"Whatever you think you can do, or believe you can do, begin it, because action has magic, grace, and power in it." Goethe

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Sestina for Easter Season

I wrote this sestina during Holy Week, about the same time I assigned this form of poetry writing to a class of Comp 2 students.  

Their results and responses inspired me, and their struggles did as well. Someone would come to class and say, This is hard or I really had to think on this. One student told another: Man, don’t wait til the last minute. This thing takes some time.

So, I decided to experience again what I often ask my students to do. The attention to the form was a discipline. The words came though. And, as often happens in life and writing and art, a simple action spurs us on to a new creation. 

Easter Sestina:



Friday’s Five

We measure time in the strangest ways. Secret anniversaries. Milestones. Before this/after that. Eleven years ago today, my father-in-law passed away. We planted a cypress in his memory. It is enormous now. I can’t look at it without thinking Papaw,
and smiling inside. He lived. Something came after him and now lives to remind us.
Twelve weeks tomorrow my Sam has been gone. Gone, but only in body. Everywhere is filled with his memory. Thank God.

What would he say about this? I bet he’d laugh at that. Hmmm…he wouldn’t care for that.
An inner monologue. Running all the time…because people don’t really leave us completely. Thank God.

My list below of five good things from the week may seem trite or frivolous, or even strange and mysterious, but once you are where I am, you know different. Each effort is a victory. Each “something” — something to celebrate. Believe me.

Double pointed knitting needles and the promise of a new technique coming ~~

A yellow chair and a surprise hug in the aisle of Pier 1~~

Kohl’s coupon and a hug there, too…(guess my friends also like to shop)~~

Euro pillows …ok…Target & Bed/Bath/Beyond~~

Lamps that sparkle.~~

I know…

Seems to be a little retail therapy theme here. Well. That’s how it is this week and that is how it is. Period.

And #6, because I can’t write this list of good things and leave out the gift of Maya Angelou’s words to us. May she rest in peace and may we keep her words alive. Here is one of her pieces which I only recently discovered. A blessing:

My Lord, my Lord,
Long have I cried out to Thee
In the heat of the sun,
The cool of the moon,
My screams searched the heavens for Thee.
My God,
When my blanket was nothing but dew,
Rags and bones
Were all I owned,
I chanted Your name
Just like Job.

Father, Father,
My life give I gladly to Thee
Deep rivers ahead
High mountains above
My soul wants only Your love
But fears gather round like wolves in the dark.
Have You forgotten my name?
O Lord, come to Your child.
O Lord, forget me not.

You said to lean on Your arm
And I’m leaning
You said to trust in Your love
And I’m trusting
You said to call on Your name
And I’m calling
I’m stepping out on Your word.

You said You’d be my protection,
My only and glorious saviour,
My beautiful Rose of Sharon,
And I’m stepping out on Your word.
Joy, joy
Your word.
Joy, joy
The wonderful word of the Son of God.

You said that You would take me to glory
To sit down at the welcome table
Rejoice with my mother in heaven
And I’m stepping out on Your word.

Into the alleys
Into the byways
Into the streets
And the roads
And the highways
Past rumor mongers
And midnight ramblers
Past the liars and the cheaters and the gamblers.
On Your word
On Your word.
On the wonderful word of the Son of God.
I’m stepping out on Your word.

Peace, friends. Find your blessings…


Friday’s Five

I’ve always liked countdowns. I’m on a big one right now, counting the days until I can be home full time with my husband. It’s not long now, so I’m counting that as #1 of my Friday’s Five blessings posts tonight. I plan to work 1/2 day Monday, then I’ll be off until after Thanksgiving and then there are only three weeks of teaching days in December.

Sam will have surgery next week to remove a bad appendix (that ruptured during chemo #3) and two benign tumors. It’ll be a relief to have that over. He will need to follow up with a local surgeon for post op related matters, and his nurse gave me her personal cell phone number. I know you won’t use it unless you need it. We don’t want you worrying about appointments. Call me and we’ll get everything set.
That is huge in this day and age. At least it is to me.

The CEO of our local hospital is joining in our insurance fight. It is a big blessing to have people who have insight into the workings of these policies advocating. Grateful.

Michael writes a short poem and reminds me that even in these few short months, I’ve helped him:
“You’re the best
You get me ready for the test
Sometimes I’m good
Sometimes I’m bad
But let’s not be sad.”
Indeed, Michael. Let’s not be sad…
but I want you to remember more than those goofy tests…poetry is good. 🙂

Finally, the blessing of memory. My mom died seven years ago today. I held her hand and watched angels come take her home. The ones of us who witnessed it will never forget it. Keep your eyes open to the wonders of this world, for there are many.

Always seek the good. It is there…
and please pray for my family.

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Sunday’s Song: A Poem

Bad Cells

You want the truth?
It is hell.
A dark road with no map
a brick wall.

You wake up
and know
it’s not a dream.

You feel the hit
each day
but can’t stop to rest,
can’t stop to see how
bad it might be.
You don’t dare.

You tell him you don’t know
what he feels.
Not for sure.
“You know,” he says.

I know. We are two souls
in one. So yes, he’s right.
I know.

You say,
“How can this be?”
“What are we in?”
And then you say,
“A damn mess.”
He smiles.
And you do too.
What else can you do?

Well, you pray. That’s what.
Ok. You beg.
Please God. Help us.
That’s what you say.
And He does.
In His own way and time.

You just keep on.
Go, go, go.

Real friends stay. Thank God.
They call, text, write, pray.
Show up. Make time.

Some judge. Some leave.
But they
weren’t friends
for real, were they?

The truth comes on
fast feet.

You leave some.
You have to.
They can’t help you.
You can’t wait for them
to learn how. No one
has that kind of time.

Some say things
that are cold. Rude.
Things like this:
“If he just thinks he can beat it,
he will.”
See? Like wow…guess
we don’t need these drugs. Let’s just
all think him well.

Some say not one word.
Why? Who knows.

Some words help:
“Stay strong.”
“God bless you.”
“I’ll pray.”
“Here. I can do this.”

You learn a lot.

Each stage of grief
is played
in real time.
This is not the time
to blame. Stop that.
Right now. No one
caused this. It just is.

Folks are strange.
You see
and hear it all.
All day long.

Prayers are said
day by day
and they help.
God has a plan.
We have to trust.
But we still ask for a cure.
Each day.

Meds are due.
Trips back and forth.
Back and forth.
Fill up the gas tank.
Set the cruise.

Watch the drugs drip
Drip drip drip
Kill those bad cells.
All of them. Please.

You look out too far.
That’s not good.
Don’t do that.
You have to keep your eyes here.
Now. It’s all you have.

This one day.

There’s still joy,
a laugh a day at least.
Of course you don’t know how
that could be
if you have not
walked this walk.

You watch your friends
search your face
They want you to be like
you used to be

but it’s too late

You see the truth in bold lines
You want to shake some folks
to make them see it too.

They think they know

That’s the worst

They do not know
They do not know
They can not know

They are not you
It is your walk
and you know
your truth

He is bald now
He laughs at that, and
why not?
It does not mean a thing.
Of course
it does mean
a war on bad cells.
Of course we know that.

We would like
the clean scan
the cure
a lot more days
weeks, months,

but we know this
is not up to us

You ain’t in charge
of a thing, my friend

and you need to know that.

You will have friends
who will cry for you,
with you.
You’ll have guilt you brought
them here
to this place
They stay
since they are God’s gift
to you on days dark
and days bright.

For you have both.
It’s true.

They come with
buds in a vase

They pray
They show you how to act

Write their names on your heart.

Be that to a soul down the road
for the day will come
you will be their help
and now you know
what to do
what not to do
what to say
what not to say

Now you know.

You smoke? No
Drink? No
Use street drugs?No

No. No. No.
Bad cells.
They come in spite of that

But if he had done all
of those things
this is not what he should get.

No one should get this.

And that is the truth.

That. is. the. truth.


Teaching Tip: EVERY Month, Not Just April

It’s April.
That means a few well meaning teachers will Google “poetry” and read a few selections to their students.
Maybe they’ll make a cute bulletin board.
After all, it is National Poetry Month!

Please do more.

Please let April be your starting place.
Are you stuck?
Go to the poetry section in your school library. Start small. Check out a dozen books. Read them. Find the ones that speak to you.
Check out more from those authors.
Decide why you like a poem. Find more on that subject or with that tone.

Please. Do more.

You will be amazed at what a daily poem will add to your life. Before long, you’ll know your students deserve the same.
If you need some starting off ideas, here are two favorites. Feel free to comment with yours, too.
Mother to Son by Langston Hughes
Things by Eloise Greenfield

Don’t miss

Please. Do more.

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Teaching Tip: Poetry, Poetry, Poetry

Studying the humanities adds value to our lives.

A colleague said this to me today, a woman who is a life long learner and a fellow arts advocate.

We were discussing the recent teaching conference we’d attended, how poetry is the key to good writing instruction.

I’ve written about poetry here before, and I continue today because I’m adamant about its value.

I have Richard Blanco’s inauguration poem on my desk, waiting for our longer poetry time tomorrow.

The kids will listen. I won them over with poetry back in August. But this poem is different. It is a representation of now.

My students will illustrate the images that stay with them. So far, mine are the empty desks of twenty children and the unexpected songbird on your clothesline

Those images brought special people to mind. That’s the power of poetry. That’s the value it adds to my life. Remembrances. Time preserved.

We will read the poem line by line. We will watch a video of Mr. Blanco reading. We will read it again. And again.

The words must be heard. We will hear them, then write our own. We will search our souls for images to speak our thoughts for today. We will applaud our efforts brazenly.

We are brave poets in a world that is too quiet for the words it needs.

We will break the silence.

Our words will leave our blessedly filled seats like robins in the snow, bursts of color, hope for a new day.

Send us your goodwill. We will feel it.

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Teaching Tip: Poetry Builds Fluency

I want to read Things by Eloise Greenfield. We know it!

This comment from a child in my Response to Intervention group made my morning.

I teach a group of seven fourth graders for 45 minutes each morning in a small group setting. Their reading levels range from Preprimer to 1.7.

Yes. It’s scary.

I’m finding a way to bring them along,
though. The children bring their poetry books to our group.

We spend a few minutes each day reading and rereading favorites.

It’s helping. The repetitive language, familiarity, rhythm, and rhyme all work together to get the kids reading.

They see words on a page and there aren’t too many. There’s a beat. It makes sense.
And today, there was recognition of an author. 🙂

I always knew poetry was the answer to most everything…