Haiku times two

I decided to write a haiku today. Not really because they are short, although that always helps. Instead, as I stood on my deck in the rain with my son, watching the birds hop on the budding apple trees, unaware of our presence, I felt that this was a moment that deserved a haiku. Traditionally, haiku have nature imagery, and maybe something enlightening to say. I don’t feel particularly enlightened ever, but I did feel that I had some imagery to share. Since my haiku are usually wildly untraditional and often sarcastic or ridiculous, I thought the moment I was experiencing deserved an attempt at a proper haiku.

In rain, hummingbird
Buzzes rosemary flowers.
Silent cat watches.

And, as a bonus, because I cannot help myself, I wrote a second one about another transformative experience today.

Amazon has it!
Toilet paper! Buy it! Oh-
No delivery.

Writer’s Block

Zoom to words
Juggle rhymes
Catapult them, haphazard, into form.

       Butchery.
       Not poetry.

Line up colored pens.

      Start
            Stop
      Scribble
                                               SCRATCH

r    e    a    r    r    a    n    g    e

New colors do not
Pour forth new ideas.

Brain buzzes
Empty and enervated

too much work
too much technology
too much thinking…

…too little feeling



It's time to face it.

Today

      I have
      no poetry
      in me.

______________________________________________________________________________

Today’s prompt was about finding ten random words and exploring rhyme, then using as many of them as possible in today’s poem. I pulled ten excellent words from the novel that I am reading, and I found some interesting and some challenging rhymes. However, they did not want to be a poem. Not even a little bit. Instead, what wanted to be written was a poem about the process, in which, instead of rhyme, I explored alliteration, pattern, and structure.

I am participating in National Poetry Writing Month, writing one poem for each day in April.

Reflections on gardening

Today’s prompt from NaPoWriMo was based on a chapbook of poems by James Schuyler. While I worked in my garden, I reflected on observation and detail in poetry, and a few phrases started to circulate in my head, eventually leading to this poem. I doubt my result is Schuyleresque, but he was my starting point.

Pull
Shake
Toss

Repeat

Goat skin gauntlets
protect winter blasted skin,
like swaddled bulbs and plants
protected from weather's wrath
by the mulch I gently brush away.

Bend
Lift
Clip

Repeat

Hands in motion permit
my mind to roam free – 
away from the flat gray sky
the imminent rain
the daily pressures of sequestered worrying –

Dig
Hoe
Shape

Repeat

I trim the dead;
embrace the new.
Pause in the winter emptied garden,
Contemplate the quiet waiting,
Sip my tea and think.

Violet scented steam 
rises from my cup.
Perfumed with spring
that's yet to come.
I, too, shall wait, and endure.

#NaPoWriMo (It’s April)

April being the cruelest month, and me being cooped up inside for what feels like my entire life, I decided that I wanted to continue writing every day after the March Slice of Life Story Challenge ended, and I wanted to write poetry. Today did not get off to an excellent start on the poetry front, as I had to do my second day of working from home instead of not working, I left the house for the first time in two weeks to pick up supplies from my school to start online teaching next week and pick up supplies from my son’s teachers so he can also start online school next week, and my cooped up 9 year old got increasingly depressed until he was so worked up at bedtime that he felt sick. So it is now 10:45pm and I am exhausted and not feeling very poetic, but I will give it a stab anyway. I am not willing to give up on the very first day!

Day Nineteen

Rain dripping
Spirits and skies gray
Cats pacing

Toys boring
Learning distant
Working a memory

Breaks my heart
to tell a child
No – no
      ...to playdates
      ...to the park
      ...to the zoo
      ...to the forest
      ...to the playground
      ...to the beach
      ...to a hike

No school, no classes, no friends, no plans

How do you tell a child
No to life,
In order to 
preserve life?

Please let this be an April Fool.

The end…?

Once again, we come to the end of the Slice of Life Story Challenge. It has been a tumultuous March for all of us, and I am sure downright terrifying for those in certain areas of the country and world. I really sincerely thank Two Writing Teachers for this writing opportunity, where we could express our good days and our bad, share our ups and downs and questions and confusion and anxieties, about the situation, our families, our health, and, always, always our students and what is to become of them. I have been reassured by those who shared struggles similar to my own, cheered by those who had up days when mine were down, and helped by so many of you who shared tips and ideas and problems and solutions from districts and schools and lives that are ahead of my district, state, and life’s position on the pandemic curve. I have infinite admiration for those who diligently sliced every day, no matter how they felt or how hard it was to find a topic when confined to one’s home for the fifth or twelfth or thirtieth day in a row.

I wish you all health for yourselves and your families, and hope that we will all gather again next year, in much better circumstances!

I’m imagining a family newspaper

My son wants to write a newspaper.

"Mom, we should make a list of what qualities go in a newspaper."
"Ok. What do you think goes in a paper?"
"Comics! And also stuff you want to write about."
"Traditionally, that is called 'news.'"

We are flipping through the pages of The New York Times to get ideas of what sorts of things appear in the newspaper (since “things you want to write about” is a fairly broad category). He has been distracted by The New York Times for Kids section (all about cats!) and an article in the magazine about tourists to Chernobyl. (Odd. I had to explain Chernobyl, and I have no answer to the possibly metaphorical question, “What color is a meltdown?”) But I have plenty of ideas. Here is what I would put in my quarantine home newspaper, spring break edition.

News: The state of the pantry, stocks of necessary supplies, the mental state of our leadership (Mom and Dad), the man on the street’s (Miles’) view of how leadership is functioning in this crisis.

Sports: Follow the scores and games of balloon bounce, the indoor paper airplane obstacle course league, the bike desk open, and the Fitbit challenge. In sports opinion: is chasing the cat a sport, and was Mom right to have shut down the league?

Arts: Reviews of the emerging arts scene in the sun room: works in paper, paint, mixed media, and LEGO. Special section devoted to engineering challenges thanks to Tinker Crate. Movies/Television: what’s up next in the Netflix/Prime Video/Hulu/Acorn/etc. queue? The nuances of physical humor in Shaun the Sheep. Opinion: Should grown-ups be allowed to watch any of their grown-up shows? Board games rated by amount of time needed, level of challenge, amount of fun vs. potential for arguing and/or tears.

Books: Reviews of the classics and buzzy new reads? What are you reading now? Opinion: are some types of books better than others for times of pandemic?

Style: What is the well-dressed quarantiner wearing these days? Preview the upcoming spring styles of yoga pants and pajamas. Is wearing pajamas past noon in or out? Knitting for calm. Emerging designer, Miles, explains his coat design and models the work in progress.

Business: Profile of the community’s leading entrepreneur, Erich. In depth survey of the state of architecture from the front lines. Tips for getting input from clients in a no contact way. The joys and perils of telecommuting. Suggestions for social distancing on a construction site.

Travel: Best walks through the neighborhood (Flat routes and hilly routes for all levels of walkers.) Quiet byways for fresh air and no contact. Spring flower highlights on the block that you just cannot miss.

Comics: New adventures of Reporter Cats, and Austin the cat fights dogs in D v. C.

A play in two cats

  • Dramatis Felidae
  • Calypso, a cat of mature years and frail health, but curious and loving temperament, although woefully low in brain cells.
  • Ariella, a cat – perennially playful, bane of birds, explorer extraordinaire.

Scene: A pleasant domestic scene in early spring. The cats are having a pleasant day at home, since the servants, for a change, are present and on time.

Ariella: The sun is shining! Open the door open the door openopenopenthe door!

Calypso: Sun?

Ariella: Out! Out! Out! Out! Wait, why isn’t it warm? The sun is out, therefore it is warm. Why isn’t it warm? I find this alarming. I will sprint back inside and glare at the not warm sun with suspicion.

Calypso: This spot on the heating grate is warm. I don’t know that I need to move.

Ariella: The door is open. We should go out. The sun is shining. Maybe it will be warm this time.

Calypso: Ok, let’s go look then. You don’t have to keep making such a fuss about it.

Ariella: Outoutout! Mrrroowwwww! I hear birds!

Calypso: Sigh. You are making a fuss again.

Ariella: It still is not warm, but – birds! I will stay out. Servants, close the door. And turn up the sun.

Calypso: Hush. It is nice in this sunny spot on the wooden deck.

Ariella: Stealth mode. Stealth. Steaaaalllllttttttthhhh! Must stalk birds. Stalk stalk. Birdsbirdsbirdsbirdsbirds!

Calypso: Ahhhh, birds. Have I told you that I almost caught one once?

Ariella swish, swish, swishes her tail.

Then…footsteps.

Both cats freeze.

Calypso: What is it? I hear something. What is coming?

Ariella: Let’s look through the railings.

Both cats turn to the railings and then freeze again.

Ariella: OH NO! IT’S THE MAN!!!!!

Calypso: I thought the servants said three weeks. That was months ago. Why is the man here again? The man is always here. He makes the fence bark.

Ariella: IN! IN! IN! Servants, let me in! RIGHT NOW!

Calypso: We just got comfortable. (Sighs) Fine. We’ll go in. But, really, the man is not even wearing terrifying work boots. Kittens today are too highly strung.

The servants obligingly open the door and the cats return inside. Five minutes elapse.

Calypso: I miss the sun. Why am I inside? It is sunny. The sunny spot is outside. Oh, look. There is sun on the window. Now, how do I get up high again? (Stares at the window with some bemusement.)

A servant takes pity on her and lifts her to the deep windowsill.

Calypso (surprised): Oh, look, I am up here. The sun is nice. Why is the fence barking? I hate the barking fence. Oh! The man is back!

Ariella (breathing quickly): Meaow! I’m inside! Where is the air? I must check the air to make sure it is still there! I checked from the sleeping place window! But there might not be air on this side of the house! I need to check! Oh, the special air window on this side is open! I can leap up and – mrrrrooowwwww! Oof!

(Ariella bounces off of Calypso, who is unexpectedly in the special air window.)

Ariella: My spot! What are you doing in my spot? I am in charge of air checking. Not you! You don’t even worry that the air might be missing!

Calypso: Brrrrrrrow? I’m in the sun. What are you fussing about?

A servant opens a second window and gently places Ariella in it.

Ariella (confused): Where did this window come from? (exhaling in relief) Ahhhhhhh! The air is still there. Everything is ok. Outside is fine and the air is still present. No. Wait. Something is wrong! It…it’s THE MAN!

Calypso: What? Where?

Ariella: (lashing her tail angrily as the hair on the back of her neck rises) THE MAN MAKES THE NOISE! THE SCARY GROWLING NOISE! AND HE MAKES THE FENCE BARK! We have to watch him carefully, Calypso. We can’t let the man ruin the air and hurt the outside!

Both cats glare out the window and track the movements of the man relentlessly until…the construction equipment starts.

Calypso: Oh! That man! The one with the noise! He’s ruined the sun and I have to leave now! (Calypso decamps for the back of the linen closet.)

Ariella: NO! THE SCARY GROWLING NOISE! Servants, you are on your own! Keep your eyes on the air levels outside! (Ariella launches herself from the window and bounces once, halfway across the kitchen, before darting into the bedroom to hide in the back of the closet.)

Five minutes later, from the back of the closet, a tiny voice emerges.

Ariella: Mew? It’s dark in here. Where am I? I am all alone. In the dark. Where did everyone go? Mew?

Servant: (from six inches away) Ariella? Here we are, Ariella. It’s okay. We’re right here.

Ariella peeks warily out of the closet and heaves a sigh of relief to see her main servant. She crawls out and demands a lap, where she sleeps in comfort until she suddenly realizes it is sunny out…and, repeat.

Cherry Blossoms


Fresh spring air
Light drizzle
Empty trails
For a family walk.

Cherry blossoms –
Not perfect, but enduring.
Spring goes on
With signs of normality.

I take it all in

through the phone.

Pictures only.
I have asthma and
Am not allowed out.

PRESENTING…CATS!

Like many people, I have spent more time than I should have on social media in the last few days. It is somehow soothing to see that everyone else I know is also going a little bit bonkers and is not quite sure how to balance the diametrically opposed goals of keeping themselves and their kids occupied and having fun. (Moms and dads, is it just me, or does it seem like these are two different quarantines? The one where I am doing anything and everything to keep the kids sane, and the one full of things I would do if I got to be quarantined by myself, and never the twain shall meet.)

I am also, however, enjoying the look back at all my photos and memories on my phone and computer and in my Facebook account, so I decided that today I would give a little review of my regular, non-quarantined, life. During a stressful spring one year, a friend announced to our English department that when all looked bad, one needed a box of kittens. The next day, I, the intrepid department head, put a small pink box filled with cutout kitten pictures in our department office. For the rest of the year, we looked at kittens at lunch every day, and, you know what? It helped. So in the spirit of both remembrance and stress relief, I give you…

WHITNEY’S VIRTUAL BOX OF KITTENS!