Crag Hill with The Golden Shovel
My poem incorporates William Carlos Williams’ “This is Just to Say

It’s A Good Friday Just to Say

This week started with a parade I

Witnessed. Shouting and waving my palm branches have

Given me hope. Too often I’ve eaten

Of this desire, dreams for the

Future, broken again. Grapes and plums

Crushed into sour wine that

Is poured out and wasted. Were

You informed of this in

Heaven before you agreed to the

Plan? Heaven must have been an icebox

The moment the plan was devised and

Executed. Which

Brings us back to you

Here now getting lead-studded lashes. Were

You tempted to split the earth and let them fall in? Probably.

Crown of thorns, ‘My God” groaning, but saving

Some bit of hope after the forsaking for

A fish-laden breakfast

On the beach. All to forgive

Us, the world, villains, sinners, trespassers, me.

Sour sponge dripping vinegar they

Gave to relieve your pounded nails, pounding head? Were

You aware that your forsaken cries would become delicious

Victory over the grave, so

We would be able to say, ‘It’s Friday, but sweet

Sunday’s coming,’ and

Our scarlet sins could become so

Clean like fire and snowy cold

Day 9 – Jennifer Jacobson Observations

My basil plant is getting smaller and smaller, weaker and weaker

Sweet Basil

Today I noticed
my sweet basil plant
dying in Bahrain.
Try as I might,
I can’t grow it here
All die.

It brought me back to a
better basil time
a summer in Iowa when
I had a basil bush
exuberant and enormous,
verdant and lush,
nourishing my pride
as a gardener.

So much life
so it demanded to be brought
inside for the winter.
I stuck the shovel in
and carefully pulled out a
great mound
of silky clay loam,
the black earth
hugging the roots
of my prodigious prize.

I brought it indoors
in a hulk of a pot
and it satisfied us all winter.
As spring approached
I decided instead of one plant
that next summer
I needed a whole flowerbed
filled with sweet basil.

I clipped and trimmed, and
rooted a dozen-and-a-half
successors, so my
fine plant’s posterity was assured.

I carefully planted each one
giving them plenty of space
to later fill-in
and take over the bed
under our kitchen window.
A year’s feasting forthcoming!
Caprese salads
basil butter on garlic toast
basil vinaigrette
Margherita pizzas
broccoli basil soup
tomato, basil & mushroom frittata
cucumber- and basil-infused water

Never mind.
The bunnies loved the tender shoots

Day 8 – Inner Monologue with Lauryl and Lizzy


Yes, thank you for taking my question.
Wondering who all will get his aggression?
What is the plan?
Here it comes, oh man.

No, sir, I don’t work for them.
Would it be disrespectful to clear my phlegm?
I’m new with the AP.
How can I flee?

I don’t see how that is relevant.
Nasty? Ridiculous? Third-rate?
How did HIllary handle it with such elegance?
I need to escape to reality, I can’t wait.

Yes, sir, but I really just want to know about your plan.
Would anyone be surprised if it included Fox and the Klan?
You mentioned you had a plan.
Oh, for scandals of suits of tan.

Sir, I was just asking about the details.
If I lose the coin toss next time, I’ll yank out my nails.

Day 7 – An ekphrastic poem with Gayle Sands

An ekphrastic poem is written in response to a scene or work of art. I used this image from feminist.org, a photo of Alice Paul at the Seward-Belmont House. I wrote a Fib poem and reverse: 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21,13, 8, 5, 3, 2, 1, 1.

Me too,
You wouldn’t believe
What we done made of this country
Slavery gone, racism stayed to our core, women vote,
But Hillary, Kamela, and Elizabeth are all shut down by 2020
You don’t want to know about 46-1
I won’t even go there, my friend
It is not pretty
Glad we don’t
Have to

Day 6 – K.A. Holt and using poetic devices

My Teapot

My friend sits over the flame
filled with sweet milky goodness
Both arms faithfully rigid
One points down like the arm of the driver
without functioning break lights
That one arm,
though the color of a stop sign,
Does not say, halt,
It says, drink up, dear
The other arm up,
hand held high,
waits to pour out
libations of luxury
in the morning

Day 5 – Stacey Joy Musical Poem

sometimes symphonies
remain unfinished
a long long time ago
he was 43 years old
the devil’s only friend

the day the music died
he was singing
bye bye
too many kids to feed
too many emotions to weed
bye bye cigarettes
bye bye vodka

before they married
his widowed bride
was blind to
all the minor keys
in which he played
his childhood
a telling overture of the whole
rhythm and blues opera
what would an
abusive alcoholic’s
magnum opus
be anyway
maybe it was the
seven kids lost in space
trying not to misstep
bad news on the doorstep

they turned out nice
not into vice
stayed out of jail
tried not to fail
cute at all costs
not too many lost
to dysfunction with alcohol

when promoted to chp captain
asked mom,
watched him on the stage
hands clenched in fists of rage
do you think dad would be proud yet

Day 4 – Stacey Joy and Hair

“Your girls have such big teeth!”
Our neighbor
was giving my mom a compliment.
My teenage sisters looked at her–
eye rolls postponed until after the goodbyes–
And smiled fakely,
light glinting off the
three piano keyboards,
minus the sharps and flats.)

These Reed teeth
Dominate the genes
Because the next generation
was also initiated into
the big teeth club.

An indelible image
comes to mind:
My daughter’s first dental x-ray
“What is this?” I asked, pointing.
The dentist, not alarmed,
“A secondary incisor,
Her front tooth.
For later.”

Is that how Reed teeth look in a three-year-old?

I thought.
Those front teeth were like
masked, menacing miscreants,
lying in wait to strike.
How can we stop the invasion? I wondered.

“Aren’t they too big?” I asked.
“She’ll grow into them.”
Sigh of relief.

Day 3 – Etheree with Glenda Funk

Staff of life
Loaves freshly baked
Multi grain, whole wheat
Sour dough, comforting white
Not just loaves, but bagels, naan,
Muffins, sweet bread, pancakes, corn bread,
Tortillas, chapati, ciabatta
How many pounds and breads before we’re done?

Day 2 – Blitz with Glenda Funk

“Yearner of Rising”

Chief learner
Chief yearner
Yearner of joy
Yearner of purpose
Purpose in knowing
Purpose in giving
Giving to others
Giving myself
Myself even when a mess
Myself even when incomplete
Incomplete in this life
Incomplete alone
Alone but longing to be together
Alone but able to think
Think of the future
Think of joy
Joy that we are not alone
Joy in humanity
Humanity comes out
Humanity grows in crisis
Crisis of enemies
Crisis of belief
Belief in the good of others
Belief in benevolent leaders
Leaders who can be trusted
Leaders who earn our trust
Trust in leaders
Trust only in God
God who is Bread of Life
God who is Water
Water Living
Water cleansing
Cleansing our souls
Cleansing our thoughts
Thoughts of fear
Thoughts of escape
Escape from the unknown
Escape from the solitude
Solitude has its perks
Solitude becomes old
Old as fear
Old as joy
Joy in the Garden
Joy at the empty tomb
Tomb of life
Tomb of Rising
Rising on Easter
Rising for us

Day 1 – I Believe with Sarah Donovan

Is it the challenge I love?
Or is it because
I was taught to be nice,
to be my best.
Always. Always my best.
To be cute
At all costs.

No, I’ve grown since then.
I am fulfilled when
I do a job well.
I was taught to be
diligent, and

I’m up late now
Ten hours working
to edit a 2.5 minute video.

Is it
Joy in accomplishing?
A gift to my church
for Palm Sunday?
The challenge of a new program?
All of the above.

My parents taught me
to be good,
to be nice and
not to make waves.

I got over it.
But I didn’t.