The fastest poem in the West

Confusion

work and meetings

snatched from moments

squeezed around

talking down

a panicked child.

Urging him to tackle poetry

and not hide from

the area and perimeter

of his education.

Me – new unit

so complicated

nothing in digital format.

Wrestling and struggling,

momming and wifing,

no time for me-ing.

What do you mean

it’s 8:45 already?

The Flicker

We’ve become ardent windowsill birdwatchers at my house. Cooped up, but with an organic yard with many bird appealing plants, interesting (and apparently tasty) seedheads, and several bird feeders and birdbaths, it is a logical pastime. Long before COVID, when I was working from home voluntarily, I put my desk in the sunroom so that I would be flanked with windows. There is one immediately in front of my desk and an entire wall running down one side. As a bonus, being able to look up from my laptop while I am talking and focus on something half a block away did wonders for my eye strain and migraines. On the downside, now that I am zooming live all the time, I can be distracted by all the birds. Several times a week, one of the hummingbirds flies right up to my eye level, approximately an inch from the window glass. I am not sure if it is cross with me or just curious about what I am doing. I may have randomly mentioned this to my 8th graders in the middle of a sentence now and again. The day that a crow decided to dive off the roof and nearly crashed into the screen actually elicited a shriek and a leap backwards from me. (Watch out for leaping backwards in a wheeled chair on a hard floor while wearing plugged in headphones! The voice of experience speaks here.) In our recent extremely bad weather, with severe windstorms, snow blowing every which way and both alternating with punishing ice storms, we made sure that the thistle seed was topped up, the sunflower seeds were on top of the snow, and the hummingbird feeders rotated in and out of the house to thaw. The birds remained stubbornly present near the feeders and fluffed up under the leaves of the evergreen camellia bush next to my desk window. The problem with teaching in those days (other than the high distractability of an exhausted teacher and frustrated 8th graders who all wanted a break, massive power outages, and internet failures that made it sort of difficult to learn and teach from home) was that the birds were so darn distracting. In their stubborn treks from the bush to the feeder and back, the tiny goldfinches that are wintering here kept getting caught by the wind and tumbled about. It is really hard to keep a straight face and sound professional when tiny birds are tossing around like bits of flotsam and occasionally bouncing off the window by your ear or your ankle.

My cat is also a bird-watcher. While she prefers to watch them being caught by her, she gets put on house arrest every time she brings us a snack and then cannot go outside for a while. Coupled with bad weather, to which she has very strong objections, she decided that watching the birds through the windows behind my desk was her best option. She is a vigorous bird-watcher, with a lot of leaping at windows and general weird cat-cussing sounds as she demands that these darn birds fly up into her mouth right now! Or at the very least, would I stop messing with my computer and open the door and let her out. By the way, I should also do something about that foul weather and raise the temperature up a bit. A week or so ago, I looked at my chat box and realized that one of my students had typed, “You know, the cat makes a good point.” With my noise cancelling headphones on, I had assumed that she was not making that much racket and that they could not hear her. No such luck. I explained that she was cussing out the birds, and we all laughed and went back to work.

So the birds are very much a part of my work from home routine. Early this morning, as I typed at my desk in an unusual amount of morning quiet, I suddenly heard a persistent Bzzzzzrrrratatatat Bzzzzzrrrratatatat Bzzzzzrrrratatatat. Then a pause, and a repeat! The flickers were back! That tell-tale pattern of three rapid fire jack-hammering spurts of pecking is a dead giveaway. The foot tall flickers migrate through my area every spring, and we really only ever see them for a few months out of the year. Bzzzzzrrrratatatat means that spring is near. In this year when it so often feels like time is standing still, it was a beautiful reminder that change is coming. Flick. Vaccines are arriving. Flick. Death tolls are dropping. Flick. Businesses are beginning to open more. Flick. People are thinking of beginning to venture out from a long and worrying anti-hibernation and – flick – soon, so soon, we may be able to once again spread our wings and fly.

The Return

Like my snowdrops returning for the spring, unfurling after patiently waiting under a foot of snow layered with the solid sheets of three ice storms, I have returned to my blog and the annual March Slice of Life Story Challenge.

I’ll be honest. I nearly did not return for this year’s challenge. Last March was so overwhelming, as we all lived in increasing fear and uncertainty and had our lives upended by school closures and lockdowns, and it made it very difficult to write – for the first time. This year, I find myself still sitting in my home office, still teaching online, still uncertain about what comes next, still trying desperately to balance teaching my students and helping my son manage a virtual learning system and a degree of access to technology that is pretty overwhelming for a child. I don’t have a lot of moments where I am feeling super positive or that I have anything to share with others, especially since my world has shrunk so small.

And yet…

I thought of the sense of connection I always get when I read the Slice of Life stories.

I thought of the friends I have made who I really only know every March through these blogs.

I thought of the camaraderie to be found in a group of teachers who are facing the current world together, no matter whether we are virtual, hybrid, in person, vaccinated, not yet vaccinated, terrified, stressed out, longing for connection, or overwhelmed.

The only thing we are not, is alone.

So I have returned this year, to share what I can, and visit with old friends, and hope that through writing, I can regain some of the that sense that we are all in this together. Perhaps I can carve out a little time for me, and think some thoughts that are not about anyone’s education, or too many meetings, or ever changing health metrics and the relentless drum of sickness.

So here I am. Hoping for inspiration. Waiting for my leaves and buds to break free from the ice and snow and open up to the sun.

Monday: An Etheree

Pain.
Joint fail.
Knee twists and
I scream and fall.

Existentially,
this mirrors Monday's work.
New school pattern and new
Ways of thinking and being now.
"Do your best" with teaching, home, kids; yet –
Somehow, enough never feels good enough.

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

(Thanks to Elisabeth Ellington for introducing me to the etheree form.)

Quarantine Questions

"Mom?"

Poke
poke
poke.

"Mom?
Can the
Easter
Bunny
still
come?

I mean,
with the virus...

can the
Easter 
Bunny 
still
come?

He'll be 

six

feet

away

from

us

because

we

will

be

asleep.




Right?"

Tiny voice, big eyes.
My little boy,
all swagger and 
"Dude, that's epic!"
one minute,
and worried about
the Easter Bunny the next.

So big, and so little,
and so lost in
our new world.
Looking for something 
to hang hope on.

"Yes, Sweetie.
Bunnies are not quarantined. The
Easter
Bunny
will
still
come."

"Mom?"

"Mom – maybe we should
wipe the basket handle off? 
Just in case?"

And my heart breaks.

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!