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Tag Archives: poetry

Waiting Room

Bloated, domesticated attendants breeze through
doors wheezing behind.
A muffled phone rings twice
You look toward the window blind
imagining the sound of the slats
knocking together in the wind
if there was one.

You wait ten, twenty, thirty minutes
mentally create the invoice for your time lost
Who lost it? Is it lost?
Yes, it is flowing away
in the last drops of rain on a car window
joining together, flowing down
and slipping into the window crack.

 
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Posted by on March 24, 2019 in My poems

 

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Hang in there

Get there.
Just get there, she said.
Any adequate means of transportation will do.
The wind might blow though the windshield, bugs splatter,
and wheels rattle,
you might have to swerve to miss a deer,
then run over a possum.

But if you get there,
Intact, together,
You can have the picnic.
Take out the platitudes, piled high,
Say, it was all meant to be,
in retrospect.
Footsteps in the sand.

Or, will it be pedal to the metal
and three sheets to the wind?

 
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Posted by on January 27, 2018 in Arts, Poetry and Music

 

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A very short poem which I would not like read at my funeral, as that would be mean.

Epilogue

I forgive you for not appreciating me enough when I was alive.
You know who you are.

 
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Posted by on October 6, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

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Haikus written to the sound of the dishwasher’s last run of the day

Cat’s ears turn, tail flicks
Paw stretches, bats a wrapper
Big eyes watch, and wait

(More: Cat’s Ears)

Why do you look, smile,
only when my head is turned?
Eyes flick across, miss.

 

Empty kitchen, clean,
except the crumbs of sweet bread
and your last cup of warm tea

 

I watch for you, still.
Though your heart is forgetting,
mine will never heal.

 

You hold out your hand,
Tilt to see the creases there
Age, dismissed, returns.

 

Pacific Ocean
Stretching always undersea
Igneous yoga

 

 
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Posted by on June 12, 2015 in Arts, Poetry and Music, My poems

 

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Home tutoring notes

This semester I’m tutoring a high school student in English language arts and geometry while she’s on temporary sick leave. After finishing up with geometry today, which we do using an online curriculum, I took out and leafed through the English text I’d been given by the high school. Saw the unit goals, literary terms to know, ways in which the student was expected to closely read the short stories conveniently printed therein and analyze for tone, characterization, dramatic elements, allusion, point of view, and so on. Bad memories. I confessed to her my view that the least important part of growing in literacy is the formal, analytical, gradable stuff that was therein. Told her that if for some reason her school shut down for a year, she would still grow as a writer by reading, reading, reading good literature, and writing what she wanted to write, just keeping on, practicing what she felt were the best styles and gleaning vocabulary and knowledge along the way. Told her though I loved to read and write myself, that was due to my upbringing, not my formal education, because for the most part I’d hated English class, except for the parts where we memorized Shakespeare or I was told I had written something unique and would I share it. So as a teacher, I wanted to make sure I didn’t create or reinforce a distaste for reading good literature, or even studying it, by over analysis.

I told her about the time I’d been about her age and was hanging out with my dad at Uncle Calvin’s fishing camp, and that big, burly backwoods river guide’s eyes became moist as he and my father recited the poetry they’d memorized in their youth. I told her how I wanted to pass that on, and how my kids would have that look of quiet delight when they recited a Kipling or Frost poem.

And so, I assigned her some small formal analysis activities, and gave her a book of poems so she could choose one to memorize. I promised to bring some books from my library for her to try (and ask her school teacher if there was a course reading list), and encouraged her to get some audiobooks to do her crafts by. I said some things, we’ll analyze, and you’ll work at learning the terminology for intelligent conversation about literature. But other times, I’ll just ask you what you thought of a book, and you can practice talk from your heart about books, making personal connections. I told her I wasn’t sure why the teacher had said the class was skipping the short story writing assignment, but that we might do some such writing anyway.

The assignment she was working on when I met with her first was an argumentative essay about the value of a college education. She was to read three articles provided by her textbook, which had been published, I pointed out, by the College Board, which makes bucks every time it sells a test, grades a test, and submits a student’s test results to a college. Important to get a feel for likely biases in the material, I said. I asked her to interview a few people informally who might have different views on the question, and develop some nuances to her argument, rather than oversimplifying the issue. It was a tall order, as she’s not an avid reader or writer, and hasn’t thought about these things much at her age. But I think she’s up to it.

 
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Posted by on January 7, 2015 in Education

 

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Perhaps you will permit me to particularize my provisional poetic preparation, which possessed a paucity of pedagogy

Perhaps you will permit me to particularize my provisional poetic preparation, which possessed a paucity of pedagogy

My eyeballs swim a little as I recline against my blue pillow in the lamplight, my mug of wassailed wine almost finished and warm in my interior regions. Behind the bathroom door water fills the tub where my son has decided to bathe before bed. I never was a mother that required frequent baths–such a waste of water, except where there is a layer of mud, paint, or sweat. Yet a bath is such a comfort when one has spent time shivering in wet weather, tension, or sadness, or wishes to play with bubbles or boats. This is a fine use of the precious resource of water. Especially if the bather is relatively clean and may offer the full tub to the next in line, improved by a few minutes’ blast on hot.

My tabby cat appeals to me to open the window, eyes perpetually alarmed, seeking her safe exit away from the indefatigable new puppy. I meet her gaze and speak to her, and she answers with affectionate and musical rumblings, is soothed, jumps on the bed and commences her toilette. White breast fur, base of tail, then holding hind legs extended, she lathers her thighs with feline saliva and applies her brush tongue.

And so I recline with my library copy of The Masks of Drought by William Everson. Funny the convergences that bring one such as myself to an appreciation of poetry. Country kid, never taught poetry beyond limericks, cinquains and haiku in elementary school, hated language arts class in middle school–in fact I seem to have blanked out the entire experience and can’t even remember who the teacher was. Avoided honors English in high school because I couldn’t stand required reading lists and book reports, and even took an alternate route to the university writing requirement by attaching a periodic hour-long no-prep essay-writing assessment to a German class, along with mostly foreign students. I studied marine biology and associated subjects, and even when I got interested in history and other social sciences, I still avoided English classes. So obviously school had nothing to do with it.

What it was, in an age prior to the revival of homeschooling, was immersion in a literature loving household, access to walls and walls of books, and catching the delight my parents had in sharing reading and writing. I read stories, nonfiction stuff on science and outdoor skills, field guides even, no poetry as such. But there were poems in stories by C.S. Lewis, Tolkien and others, books of Shel Silverstein lying about, and I did love to play with words in my spare time. Also, my father would bring home stacks of library books from the children’s section that he thought were particularly lovely. He would read every one and leave them for us to share. Of course we had the opportunity to select our own books, but didn’t want us to be limited to our own small perspectives. When my children would get in the habit of making a beeline for the Tin Tin, Star Wars, or other current craze sections to the exclusion of all others, I would do the same–go through the picture books, meanwhile, and find one, find another, avoiding anything preachy, ad-like (some books are thinly veiled promotions for reading, school, or certain perspectives on issues, have you noticed?), dumbed-down (as if children have no depth or need monotonous language or simple patterns to understand), most series books, those whose authors have forgotten how to think as a child (some of these books are nevertheless award winners, as they appeal to the adult aesthetic of judge panels–similar dynamic in award-winning games). I’d stack them ready by the couch, and they’d invariably be a source of delight even to my older children.

The clincher of my love of poetry (I’ve mentioned it before, I know): the memory of that magical moment at my uncle’s fishing camp on the Gander River, when I was about fifteen: my uncle and my father got to reciting poetry they had learned in grade school, completing one another’s lines, and pausing, speechless with emotion.

Despite the availability of good language arts programs and teachers in schools, I still believe the most powerful influences on children’s tastes come from home life, and so I have happily shared my love of poetry (and other literature) with my children, confident that what they have read, memorized and written will become fodder for a richer experience and understanding of life. Part of my responsibility to “train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.” (Prov 22:6) I see the fruit of what my parents have passed on to me in my own children, and it is good.

I share this with you, parents, teachers, and others, not with a list of “ten ways” bullet points, but with my story, and the invitation to draw the young under your care into an appreciation of poetry, not limiting your sharing to what you think they can understand or enjoy but what delights you, what you find beautiful, worthy, enriching. If I have time I’ll share a list of our favorite poets and poetry books, but for now, just go to the library and see what you can find.

 

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“Every wind that blew was His breath, and the type of His inner breathing upon the human soul.” – George MacDonald

“Every wind that blew was His breath, and the type of His inner breathing upon the human soul.” – George MacDonald

After several days of waking up with a headache and going through the day with a strange feeling in my gut, wondering if it’s a new virus or something in my diet, I decided to sweat it out. Can’t do that by housework alone, so I left one son to watch over the other while I hit the road and trail. I took my old dog to trail along. He’s always eager when I jingle the leash, but when we get going, trail he does, out of an ingrained fear of sound and movement of any kind. This time it was a distant chainsaw at work, then a dog barking behind a fence, then the usual cars passing. He’s a shelter dog, somehow sonically traumatized as a pup, and he cannot enjoy life on the trail as, even so, I can see means to.

My feet started to hurt on the hard road section, and I tried to get my momentum more forward rather than down. At the bottom of the hill I entered a fog bank, which cloaked my movements and cooled my skin. I detoured into the park and onto the more foot-friendly trail.

Everywhere the colors came and met me. Then, as if someone had blown soap bubbles into my mind, descriptive words materialized and drifted along my mental convection currents, grouping themselves in beats. Yellow-brown, yellow-gold, hanging in the cold. Evergreen, sage green, grey sky between. Punching red, frothing red, not yet dead. Orange blushing, orange burning, world turning.

If I start to think hard, I automatically slow to a walk until I can untangle my mind. But this time I was free to go on, playing with words as I took in these visions. My steps felt clumsy as I tired, but I don’t remember the gravelly sound they must have made, only the papery rustle of bigleaf maple leaves I ran through. Once when I slowed to a walk save my knees on a down section, a dozen birch leaves suddenly released themselves, without wind, as if a latch had been pressed somewhere: latch release, piece by piece.

Oh, how I wanted a notebook and pencil. But I remembered my father saying, as he looked back on many years spent photographing, painting, and writing moments and memories, that one must not value the recording over the experience. It can be about savoring and prolonging the experience, plumbing its meaning, and sharing, however. What if I had not read Annie Dillard, who reminded me how to see, for example, or seen the Group of Seven paintings, so I would long to go canoeing in the Canadian Shield? At times one cannot help oneself, thank heaven, or help oneself thank heaven.

When I got home, my older son asked how my run had been–had I enjoyed all the beautiful colors of the leaves? Remarkable that he asked in that particular way, as I had as yet said nothing. So I told him, and he declared he would start out early to his bus rendezvous so he could enjoy them too.

Before heading to shower off, I took a sheet of paper and jotted down a few words and phrases, hoping to make a few lines. I think tomorrow instead of table lessons, I’ll walk the trail with my naturally enthusiastic and poetic youngest son, with notebook and watercolors, and we’ll see what further savoring together will bring forth.

 
 

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