Sunday, December 04, 2011

Leaving this recess behind

I have decided to discontinue updating this blog. It's just become too time-consuming to update this blog and the one I started at WordPress. It's the same blog, so it's a little silly for it to be in two places. Thank you to everyone who has read my words here and who has followed me here. Please find new posts at Sadly Waiting for Recess at WordPress. Thanks.

I'm not going to migrate these posts over. Many recent ones are duplicates anyway, and I want to retain the history here. This is where I started blogging.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

NaNoWriMo Day Nineteen Update

It's been a crazy week.

I did really well on Monday, writing 2,017 words, tying for my third best day so far this month. Tuesday was an average day, at 1,748 words.

Wednesday was my worst day all month. I only wrote 183 words that day.

It's generally been more difficult for the last couple of weeks. I try to write about 400 to 500 words every morning before work. It's quiet, and I can get started on a scene. When I get home after work, it's relatively easy to pick up where I left off and then reach my word goal for the day.

Since the smartboard was installed in my classroom, I've only had a couple of days when I've been able to write in the morning. I've been spending my time adapting my lesson plans to the smartboard.

On the other hand, it's been fun putting the pep talks from the Young Writers Program website into the smartboard software to share with my students. Not all of them have logged into the site, so I'm able to share the pep talks with them this way.

Wednesday was a particularly bad day for writing. I worked all day. Then I spent an hour with my kickball co-coach on the first day of our school's kickball team tryouts. Then I rushed home, picked up my younger son, got us all fed, and back to San Francisco for Family Math Night. We didn't get back home to San Bruno until 9 p.m. I was so tired, I only managed 183 words. I kept falling asleep sitting up at my laptop.

I gave up, updated my pathetic word count for the day on the NaNoWriMo website, and thanked my lucky stars for the word buffer I'd been able to build up so far this month.

I got back on track on Thursday with 1,731 words. Friday, I was very tired, and only wrote 1,045 words. I figured I'd easily reach my wordcount goals on Saturday and Sunday, so I could slack off a bit on Friday.

It was also a good day at school on Friday. Two of the girls in my class have already reached their word goals for the month. I filled in the progress chart hanging up in my classroom for both of them, and gave them their First-Class Novelist buttons. I hope they both keep writing until the end of the month.

Do I really keep track of how many words I wrote each day? Yes, I have an Excel spreadsheet where I do just that. (Yeah, I'm really that nerdy.)

Right now, it's early Saturday afternoon and I've already written exactly 1,600 words. I'll write more this evening after dinner. I'm shooting for about 2,000 words again today.

Tomorrow, I go to the Night of Writing Dangerously. I'm so excited. They reached the goal they wanted, with $50,587 raised. There have been 327 people fundraising for NaNoWriMo, with 216 of them making it to the Night of Writing Dangerously. I'm honored to be one of them, and so grateful to everyone who contributed. I'm sure I'll have lots to say about the Night of Writing Dangerously.

Who knows? I might even post a blog entry from the event itself.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

NaNoWriMo Update - Day Thirteen

I had my best day yet. I wrote 2,513 words today. I am currently at 23,759, which is 47.5% of 50K.

I thought I'd do a little data comparison today.

According to NaNoWriMo, I'm averaging 1,827 words per day. Young Writers Program (YWP) says 1,828.

NaNoWriMo says, at this rate, I should finish on November 27, 2011. YWP says November 28, 2011.

NaNoWriMo says I need to write 1,458 words per day to finish on time. YWP says 1,544.

I think I have figured out the discrepancy. Both sites agree that this is the thirteenth day. NaNoWriMo says there are 18 days remaining, while YWP says 17.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

NaNoWriMo Update - Day Twelve

I write like Neil Gaiman
I Write Like by Mémoires, journal software. Analyze your writing!

So, I tried I Write Like this morning with what I wrote this morning for my NaNovel. Interesting. Maybe I should read some Neil Gaiman. All I'm familiar with so far is his work on the Sandman comic, which I loved. And I've got The Graveyard Book on my wishlist.

Yesterday, apparently, I wrote like Kurt Vonnegut.

It's now about 12:30 in the afternoon and I have already hit my wordcount for today. I wrote 1,812 words today, with a running total of 21,246.

I've been over 1,667 words per day for nine days in a row now. I'm averaging 1,770 words per day. At this rate, I will hit 50K on November 28th.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

NaNoWriMo Update - Day Nine

They have the wordcount widgets up and running at the NaNoWriMo website. I've put the basic Participant Widget in the sidebar on the right.

I like the My Month widget, but it's not working now, so I've taken it down.

Obviously, I need to write more today to reach my goal. I'm currently at 16,327, and I need to reach 16,667 today. I only wrote 362 words this morning before work.

[updated 11/19/11 because the My Month widget hasn't been working for the past couple of days]

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

NaNoWriMo Update - Day Seven

I'm currently at 12,103 words, which according to the stats on the Young Writers Program website, puts me at 24.21%. Oddly enough, the NaNoWriMo website doesn't have exactly the same stats; it doesn't tell you your percentage.

They also don't have the word count widgets up and running with their new website yet. I'm not complaining. The new website is clean and fast. I just miss the widgets. I like to include them in my blog posts, and I haven't been able to do that so far this year.

I attended my first write-in on Monday (yesterday). There's one close to me at a Panera. Got there a little late, but was there for over two hours.

My story is proceeding nicely - and I'm having fun.

Saturday, November 05, 2011

NaNoWriMo and Field Trip Update

The field trip was great! We're already talking about doing it again next year. I hope it becomes a tradition for the fifth grade students at my school.  There were two other schools there at the same time we were there. One was a group of Muslim girls from Sacramento; they've been going there for eight years. And I think one of the teachers from the other school said they'd been going there for seven years.

It was a great experience. I learned a lot about watersheds - and I hope my students did too. The people at the Marin Headlands Institute were awesome. The Field Science Educator with my group, Casey, did a great job. Jen, our coordinator, was attentive and helpful. And everyone was pleased with the food.

As a vegan, I can count on just about any restaurant having pasta with marinara sauce. I've had it everywhere - and then some. I must say the marinara sauce I had in the dining hall at the Marin Headlands Institute was probably the best I've ever had.

While I enjoyed the visit to the pond to collect samples of macroinvertebrates, the night hike to the beach to listen to the waves with "animal" ears was great. And only superseded by digging in the sand to find bioluminescent plankton. That was really cool!

I did get some writing done. The students were to stay in their bunks quietly until 6:45 a.m. I woke up earlier than that, slipped out of the dormitory and headed over to the Owl's Roost around 5 a.m. or so, my usual wake-up time. The Owl's Roost was the room set aside for adults, a little child-free sanctuary. There was a little kitchen just down the hall with coffee, and comfy chairs in the roost itself. I wrote both mornings we were there.

On the first, I only wrote 1,485 words. To win NaNoWriMo and reach 50K, you should write 1,667 words per day. On Wednesday, I wrote in the morning again at the Owl's Roost, and then again in the afternoon after arriving back at home: 1,701 words.

On Thursday, I only wrote 1,535 words. The good news that day was that I had a smartboard installed in my classroom. The bad news was that they installed it over my whiteboard, which I wanted moved to another wall. And since I haven't received any training yet, I had to jump in real quick to be ready to teach on Friday. I didn't even use it on Thursday itself. The students had a couple of tests, and we took it easy after the field trip, plus we had some grade level planning time.

Again, I didn't write at all Friday morning, still familiarizing myself with the software for the smartboard, and planning some lessons. But this afternoon and evening, I put on my new fedora, my writing hat, and cranked out 2,022 words. I am now at 6,743 words, just slightly ahead of my word goal of 6,667.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Overnight Field Trip

We're leaving today for a three-day, two-night overnight field trip to the Marin Headlands Institute. This is the first time for us at Lafayette Elementary for this field trip. We're all a little nervous and a little excited at the same time. I think it's going to be a great field trip, and I'm very much looking forward to it. The other teachers and I hope that this will become a tradition for fifth grade students, a field trip experience that we will repeat in the future.

The bad news is I'm going to be on an overnight field trip when NaNoWriMo begins tomorrow. I bought a journal yesterday, so I will be handwriting for the first couple of days.

The good news is I attended a meet-and-greet with fellow Wrimos yesterday at a Starbucks in Redwood City. It was fun and energizing to meet others who live in my region who are also going to be writing this year. There were at least fifteen people who showed up, and three of us are teachers.

I got a couple of NaNoWriMo stickers at the meet-and-greet, and I've stuck them on my journal. One reads "Your Story Matters" and the other one says "You are part monkey, part ninja, part stairmaster cyborg." I think my students will get a kick out of that one.

I'll have a NaNoWriMo update when I return on Wednesday. And I'm sure I'll have a thing or two to say about the field trip as well.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Going to the Night of Writing Dangerously (10/24/2011)

Three weeks ago, I set up a fundraising page to help the Office of Letters and Light, the nonprofit organization that runs National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) and its Young Writers Program. I am so pleased that I have helped raise $350 for them. A heartfelt and sincere "thank you" to all my friends and family who donated.

I will now be attending The Night of Writing Dangerously on November 20, the culminating event of this fundraising drive. I will be bringing along my friend, fellow teacher, and fellow poet/novelist, Michael Drum.

I won't speak for Michael, but I have plenty to say on my own behalf. Over the last three years, my life as a writer has grown considerably. That first year, on November 11, 2008, I discovered Chris Baty's No Plot, No Problem in a bookstore's writing section. I bought the book that night, went home, logged onto the website, and began my adventures in noveling. I had no plot, but I jumped in anyway. I only wrote 16,000 words that month; I did not win that year.

But I came back, and I have won the last two years, writing 50,000 words in 30 days, completing first drafts of two novels. My goal is to win again this year.

In 2009, I told Michael about it, and he also began participating. And for the last two years, he and I have each brought NaNoWriMo into our classrooms via the Young Writers Program. And we're doing it again this year too.

In the forums at NaNoWriMo, I learned that many people were planning to write a poem a day in April as part of National Poetry Month. I tried my hand at that in April of 2010. That didn't stick right away, but I came back again in April 2011. And since then, I've continued to write poetry. And, along the way, I've met some amazing people and made some new friends.

There are a lot of us out here whose lives are made richer by the poems and novels we write. And by the relationships we've forged in our love of literature, our common ground. I do this weird, solitary thing, putting little marks on a piece of paper. And then I put it out there for others to read. I'd like to say that writing is magical. It's not. But the relationships I've formed because of it - that's magical. And I am grateful.

Thank you again to everyone who's donated. I truly appreciate your support, both financially to the Office of Letters and Light, and in the kind words you share with me that encourage me to write - and to keep writing. This means a lot to me. And what's important to me I have to share. I am so lucky to have a colleague like Michael, who has become a good friend - and for us to discover this other thing besides teaching that we share.

I share my passion for writing with my students. That's no special thing. Lots of teachers do that. But it is special to me, because of the meaning that it carries for me. I'm blessed in that I can do the work that I love, teaching, and the play that I love, writing, and combine them as I do.

I've donated to NaNoWriMo the past three years. (I always feel a little guilty ordering free materials from them and not making a contribution.) I'm so thankful to everyone else who has donated on my behalf. They will put your money to good use, including supporting teachers in bringing writing to their students.

Please spread the word about NaNoWriMo to friends and family, and about their Young Writers Program to teachers. If you can't donate financially, encourage crazy people like me who attempt to write so many words in such a short span of time.

In these tough financial times, you might also consider using GoodSearch. Every internet search you make from their website earns a penny for the Office of Letters and Light.

Night of Writing Dangerously update (10/17/2011)

First and foremost, a sincere "thank you" to the following people who have donated to The Office of Letters and Light on my behalf: Joss Burnel, Brenda Warren, Paula Wanken, and Kim Nelson. I truly appreciate your financial support of this wonderful nonprofit organization.

I'm pleased (giddy, actually) to announce that I have now reached my goal of $250, which means that I may now attend The Night of Writing Dangerously, the write-a-thon that will be happening in San Francisco on November 20th.

I've now set my sights a little higher, to $350. If I can raise $100 more I will be able to take a guest. I want to take my friend and colleague, Michael Drum, with me. He also teaches fifth grade students at Lafayette Elementary. When I told him about National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) a couple of years back, he was instantly on-board. He wrote 50K words that November, and, like me, brought his students along for the ride. (He also writes poetry.) This will be our third year bringing NaNoWriMo into our classrooms thanks to free materials we have requested from NaNoWriMo's Young Writers Program.

Please spread the word about NaNoWriMo and their Young Writers Program. Let your children's teachers know about it. Got grandkids? Let their teachers know too. Are you a teacher? Sign up. Do you have friends who are teachers? Give them the link to NaNoWriMo. It's easy for teachers to sign up with the Young Writers Program and then request free materials to inspire students to write. The Young Writers Program also has PDF files of "100% NON-LAME workbooks" that you can download for free from their website.

Please consider sponsoring me on my fundraising page. (There you you can see a couple of photographs of former students of mine, from two years ago, writing in my classroom.) Your tax-deductible contribution will help The Office of Letters and Light bring National Novel Writing Month and the Young Writers Program to adults and children all over the world this November.

Richard (aka Mr. Walker)

Monday, October 17, 2011

he shouldered causes

he shouldered causes
the ones that were broken
or which someone had dropped

he would bolt through the door
burst onto the scene
never asking to be forgiven

he would pull nonprofits from their shallows
jump through red tape hoops
as if he were dancing

his feet constantly moving forward
then gathered together to leap
over whatever hurdles there were

toppling indifference only
he was a burst of joy
striking like a bolt of love

/ / /

This poem was written in response to Wordle 26 at The Sunday Whirl.

I'm raising funds for The Office of Letters and Light, the nonprofit organization that sponsors National Novel Writing Month in November. Please check out my Night of Writing Dangerously post, or see the sidebar note between the two NaNoWriMo web badges. (I'll be posting an update here later today.)

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

I'm an obsolete

I'm an obsolete
the antonym of athlete
because I don't like rambunctious people

I remember the days
of polite swallows
of teas and crumb-cakes,
when men wore fedoras,
as handsome on their heads outside
as on the hat-rack in our foyer

and you had to admire the way
they'd open the door of their automobile
and wait for a lady to seat herself
before gently closing the door
and driving us to the Palladium Ballroom

now I sit by the pond in my garden,
left fallow in my obsolescence,
so I ring the bell to summon the nurse
for my pills and some pleasant conversation

/ / /

This poem was written in response to Wordle 25 at The Sunday Whirl.

I'm raising funds for The Office of Letters and Light, the nonprofit organization that sponsors National Novel Writing Month in November. Please check out my Night of Writing Dangerously post, or see the sidebar note between the two NaNoWriMo web badges. I'm one-third of the way to my goal!

Monday, October 10, 2011


what does that mean?
falling short

is that a poke
at the vertically challenged?
that's not funny

or is it the punchline
to a politically incorrect joke
about a Native American name?
that's not funny either

falling a short distance
just might be a good thing
dust off your knees
and hop tall again

what I worry about is
falling behind

I've got emails to send
papers to grade
poems to post
a novel to write

and my butt is sagging

/ / /

This poem was written in response to the Rise and Fall prompt at Poetic Bloomings.

I'm raising funds for The Office of Letters and Light, the nonprofit organization that sponsors National Novel Writing Month in November. Please check out my Night of Writing Dangerously post, or see the sidebar note between the two NaNoWriMo web badges.

Thanks to Paula for her donation. You are a writing hero. I'm now one-third of the way to my goal. Thanks!

Friday, October 07, 2011

Ron Koertge

A little prose diversion today.

This past weekend I was checking out some of the 101 Best Websites put together by Writer's Digest every year. Since I'm planning on writing a children's book this year for NaNoWriMo, I thought I'd check out some of the sites related to writing for children.

And am I glad I did.

One of the sites was Cynsations, a blog by writer Cynthia Letich Smith. On her blog I found a guest post by Ron Koertge. All I knew about him before that was a poem that he wrote that I have read aloud to my students: "Do You Have Any Advice For Those of Us Just Starting Out?" (It's a great poem - you should read it.)

Well, I discovered that he writes books for young people. His blog post was about a sequel he had written to a previous book. What caught my attention was a book called Shakespeare Bats Cleanup. I quickly went online and found that they had a copy at my second-closest Barnes &Noble. In running errands on Sunday, we didn't make it over there, but I went Monday night and picked it up.

Here's the blurb on the back page:
At fourteen, Kevin Boland is a straight-talking MVP first baseman who can't tell a ballad from a salad. But when he is diagnosed with mono and is forced to spend months at home recuperating, Kevin secretly borrows his father's poetry book and starts writing, just to pass the time. Inside the book, Kevin discovers more than haiku and sonnets. He gains insight - sometimes humorous, sometimes painful - as he records his candid observations on junior-high romance, daydreams of baseball stardom, and sorrow over the recent death of his mother, and learns how words can open doors to the soul.
Makes you want to read it, doesn't it? I bought it. I can't wait to read it. As soon as I've finished it - which might not happen until I finish my first set of report cards for this school year - I'll post a review here. If I like it, I may read parts (or all) of it to my students as part of my Elementary School Poetry 180 Project.

/ / /

I'm raising funds for The Office of Letters and Light, the nonprofit organization that sponsors National Novel Writing Month in November. Please check out my Night of Writing Dangerously post.

Thanks to Brenda and Joss for their donations. You are writing heroes. I'm almost one-fourth of the way to my goal. Thanks!

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

It Had Been

his energy waned
he was fearful
he didn't mind being alone
except that he was lonely now
it hadn't always been this way

he had lived a life of adventure
his face had known many smiles
he had myriad loves
he could play music and jokes
it had been that way for a long time

he had wandered
and been lost
had looked for signs in headlines
and slept on concrete
it had been that way for too long

he regretted leaving the church
he remembered the circle of love there
he hoped the philosophy he'd cobbled together
would hold him in his final days

it had been his way
he just hoped it was the right  one

/ / /

This poem was written in response to Wordle 24 a la Leo at The Sunday Whirl and Wither Goest Thou Kevin Bacon? - Prompt #23 at Poetic Bloomings.

I'm raising funds for The Office of Letters and Light, the nonprofit organization that sponsors National Novel Writing Month in November. Please check out my Night of Writing Dangerously post.

And, in case you missed it, there is my interview with Sherry Blue Sky at Poets United.

Monday, October 03, 2011

The Night of Writing Dangerously

I'm looking for people willing to sponsor me financially, so that I can raise money for The Office of Letters and Light, the nonprofit organization that puts on National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) every November.

There, I said it. Got that over with.

"Why?" you ask.

Because, I say, it's a worthy cause.

This will be my fourth NaNoWriMo, and the third where I've brought it into my classroom. They also have a Young Writers Program, which provides free materials to teachers. There are great "100% NON-LAME workbooks" that teachers can download for free. And many teachers also order the free Classroom Noveling Kit. I've ordered one again this year, as I also did the previous two years. (You probably already know I'm a public school teacher.)

I've made monetary contributions all three years that I've participated in NaNoWriMo, and I've already done so again this year. But this year, I'd like to raise more money for The Office of Letters and Light - and attend The Night of Writing Dangerously, a write-a-thon to be held in San Francisco on Sunday, November 20, 2011.

Please consider sponsoring me on my fundraising page. A tax-deductible contribution of $10 will help put another Classroom Noveling Kit in the hands of a teacher somewhere, who will use that to inspire children to write. How cool is that? Pretty cool, I think. I've seen it myself upfront and close. Any amount that you can contribute in these tough economic times would be appreciated. Thank you for your time.

Richard (aka Mr. Walker)

Sunday, October 02, 2011

Elementary School Poetry - Week Four

"Radio" is another great poem from Poetry 180. It's accessible and fun. City kids get this one real quick.
I can't locate where I found "Could Have Been Worse" at the moment. It's a humorous poem from a poetry book for kids, probably one of those anthologies of poems that kids like. It's one of those "underwear" poems that makes kids groan. Lots of fun to read.
Addendum: I decided to do an internet search before I posted this, and sure enough, I located it. It's from Kids Pick the Funniest Poems - and I found it reposted online as well. Enjoy!
"The Farewell" is a great poem to read. It's also one that I might bring up later when we talk about trust and distrust.
"Knoxville, Tennessee" is a great poem by Nikki Giovanni. It's in our reading anthology; there's a small unit on poetry. But it comes with illustrations. I like students to read (or hear) poems on their own without illustrations. Pictures made by someone other than the poet guides student interpretations, and I want them to come up with their own interpretations.
"The Poet" is a fun one. Poets write poems about poetry and poets. This is a good example of that.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Waiting for the Director

the cinematographer was measuring the light
on the cafe set, with the stand-ins having a chat,
just as the characters soon would be

she would occasionally look over his shoulder,
a slight motion that annoyed the cinematographer,
so he gave her that look, which she did not see,
her gaze through the window, to outside,
where she hoped she would see her boyfriend
amongst the passers-by, who were strolling
past the book-shop, oblivious to the clutch
of cast and crew inside, waiting for the director

he wanted to move, to block her view,
but he knew the cinematographer would bark at him
if he did, so he sat still, smitten with her,
wishing someone would script his life, to have her
fall in love with him, while he could only imagine
an accident, a jostle, to get her to notice him,
but he feared he would botch it, the comic relief
instead of the romantic lead, so he sat
very still and waited for her to speak again

when the director and actors arrived on set,
the cinematographer moved behind the camera
to capture the scene, not seeing the drama
that was beginning to unfold right before him

/ / /

This poem was written in response to Wordle 23 a la Viv at The Sunday Whirl.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Shame Flows

he was a good boy (in his parents' eyes)
he was loved (for what he did)

so he did what he needed to
to keep their love

he was the dutiful son
he didn't speak unless spoken to
he didn't cry when he was hurt
his room was neat and tidy
his toys on the shelf pristine

he kept mum happy
he kept papa proud

but he didn't know how to keep himself
so he carried the loss

his heart beat
but it only beat him down
its message was
you are unworthy of love
for who you are

shame flowed with each beat
he didn't know what else there was
to fill his heart

it was where his heart was
he carried the loss

/ / /

This poem was written in response to the Better Inside Out prompt at We Write Poems.

It was written very much in response to this sentence from the original prompt idea: "But shame in itself is also a useless state of being, restoring nothing that might have been damaged, and is at root a self-centered point of view."

Sunday, September 18, 2011


take the woolen thread
that natural by-product of sheep
that symbol of the herd
for those who don't yearn
for those who just accept
and sew

choose what you want to fashion
a tapestry or banner
for a corridor of power
a sash or socks
to adorn or warm
or writer's gloves
with the fingertips exposed
take the woolen thread and sew

see the omens - if you can
hear the whispers of the muses
listen to your own yearnings
take the raw emotions of your life
and shape them with verve
take the woolen thread and sew

look into the mirror and don't blink
don't be fooled by the opal surface
look deeply - thrust through the layers
take the woolen thread and sew

clothe us - warm us
comfort us - warn us
we need it
even if we don't know it
just strengthen us
take the woolen thread and sew

/ / /

This poem was written in response to Wordle 22 at The Sunday Whirl.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

See Dick Run

See Dick run.
Run, Dick, run.

He's not running away
from Jane, but toward Jack.

Jack runs too, leaving Jill behind,
and Dick is happy chasing him.

Run, Dick, run.

Jack is fast, but not too fast.
He wants Dick to catch him.

Dick is starting to catch up.
The grin on his face is huge.

Run, Dick, run.

Dick tackles Jack,
and they tumble in the grass.

They fall, breathing hard,
laughing, limbs entwined.

See Dick walk.
Walk, Dick, walk.

Dick and Jack walk up the hill.
They find a spot beside the well.

They sit together, and hold hands
where no one can see.

/ / /

This poem was written in response to the B 1 prompt at We Write Poems.

My first name is Richard, so I decided my alter ego would be called Dick. I have never been called Dick, as a nickname for my given name. I may have been called a dick, but I'm not sure about that. In fact, that's how I first thought this poem was going to go; I thought of a guy named Dick, who was, well... a dick. But I just couldn't go the obnoxious or sexist route.

Instead, I thought of the Dick and Jane readers. And, for some reason, the nursery rhyme pair of Jack and Jill popped into my head. I began toying with the idea of Dick and Jack being the pair. So, Dick became that person. It occurred to me that the source material I was drawing from supported the heterosexual majority point of view and orientation, and that I would offer an alternative. This poem is my trying to show a little respect to all my gay, lesbian, and bisexual brothers and sisters out there.

I also had in mind two boys I knew many years ago, when they were second graders. They were best friends and thought nothing of holding hands when they walked out to recess together. Even at that age, other students had been acculturated to think it was wrong for boys to hold hands like that. I recall telling a girl who had said something disparaging about them that I didn't see anything wrong with them holding hands. I have no idea what their sexual orientation was, is, or will be, but it doesn't matter. There are sensitive boys out there, and there's a lot right with them.

Friday, September 16, 2011

My Room

This place must be safe,
safe to fall but not fail.

This place should be happy,
pleasing to the senses,
igniting nerves inside bone.

This place defines us.
There are walls and a roof,
a floor to walk on.
We are not born here,
but we all pass through
as learners here.

This place accepts us.
All are cared for.
We can even begin
to accept ourselves here.

This place has a voice.
And it can hold your voice.
Speak. Laugh. Sing.
Question. Answer. Question.

This place is quiet.
I sit here and think,
reflect on the day
and all its doings.

This place is empty.
As I leave it,
I know.

/ / /

This poem was written in response to the Snapshot of Place prompt at We Write Poems.

I was intrigued by Neil's idea, and finally came up with this. I knew immediately what I wanted to do; it just took me a while to put pen to paper.

I knew I wanted to use chakras as my rule of measure. Don't ask me why. The idea just popped into my head. And I wanted to write about my classroom. And yet leave it open to interpretation. So, this poem is constructed with each stanza representing a different chakra, from base, sacral, solar plexus, heart, throat, third eye, to crown. I did a little internet research and used these ideas: self-preservation, self-gratification, self-definition, self-acceptance, self-expression, self-reflection, and self-knowledge. I hope the poem works without knowing what's in these process notes.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

rondeau: scrapers

We don't wake with a jolt anymore.
We just scrape across the floor
and look for our dignity,
rummaging in our pockets to see
if we can find any more.

We used to be urgent and aroar.
Now we're just simple and sore.
We used to strive - to be.
We don't wake with a jolt anymore.

We know we should be bold or
work to build scrapers that soar,
but we pass what we see,
cut out all roaring humanity.
We're all aft; there's no one fore.
We don't wake with a jolt anymore.

/ / /

This poem was written in response to Wordle 21 at The Sunday Whirl. I was inspired to write a rondeau by an article in the October issue of The Writer which I am currently reading on my nook.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Elementary School Poetry - Week Three

Here are the five poems for week three:
I pulled the other two poems from books I have. There is a series of books of poetry for children, and I selected "Dream Variations" from the one on Langston Hughes. It is titled Poetry for Young People: Langston Hughes, edited by David Roessel and Arnold Rampersad. "Blackberry Eating" came from A Poem for Every Day! by Susan Moger.

Thursday, September 01, 2011


Boy is sent to his room
without dinner or explanation
"You should know why"
(the voice of passive aggression)

Boy is hurt
but has no outlet
for that emotion
(the voice of anger is also wrong)

So he dampens the flame
says he feels nothing
because that's better than pain
(the voice of thought over emotion)

The boy is blue
the world a sadder place
though no one notices
(the voice of depression grows stronger)

He's a sensitive boy
He's so shy
You know how introverts are
(the voice of rationalization)

So no one sees his pain
he hides it even from himself
but it grows within him
(waiting for the voice of compassion)

/ / /

This poem was written to the 3 + (x) = Poem prompt at We Write Poems. Thanks to Amy Barlow Liberatore for the prompt idea and We Write Poems for using it.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011


He maintains the truth around him,
each and every room in turn.
Every vessel of knowledge matters,
each as important as the one before,
the last, the first, and all between.

He doesn't breeze through his work.
He sweeps away the dust and pencil shavings,
but doesn't wipe away the residue of art,
that which was created so fervently,
if yet without much skill.
He has a trunk at home
filled with his own children's artwork,
and each piece he sees fills him anew.

He sometimes skins his knuckles,
making minor repairs to this and that,
but that doesn't matter. It's just a covering,
as his job doesn't cloak who he is.

/ / /

This poem was written in response to Wordle 19 at The Sunday Whirl. Thanks to Brenda, as always, for these wordles. And thanks again for choosing words from one of my poems. It's good to be missed, but it's even better to be back reading and writing again.

Obviously, being back in the classroom has influenced my subject matter.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Elementary School Poetry 180 - Week Two

Here are the five poems I read last week:
I still have a student who says, "That was short" when I finish reading a poem. All of these fit on a single page except for "Numbers". There was some discussion of the last stanza of that one, a bit of confusion about what to make of "three boys", "two Italians", and "one sock".

I think I'm going to drop "Ozymandias". While I like it, and it's fun to read aloud, I think it's too heady for ten-year-olds. They just don't know what to make of it.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Thirteen Ways

Less than a day's drive
from the Sierra Nevada
sits the city of San Francisco.

Water has three states,
a secular trinity
that provides life.

The autumn winds pull the fog
through the Golden Gate.

Hydrogen and oxygen
are one.
Liquid and ice and vapor
are one.

I do not know which to prefer,
the beauty of thirst
or the beauty of slaking it.
Lifting the full glass
or emptying it.

Icicles filled the picture
above December's grid,
those barbaric teeth
of old man winter,
or are they instead
translucent carrots
growing in the sky?

Oh bachelors of the city
surrounded by golden-skinned birds,
do you watch them as they sip
so delicately their vitamin waters
after their runs along the bay?

I know the taste
of accented water-
the teas and coffees
and their rhythms
of afternoon and morning.

As the fog burned off,
its disappearing edge
was natural magic.

At the sight of the marine layer,
giving everything a gray hue,
even the purples of pigeons
were a welcome flash of color.

He walked across the bride,
stopping to look out at Alcatraz
-no glass cage for him-
and the fear
of too much freedom
and too much restraint
was the fog's shadow on him.

The sixteen rivers are moving.
The bay must be alive.

In the morning, the family left the city
for afternoon snow-
it was going to snow
they said on the news-
to watch the evergreens turn white.

/ / /

This is a poem I originally wrote in April 2010 for Poetic Asides. I don't think I've posted it before. (I couldn't find it on this blog, even using a search.) I did revise a couple of the stanzas, but otherwise, it is as I originally wrote it.

I submit it in response to the Thirteen Ways of Looking prompt at We Write Poems. This is an idea I've used before. I learned it from Susan Sibbet, a poet who comes to my school from California Poets in the Schools. But I'm glad that Margo suggested it for all of us.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

A Francisco San School Day

It was one of those days.
You know what I'm talking about.
There was the tremor in the morning
that left everyone unsettled.
No plaster cracked or fell from the walls,
but we all still shuddered inside
sporadically throughout the day.

Actually, it started before that
when I forgot the words to the pledge
of allegiance, as if I was that no man
who is an island, bound to none.
Another teacher gave me the glare
that said I was being seditious,
but it was my brain in rebellion
against me, not my heart.

And then walking up the stairs
to the classroom, it was as if the tread
of my shoe was gone, every step
was wrong, the wetness of the morning fog
now squeaking off loudly on the stairs,
my foot slipping so I almost fell,
and then giving a flat tire
to the little fourth-grade girl
struggling up the stairs in front of me.

After the tremor, they were timid.
Afraid to ask questions, to take smart risks,
as if the stigma of the label of special education
had been stamped on them all.
They weren't themselves, as if their nether selves
had crawled up and thrown their sacred selves down.

I didn't teach a single thing that day.
I swear everything I did only hindered
their progress rather than aiding it.
My lesson plans weren't on my clipboard.
I couldn't find the copies I'd made
the previous day. The teacher's edition
wasn't on the shelf of my podium.
My every effort only enmeshed my students
in a net of incompetence and ignorance.
By the end of the day, we were a tuft,
a dense clump, of humanity.

I dismissed them at two,
and sat alone in my classroom until three
dismissing myself.

/ / /

For this poem, I combined two prompts, Wordle 17 from The Sunday Whirl, and a prompt from Poetic Asides to write an "everything is against you" poem. Thanks to Brenda and Robert.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

The Banker

it's easy to see desperation
in the eyes of a stranger

not so easy to turn your heart
to granite and slouch by,
but you've managed it

you spin your stories
how they've wasted their lives,
that they've cracked their minds
on drugs, cheapened their bodies

you concern yourself
with how dirty they are,
not ash on their skins
but the oily residue
of urban life

if only they were clean
you tell yourself

but the truth is
you are afraid
afraid that they will screw you
as you've screwed them

you fear the revolution
that they'll rise
and throw you to the ground
from the corporate parapets
you think protect you

but when the revolution of your soul comes
when all worldly concerns are cleansed
you will not find yourself
in the presence of light

/ / /

This poem was written in response to Wordle 18 at The Sunday Whirl.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

My body is a school.

My body is a school.

The principal and teachers are meeting
in the faculty room of my brain.
They are discussing the best ways
to improve their students' faculties.

My eyes are a vision
of a brighter future,
but right now it's raining
and the visibility's not so good.

My ears have the capacity
of an auditorium,
for questions, music,
problems, poems,
and confidences kept safe.

My shirt is brightly colored,
a primary color with short sleeves.
There are no tricks up my sleeves,
just grease on my elbow,
and copier toner under my fingernails.

I have a full, satisfied feeling
in my cafeteria stomach.

There are students running
through my intestinal hallways.
It tickles, stirring up serotonin.

My hands are empty.
There are no more supplies
to carry upstairs
from the supply room.
But they are open,
full of compassion and giving.
They are ready to reach out
and help someone up.

One foot is stuck in the mud
of public apathy,
while the other is unstable
on the shifting sands
of governmental mismanagement.
My balance is good
and my legs are strong.
I've had lots of practice
traversing this land.
And somehow
I keep moving forward.

/ / /

This poem is in response to a prompt from Poetic Asides to write a school poem.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Elementary School Poetry 180 - Week One

It was way too crazy a week ago for me to post the poems I was going to read. Instead, on Mondays I will be posting the poems I read the previous week to my students. In fact, I didn't get to reading any poems aloud until the fourth day, when I read four in a row.
In the spirit of "Introduction to Poetry", we just "walk inside the poem's room". Students are welcome to comment, if they like, but I ask no questions of them. There is no analysis. That may come later - and as a separate activity. I am going to try poems with VTS, Visual Thinking Strategies, this year. I think "The Tyger" might be an interesting one to try later in the year.

"Jabberwocky" was a poem some students had heard or read before. All the others were new to them. We did comment on the made up words in the Lewis Carroll poem. And a student did mention how "This Is Just to Say" was a poem of apology.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Track Meet

The boy hurtles himself into the air,
his limbs outstretched over the hurdles,
which he clears without injury or slowing down,
reaching for that finish line, its siren call
never fading, only growing stronger.

He never turned his gaze towards the others.
It was not close, no toss-up who won.
It was as if he flew the entire distance.
This was a first victory for him,
and as he flashed that fresh, winning smile,
he was glad he flossed after breakfast,
no flecks of cereal between his teeth.

/ / /

I finally finished this poem in response to Wordle 11 at The Sunday Whirl.

I'm only three weeks late. It's not a great poem. Frankly, "It was as if he flew the entire distance" is probably the most cliche line I've ever posted, but my self-imposed challenge of writing a poem to all of Brenda's wordles is intact.

Monday, July 25, 2011


you have to open the curtains,
their edges touching the bookcase
with the gilded leather covers
standing at attention, waiting,
their wisdom rendered from life,
and blink for a moment
at the light scattered by the clouds,
cast your scattered thoughts aside,
let the whir of your mind cease,
do not scan for the plot twist,
just marvel at the natural world,
where nothing is reprehensible

/ / /

This poem was written in response to Wordle 14 at The Sunday Whirl.

Sunday, July 24, 2011


the divine spirit walked
onto the celestial balcony
to observe humanity,
their rhythmic jostles,
as they ignored the ominous
and fell prey to illusions,
flapping about in search of meaning,
a pantomime of the real,
fearful of the day
they'd be but bones
beneath the emerald lawns,
worried about the void
between earth and heaven
and not seeing the void
between each other

/ / /

This poem was written in response to Wordle 13 at The Sunday Whirl.

Friday, July 22, 2011


Logic is just one river
that empties into the Sea of Thought.

It flows, a path of nature,
as true as the river of Instinct
and much more so than Emotion,
that twisted tributary
feeding into Whim,
as so many others do,
and drink from as well.

But Logic is clear and cool,
not muddied like Fantasy
by all the unicorns and centaurs
galloping along its banks,
a world all its own
and yet just part of ours.

And Logic flows calmly,
no buzz of mosquitoes
in your ears
from stagnant ponds
looking for blood.

I don't understand
why some resist,
just refusing to drink
from this wondrous river.

Or why those who do drink
are not quenched of their thirst.
Maybe it's the lack of taste.

Then my eyes fluttered open,
and I realized I'd been floating down Dream.

/ / /

This poem was written in response to Wordle 12 at The Sunday Whirl.

I have failed utterly (so far) to write a poem to Wordle 11, which is part of the delay in getting this one posted.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

The Waves

The Waves

It's great to move.
I never tire of it.
And to rush up
and throw yourself
onto the coarse sand,

And the slide back,
merging with my brothers,
that divine touch
I always feel.
That swirling and tumbling,
watching the air bubbles rise.
They tickle.

Then we gather
together again
to wash over
the sandcastles.
to pull the sand down,
tumbling each grain
a little more smooth.
They want to be round
like the Earth.
So we do
the best we can.

And we free our brothers
trapped in the moats.
I hate being there.
We rush back home,

High tide,
low tide,
it doesn't matter.
There's always
something fun
to do.
When you're
not tied down.

"According to the waves"

According to the waves
sand castles are not allowed to stand.

They come rushing up
then falling back
whispering as they go
maybe next time.

And come back they do.
Sometimes near, sometimes far.
They gather strength
to strike again
but are undermined
by their brothers
rushing back to the sea.

Always  uphill,
the climb up the beach,
then the slide back,
tumbling rocks and broken shells.
But eventually
they make it all the way.
They pour over the walls,
overflow the moats,
and bring the sand castles
down, dragging them seaward,
smoothing rough human
edges away.

Sand castles,
according to the waves,
are not allowed
to stand.

So much better
to run uphill
and then slide home.

/ / /

"The Waves" was written in response to two prompts from We Write Poems: I hear voices and Revisionists unite. "According to the waves" is the poem I decided to revise, from last year's Poem-a-Day Challenge in April, but I was stuck on how to approach it. I still think it needs work, but decided to write a new poem from the perspective of the waves themselves.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

The Shape of Grace

First there was the shade of the tree
over the front steps, taking the sun's glare
out of our eyes, and when we opened the door

to my grandmother's house, it was inhaling love,
more than just the smells that came from the back
of the house. The living room we stepped into

was clean and silent and poorly named.
We did all our living in the kitchen.
At least my grandmother and I did.

I quickly made my way to the kitchen,
wanting to get there first. She was peering
into the steam of a boiling copper pot

and when she heard me at the kitchen doorway,
that swinging door always creaked on its hinges,
she set down the wide wooden spoon on its rest.

We met midway, by the marble countertop,
a funny thing to have indoors if you think about it.
She set her hazed-over glasses on that

cool, smooth, rock surface, kissed me once
on the forehead, and then enveloped me in her hug.
Then she was flitting out to greet the rest

of my family, but returning to the kitchen
with the grace it deserved. She glanced
at the cuckoo clock by the dining room table,

then turned over the hourglass she used as a timer,
its salt and pepper sands falling, building up
that miniature dune that said dinner was ready.

She called me over, saying time for kisses.
My grandmother never called them pinches or dashes.
They were kisses. That was the shape of her love,

us standing side by side by the old gas stove,
tossing kisses of salt, herbs, and spices
into the family meal. That was what I loved to breathe.

/ / /

This poem was written in response to Wordle 10 at The Sunday Whirl. I'm very late with this one, writing it just the other day, but I have to write a poem to all of Brenda's wordles. It's just a challenge I've set for myself.

Saturday, July 09, 2011

With Our Families

while swimming at the pond all day
the three other men left
for a drink at a nearby bar

I would have said "no thank you"
but I still would've liked
to have been asked

Friday, July 08, 2011

One Difference

girl swimming in Sand Pond:
I don't want to get out here
I don't want to hurt the tadpoles

boys with buckets and nets

/ / /

Another small stone from our holiday weekend.

Thursday, July 07, 2011

Compassion and Grammar (small stone)

saw two Cattlemens restaurants
on our drive to our vacation spot
just two problems with that
one I'm vegan
two it needs an apostrophe

/ / /

Another small stone from our drive to get away for the long holiday weekend.

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Fourth of July Weekend (small stone)

going thirty miles per hour on I-80
watching the shadow
of the seagull
change lanes ahead of me

/ / /

This poem is my first posting of a small stone as part of a river of stones.

I've been away for the long holiday weekend, and was busy in the days before that preparing food for me to eat over those days away from home. It's one of the prices I have to pay being vegan in a non-vegan world.

I hope to try to catch up, but there are some prompts that I just may not get to. I already have two prompts from We Write Poems and The Sunday Whirl that I hope to get to, but I make no promises.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

untitled (Wordle 9)

the spider lets out
threads of gossamer
yet for their thickness
stronger than steel
and she never allows
them to become tangled
she'll just break them
and make some more

she builds her home
in the sky, etches
in the very atmosphere
her place where she traps
and feeds and raises her young

she is not a creature
of bone, not like the humans
who dream of flight
or even the birds
with their hollow bones
who manage flying
from telephone wire to branch

without bones
her architecture is different

she hangs suspended
in her airy temple
light everywhere
no need for windows

as her babies hatch
she tells them the stories
they need to hear
how to trap prey
where to build a home

and the stories
that fill their souls
she points at the sparks
in the sky and tells them
they are stardust
everything around them
is stardust
they are sacred sparks
that she is sending out
to brighten the night sky

they let out a bit of gossamer
and they wait for it
to wave in the breeze
moving like serprents
then they let go
of their mother's gossamer
and float out on their own

if she had eyelids
she'd close them to slits
watching her children
float away
but she can't
so she just holds on
feeling the vibration
as each one lets go

/ / /

This poem was written in response to Wordle 9 at The Sunday Whirl. A whole week late, but better late than never.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Here Now

I sit in bed with my reading pillow
and my lap desk, my laptop nearby

iced tea on my bedside table
okay, just a splash of sweet tea
and then water to fill the glass
edged in blue at the top

a Lego knight on horseback
that my sons made for me
he guards my books
stacks of them on the table
and on the floor along with CDs
I'm ripping onto iTunes

three frames on the walls
each on a different wall
one of my wife and I
on our first trip to Vegas
where we'd later marry
it was taken in a photo booth
but looks like a pen and ink
sketch by Rembrandt
one a watercolor of cherry blossoms
painted by my mother
the last a picture I took
of our firstborn the first week
we lived in this house
it's not even a photograph
it's a digital snapshot
my wife printed out at work
on a color printer on plain paper
we were so broke then
having just paid first and last
and the security deposit

beneath the watercolor a coffee table
long ago removed from the living room
as we baby-proofed the new house
now a permanent fixture in our bedroom
where stands the Tiffany lamp
that was my grandmother's
an heirloom left to me
in my father's will
safe from boys who are not allowed
to play in our bedroom

even when I'm alone in here
reading, listening to music,
or writing a poem
I'm surrounded by my family

/ / /

This poem was written to the Write here, now prompt at We Write Poems. Thanks to Pamela for the prompt.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

The Couple

he comes home late
and all he can do is complain
about the damp laundry

she thinks
but the clothes are clean
can't you see that

she holds her anger in
and he is incensed

she wants to avoid conflict
and he wants to fight

he is tired
and feels trapped
in her domesticity

she is tired
of his errant ways
his car the symbol of that

and the skid marks
he leaves on her soul

she's not sure
how much more
she can endure

/ / /

This poem was written using the theme of endure from One Single Impression incorporating damp, incensed, and skid from Three Word Wednesday. It is also a response to the cocktail of words prompt from We Write Poems.

I also offer it as my acceptance of the Perfect Poet Award for week 46 from Promising Poets' Poetry Cafe. I nominate Henry Clemmons, who blogs at The UnderSide of Green.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011


it's difficult sometimes
to know if what I do
is aligned with my priorities

life is erratic
like it's charting a course for me
that doesn't seem guided
by fate or design

I look for omens
signs to show me
that I'm doing the right things

even the occasional bad omen would be okay
something to fight against
an obstacle giving me
a short-term goal to focus on
something to measure myself by

but the fact is I don't believe in omens
signs from above or below
what's here and now
in the middle matters

teaching young people
writing poems
making my small portion
of this erratic life
brighter and more beautiful

at least I think so
that's the question I started with
isn't it?

but then I look
at my boys
and see what is reflected
in their luminous eyes

and everything seems
true and good
what I know
and what I do
the things that are me
appear congruent

and I wonder
why I question myself at all

I should take that
as a good omen

/ / /

This poem was written for the cocktail of words prompt at We Write Poems. I used the priorities prompt from Poetic Asides and erratic, luminous, and omen from Three Word Wednesday.

A special "Thank you" to the great people at We Write Poems for using my prompt idea this past week. I enjoy writing to their prompts and being a part of their community. I am looking forward to seeing what others have written.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011


I wish that I could leave a journal
and pen by my bedside table
so that when I woke from sleep
I could jot down my dreams
but I rarely remember them
unless they are frightening
and I flee from them
to the waking world

instead I daydream
and make up stories
and on occasion I manage
to tell a story
that is inspiring to others
or so they tell me

there have been stories
of strange, enchanting lands
where the people sleep
beguiled by the lotus

there have been stories of bold heroes
with torsos bulging with muscles
alluring maidens who wait for the hero
or go off on their own quests
a devious villain to antagonize
the hero or heroine

what is incomparable
is not the pleasure of writing
because it's not just play

I work at it
more than I care to admit

but the joy of reading
what others have created
and I take immeasurable pleasure
in reading the comments
on what I've written

that is what is incomparable
the kinship of readers and writers
none of whom are my actual kin
just kindred spirits

/ / /

This poem was written in response to the Incomparable prompt at Writer's Island, using the words from Wordle 8 at The Sunday Whirl.

Addendum: This poem also works for the cocktail of words prompt at We Write Poems.

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Do You Like It?

of course you like it
your son made it
you like everything
he makes at school

but you paused a little too long
before you replied to his question

uhm... I like how much blue you used
and these black lines here
they're bold and uhm...
I like the way they flow

what's bold he asks
and you say brave fearless

good he says
'cause it's a policeman

I like your bold policeman you say
relieved that he seems satisfied
with your response

let's put it on the refrigerator
you say hoping to close the deal

okay he says

after he's gone to sleep
you stare at the bold policeman
in your kitchen
but you still can't see him there

the strange shape
its asymmetry
a little frightening

you wish
you could see
what he sees

more in his mind's eye
than on the page

when you realize
how much you've lost

/ / /

This poem was written in response to the Sometimes something surprising! prompt at We Write Poems.

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

untitled (Thursday Think Tank)

of the autumn breeze
the leaves grew tired-
their shadows rested
on the empty bench

/ / /

This poem was written in response to the visual prompt at Thursday Think Tank #51 at Poets United.

Monday, June 06, 2011

untitled (Wordle 7)

she tried to ignore the inky murmurs
of the subdued women
gossiping about her purple dress

she heard gaudy and tacky
as their talk undulated
from unkind to cruel to mean

she watched as one of them happily
burrowed into her red leather purse
and pulled out her cell phone

she called someone and began
to spin her web of callous words
via cellular towers and satellites

though it saddened her
she sat unafraid
they were just words, after all

and she knew in her heart
that she glowed in her purple dress
because it made her feel light

she did pity the other women however
because they were so common
and their hearts were the abyss

/ / /

This poem was written in response to Wordle 7 at a wordling whirl of Sundays.

Friday, June 03, 2011

from a book of poetry

I was reading this poem
about a girl who sat
   on the same bench
   near some blue hydrangeas
   every Tuesday
   eating her lunch

which she had made herself
and brought from home
and I remember not much caring
about where the lunch came from
or why that bench or Tuesday
or even about who the girl was

when there was a sudden silence
of the crowd of people around me
in the courtyard where I sat

I set down my book of poetry
but I had missed what
had silenced the crowd

as I reached for the sandwich
I'd made at home that morning
I noticed the blue hydrangeas
in the planter behind the bench
and how the petals looked like butterflies
around a small world
and I looked up at the mid-day sky
so blue, and I wondered what we
looked like form the outside
and if anyone bothered to much care

/ / /

I wrote this poem a couple of weeks ago. It was written in response to a prompt from Not Without Poetry.

Grab a book of poetry. Try not to be too picky. From the last line of the first poem, take a word or phrase and write it down. Now, from the first line of the last poem, take a word or phrase and write it down. Now, from a random line from a random poem somewhere in between the first and the last poems, take a word or phrase and write it down. With those three words or phrases, and this picture, write.

I used The Trouble with Poetry by Billy Collins. I used the following three lines form his poems as my inspiration:

near some blue hydrangeas, reading this

I remember not caring much

there is a sudden silence of the crowd

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

To Their Right

Preposition Piku

It tells us
we're going. To.

Number Piku

Even and
Has to be: Two.

In Addition Piku

Also or
or very. Too.

/ / /

Contraction Piku

Pronoun they
verb to be. They're

Possessive Piku

Pronoun for
his and hers. Their.

Parts of Speech Piku

Adverb, pro
adjective. There.

/ / /

Angle Piku

Proper, good
correct. It's right.

Mark Piku

To compose
form words. To write.

Passage Piku

solemn act. Rite.

Construction Piku

A worker
Frank Lloyd. A wright.

/ / /

These pikus were written in response to the Dancing with Pikus prompt at We Write Poems. Thanks, Tilly. This was fun.

Regarding the "Parts of Speech Piku": There is both a pronoun and a noun, thus "pro / noun". Still not sure if I'm happy with that or not.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Fire Dominates

we are turning toward the fire
some with dove tails think
it will protect us from the dark
others with hawk tails feel
the dark has fallen against them
they think the fire can be used
to push the twilight away
still others fear that the wind will rise
fanning the flames and the leaves will catch

we are all afraid
some of us cry tears
others cry out, striding forward in anger
that has been shaped
and layered on the fear

and the Earth spins and orbits
around its solar bonfire
caught between planets named for old gods
one of love and one of war

/ / /

This poem was written in response to Wordle 6, using twelve words from "Domination of Black" by Wallace Stevens, from a wordling whirl of Sundays.

Monday, May 30, 2011

No Sacrifice

Before the gods, titans, and giants,
there were beings whose names are lost
in the vast passage of time. Perhaps they lived
before time in a place we cannot know.

Some believe they fought amongst themselves.
Their spilled blood formed worlds
and all the things that lived on those worlds.
Our world, our universe, is not one of those.

Some believe that they sought to create.
They fashioned worlds, created beings and life
to flourish. But these were shadows, disappointments,
failed experiments. Our universe is not one of those.

I believe there was one of those beings
that understood what was truly necessary.
He gave of himself, unfolding all that he was.
Our universe is his body, mind, and spirit.

Everything around us is alive.
The rocks may seem dead, but they are not.
Every particles of our universe is sacred,
a gift freely given, an ongoing song of love.

Those who fight are foolish and deluded.
Those who create without the gift of love fail.
We must accept more than we can know
from our lives. We must believe in stories.

/ / /

This poem was written in response to the We Write Poems prompt to write about how the universe began.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Dream of a Superman

my power waned

I was the problem

things got better
when I decided to surrender
myself to the light
of that beautiful yellow sun

I took flight
too seriously
it was supposed to be a joy
not a burden

I had forgotten that

I floated for a moment
saw myself reflected
in a window
thirty stories up

the people beneath me
gathered on the sidewalks
to look up
utter trust on their faces

if there are angels
it is they

for all my power
it is not absolute

but when they work together
they can solve
almost any problem

the only risk
is that the lull
lasts too long
that we fail to act
when we should

that thought started
me awake

I turned over
rearranged my bedsheets
into a cape on my back
and returned to sleep
and to joyful flight

/ / /

This poem was written in response to the Wordle 5 prompt at a wordling whirl of Sundays.

I'm a full week late on this one. I'm getting back into the swing of things now that my school year is over. As I respond to certain prompts, I'll be catching up with others' poems.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Two Hands

my wife has some lovely
Mother's Day cards
from our sons
made at school

     Father's Day
     comes after school is out
     for the summer
     I get store-bought cards

I think it's great
that women and men walk
twenty miles a day
for three days
wearing pink

     it's not the cancer
     that kills the most women

     and where's the three day
     walk for prostate cancer?

this man is probably
too logical for you

     but I write poems

/ / /

This poem was written in response to a prompt at Poetic Asides to write an "on the other hand" poem.

Thursday, May 26, 2011


opening day / of summer vacation looms
hours and hours of unstructure / waiting to be filled
no lesson plans to write / no other people's children to teach
no papers to read and grade / just notebooks to fill with poems
titled or not / capitalized or not / punctuated or not
let ungrammar reign / and feelings and meaning rain / down on the page

don't title / don't limit or restrict
don't set up preconceptions / let them discover
let that be the joy / not the cleverness of your title
forms or free verse / whatever the poem wants to be
just let it / give it permission to be / itself
just to be / to come into being
it doesn't have to do anything / let it be
listen to the Beatles / write a song / let the lyrics flow

give yourself permission / daydream / write
compose in your head / read some untitled poems
journey into their territory / with an incomplete map
you fill it in / they aren't blanks
it's not that kind of not / there is no negativity
just potential / energy inside you / just wanting to be kinetic
but it's not work / it's play / kinetic and kinesthetic

give it voice / fill the air with your words
we need them / I need them / keep them coming
like air / there's more there than you think

go out / and photosynthesize
take in some vitamin D / turn that into a poem
it doesn't need to be a thesis / a funky synthesis will do
a little antithesis / if you want
that goes with untitled / right?

/ / /

This poem was written to the prompt at Poets United to write a poem titled "untitled".

I really needed this. Tomorrow is the last day of my school year. I will be promoting 32 fifth-grade students to middle school. I have been working my tail off to be ready for tomorrow, and I am so ready for a break. Poetry is my sanity.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

The Young Hero

The young Hero was foolish
to act with such relish
in his own power.

He did not stop to think
of mercy because his mind
was set on justice.

It was the old Villain,
in his death, who taught
him his foolish ways.

He whispered to the Hero
as he died: I would
have granted you mercy.

/ / /

This poem was written in response to a prompt from Three Word Wednesday: foolish, mercy, relish.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Making Vegan Burgers

Getting the water just the right
temperature for the cool
dorsum and the warmer palm,
then the liquid soap,
antibacterial or not, to cleanse.

Feeling calmer now, measuring
out the ingredients into the curve
of the bowl, no anticipation,
just action, kneading the gluten
with clean hands and a clear mind.

Forming the burger patties,
ready for the spring grill,
I notice that my anger
has melted away, and I have made
food for my family with love.

/ / /

This poem was written in response to a prompt from Three Word Wednesday: cleanse, knead, and melt.

This is the third of four poems I wrote over the last week for Three Word Wednesday. Number four will be along tomorrow, and then I'll be taking a short break. My school year ends on Friday, May 27. I have to finish grading papers and I haven't even started on report cards yet. Once my summer vacation starts, I will be much more active here, and I promise to get caught up reading and commenting on your poems.

Today also happens to be my younger son's seventh birthday. (Happy birthday, Aidan!) He likes my vegan burgers, and he likes helping me in the kitchen to make them.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Tonic Town

i wanted to surrender
to love of grace
but she made it so hard

she would thin her gin
her evening meal
every day except sunday
she didn't eat at all
on sundays
which is how
she stayed so thin

god, she was beautiful

empty calories
for an empty heart
that i wanted to fill

my better self wanted
to fill it with love
my baser self just wanted
to fill it
with a need for me

and she smelled so fine
that i was rarely thin
when i was near her
i would say her scent
was intoxicating
but that would give
the wrong impression

i joked that she had
surrendered to grace
the baser grace
that was a mirror of me
but it wasn't funny

a jigger of this
a jigger of that
then the jitters set in

i wanted to surrender
to grace
but i didn't

she had already
surrendered herself
to something greater
than me

i'm sorry, grace
that i couldn't save you
from your surrender

* * * * *

This poem was written in response to the Take the driver's seat! prompt at We Write Poems:

First consider what prompt would be an interesting and challenging prompt for you, including then what you think would be good for the group. Then 1) write a brief paragraph describing the poem prompt itself, and 2) go ahead and write your own poem to that prompt.

For my poem, I used surrender as the theme from Sunday Scribblings, and grace, thin, and jitter from Three Word Wednesday.

So, here's my prompt:

One, select a prompt from a site like Poetic Asides, Writer's Island, Sunday Scribblings, or One Single Impression. This will be the topic or theme of your poem. Two, select some words from a site like Three Word Wednesday or a wordling whirl of Sundays. Now, consider your theme/topic and your words. See if those words will help you explore or expand on your theme, or see if your topic opens up, leading down unexpected avenues, as you play with those words. Trust your poetic intuition and imagination. You could choose prompts that you haven't previously responded to, or revisit ones you've already done, or find a prompt that previously stumped you, and see if this take on it will help you get a poem written.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Public School Teachers

We brandish respect
and knowledge
for we are mighty inside.

We forbid no one.
All are welcome
to enter and learn.

We manage this daily
with little compensation
and little complaint.

I challenge you to do the same.

* * * * *

This poem was written in response to a prompt from Three Word Wednesday: brandish, forbid, and manage.

Paula suggested that this poem might work for the Poetic Asides prompt to write a telling it like it is poem. I agree. Thanks, Paula.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Riding in the Passenger Seat

we were driving to see a covered bridge
in Moscow, Indiana, a rural configuration
that can barely be called a town.

it's hot and humid, salty drops
on our foreheads, so we're slurping
down sweet tea made with filtered

water, just as we take in
the fields and the big sky,
unmarred by hills or mountains,

textured by the low soybean fields
and the tall corn, the gold inside,
brandishing our cameras, so it's obvious

we aren't locals, a California infusion
to the local economy, because long ago
my parents substituted that home

for this one, when it occurs to me
that these farmers do not just eke
out a living, that life is all around.

sure, there was the wooden house,
abandoned, imploding in geologic time,
the bricks of the chimney the only

straight lines to be seen, but that
was the exception rather than the rule,
when my uncle brings the car

to a stop, and we're at the bridge.

* * * * *

This poem was written in response to Wordle 4 at a wordling whirl of Sundays. Thanks again to Brenda for hosting this wonderful site.

Sunday, May 15, 2011


I'm always looking back,
hanging around as I do.
That's what I'm here for.

I see you as no one else does.
I look you straight in the eye.
I'm always looking back

at you when you're looking at me.
I'm a good listener too.
I listen to you sing in the shower

and I pay special attention
when you practice asking your boss
for that raise we both know you deserve.

I wait for you to come home.
I'm always here for you,
morning or night. Just turn on the light

so I can see you better.
You're looking tired now. Time
to brush your teeth and go to sleep.

* * * * *

This poem was originally written for the April 20, 2010 prompt at Poetic Asides to write a looking back poem. I was not posting poems last year, so while this is an older poem, it's a fresh post. I'm posting it today because I remembered it when looking at this week's Thursday Think Tank at Poets United.

Full disclosure: After I posted this, I thought I'd do a search just to make sure I hadn't posted it before. I had already looked at my April 2010 posts and I knew it wasn't there. When I did a search on the title, I did find I had posted it on June 21, 2010, but no one read it then. So, it's actually a repost.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

About what's at the center

I used to question     what was
at the center      of me
all the time      searching
for answers      to half-formed questions

such a waste      of time

so much better      to give from the center
now I teach      young people
now I love      my wife and sons
now I write      poems to share

the center is important      but so is reaching out
looking inward      to find
what you have      to give

* * * * *

This poem was written in response to a prompt at Big Tent Poetry about what's at the center. This is a prompt that I always intended to respond to during April, but just didn't get to; I think because it scared me.

I offer it today as a farewell to Big Tent Poetry. I have been a benefactor of the wonderful founders and participants of that online community - and for that I am most grateful. It has helped me find a voice that I wasn't sure I had within me. To borrow part of a line from Elizabeth, whose poetry I admire: I have come "to the sound of my own soul singing".

I am in a very different place in my poetry writing than the founders of Big Tent Poetry. I certainly don't feel confident enough to host a site as they have done and as others are doing. I am still finding my center and doing what I can to reach out. I will do my part and write the best poems I can, and offer encouragement to others who are doing the same. And I will always be grateful to the wonderful people who host sites, like Big Tent Poetry, that are such a force for beautiful communication.

And I wish Carolee, Deb, and Jill the best of luck at A Fine Kettle of Fish. I will be following their efforts. I hope the kettle will find them more centered as well as reaching out and inspiring each other. They have certainly given enough of themselves, and for that I am grateful.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Please Say Yes

I'd like to come over and play.
It's a little cool here by the ocean.
I'd like to stretch out for a bit
where it's a little warmer.

It like coming east.
It's fun traveling over the bay
and toward the foothills,
warming in your light embrace.

You can do that magic trick
where you make me invisible.
Then we can do it all over again
tomorrow, if that's okay with you.

This morning the sun said yes to the fog.

* * * * *

This poem was written in response to the noble and fruitful sharing prompt at Big Tent Poetry. I borrowed a line - "This morning the sun said yes to the fog." - from Linda Jacobs. You can read her poems at Linda's Poems. I encourage you to check out the very last show time at Big Tent Poetry.