{pinned post: new book cover! coming 1/23}

The HarperCollins Children’s Books winter catalog goes live next weekend, so ahead of the rush, I get to show off my next cover! Brittany Jackson is the artist, and Kathy Lam is the designer, and I feel like together they’ve created a cover that’s just — *chef’s kiss* — perfect.

I think I like best the sense of uncertainty in Henri’s eyes. So much of what she wants – to conquer math, to make friends, to get her sister to see her as something other than a total nuisance – seems out of reach. What does it take to make things happen like you want them to? Like everyone else, she’s got to figure it out…

I can’t wait for you to enjoy this book.

{pf: poetry peeps definito… definitively}

Poetry Peeps! You’re invited to our challenge in the month of October! Here’s the scoop: We’re doing a Dansa! Its opening quintrain (5 lines) is followed by quatrains (4 lines), with a quintrain rhyme scheme of AbbaA and the quatrain bbaA. You’ll note that A repeats because the opening line of the first stanza is the final line of every stanza, including the first. Are you in? Good! You’ve got a month to craft your creation(s), then share your offering with the rest of us on October 28th in a post and/or on social media with the tag #PoetryPals.


Definition poems are nothing new, but I like this Mordhorst Definito, because it’s not just defining a word, it’s playing with words, which is a singular joy. The rules are pretty simple, and while it’s supposed to be free verse, I felt, um, free to rhyme a tiny bit. Others of the Poetry Peeps felt free to do other, smarter things. Check out Sara’s poem here, and find Laura’s poem here, and Tricia’s is here, while Liz’s poem is here. Kelly’s poem is here, and Mary Lee’s is here. A delightful number of folx joined in the fun today, and all hail, Queen Heidi’s Mordhorst Definito is here! Molly’s definito is here, while Rose’s definito is here. The Lindas are in the house, with Linda M.’s nebulous definito here, and Linda B’s definito here. We welcome Carmela to the Peeps roundup with her definito. Margaret’s definito is here, and Carol V’s is here. Even more Peeps will check-in throughout the course of the weekend, so stay tuned for the roundup.


We joked in my critique group this month that it’s just the months that end in -ber that cause us so many scheduling problems… and it’s truer this year than many. With everyone jumping aboard the Obligation Bus, one has to be deliberate about making time for things, including poetry. Since I missed my scheduled hour this weekend, I was already behind in finding my words, and I wanted to do something less complicated than my brain usually chooses for me. I told it that no, I wasn’t going to try to define perspicacious or itinerary in poetic form. I even, regretfully, passed on panache, although I adore that word. I decided to go small. Really small…

Minus even a mite
Not a dab nor a dram
The next thing to nothing,
A nip’s all I am.
Not meal: morsel. Not cookie: crumb.
A last speck of bacon,
A wee shred of plum.
Think of a particle
Left in the fridge:
Place it on a plate…
Now you have a SMIDGE.

(I mostly amused myself with that one, especially because speck is also a ham derivative of some sort.)

I have to admit that somewhere out there someone may still not quite count “smidge” or “smidgen” as a word, so I went for something a bit more traditional which doesn’t speak its definition quite so onomatopoetically:

Picture
some
water, or perhaps
a lake:
Pure flowing,
Pristine, cool,
& free to take.
People come, parched
& piqued, peeling, sun-baked:
Find them a fountain! Then
their thirst
will slake.


Aaaand, that’s not technically a definito, because it’s not really defining the word either. I feel like I need to play with Definitos a lot more before I’m doing them right. My first attempts were basically regurgitating the thesaurus, and I still feel like there’s a bit of that going on, in my first one especially. Being more playful is difficult for those of us who are always looking at the rules and ONLY the rules; however, there are few enough rules here for this form to be something fun for students to attempt. I will have to try again…

There’s more poetry abroad this autumn-touched morning (friends: it is chilly. Since it was SO HOT in this state just weeks ago, this is still deeply delightful) at Tab’s place, The Opposite of Indifference. Take joy in warming up in layers of words this weekend.

{welcome, poetry peeps! the roundup is here!}

Poetry Peeps! You’re invited to our challenge in the month of September! Here’s the scoop: We’re drawing a form from within our community and doing a Definito. Created by poet Heidi Mordhorst, the definito is a free verse poem of 8-12 lines (aimed at readers 8-12 years old) that highlights wordplay as it demonstrates the meaning of a less common word, which itself always ends the poem. Are you in? Good! You’ve got a month to craft your creation(s), then share your offering with the rest of us on September 30th in a post and/or on social media with the tag #PoetryPals.


Welcome, Poets, to the liminal season, where we are on the threshold of seasons, standing between the last gasp of summer, and the first breath of autumn. The Poetry Sisters’ challenge this month was a good one for a moment of transition, as it was a new-to-us form called the Bop. Created by poet Afaa Michael Weaver, the Bop is a kind of poetic argument, with the first stanza setting up a complaint, the second expanding on it, and the third either providing resolution or a narrative of a failed resolution. You can read Laura‘s poem, Mary Lee’s, Tricia and Liz’s poems here. Michelle K. joins us here. A few more Bops might pop up throughout the weekend, so stay tuned.

For more Poetry Friday offerings, and to share your own click here. Thanks for stopping by.


With my affection for the villanelle and the sestina, you’d think I’d be at ease working with a refrain, but perhaps it was something about a group-sourced refrain (hat tip to Poetry Sister Sara) that tripped me up. For whatever reason, the refrain in the Bop seems wholly separate from the stanzas… so much so, that I ended up hitting a wall at the end of my first stanza. Suddenly the fourteen-syllable lines seemed clunky, and the beats fell oddly. I started over, trimming my lines, but then the rhyme felt forced. Another draft, now completely unrhymed, but the internal rhythm and more polished language of my lines felt off when faced with that casually worded refrain. Isn’t that just the way it goes when you have a poetic form you’re certain will be simple? Eventually I got it to where I was …just done messing with it. I left the rhyme imperfect, with an off-meter step near the end of each stanza to signal that repeated refrain coming to pause the discussion again. Reminding myself these poems are meant to be exercise and not perfection, I stumbled and limped into my imperfectly perfect topic… housekeeping.


Click to enlarge

(Ashes to Ashes, and) Nuts to Dust

Disorder settles like the dust
Drifts into velvet piles
In quiet corners. Laundry Lurks,
disheveled. All the while
Freedom peers in through glass panes
Begrimed by birds. It waves hello….

Let’s kick that can down the road.

“Filthy” is not the kind of word
That tells the tale. There’s no mildew.
The difference between “clean” and “neat”
is miles apart. The follow-through,
Is that perfection never lasts:
A moment’s lapse, and things explode.
Chaos comes roaring, moving fast,
disrupts, dismays, and discommodes…

Let’s kick that can down the road.

Through window streaks you’ll see sunrise
And sunbeams dancing on the air.
A wrinkle will not scandalize
A meadow when you’re walking there.
That cabbage moth’s not judging you,
So, take today, get out and go.

…And kick that can down the road.


Just now, we all have so much to do – classes to start, books to buy, odd socks and lunch dishes to find, dust bunnies to rout, and water bills to pay. I hope we can find a moment to take stock and figure out which cans can be kicked down the road indefinitely – and which cans are absolutely only for right now, and must be cracked open immediately to let the full fizz of life bubble out. Carpe diem, poets. Don’t let that just be a catch phrase, life is way too short. Grab all the joy that you can – and splash it out. Happy Weekend.


(Commenting snafus: Commenting issues are an artifact of a sometimes aggressive spam filter. If your comment seems to vanish, it likely got caught. No worries, I’ll fish it out shortly!)

{pf: the poetry peeps rise}

Poetry Peeps! You’re invited to our challenge in the month of August! Here’s the scoop: Get on your flippy poodle skirts, your tough leather jackets and penny loafers; we’re going to The Bop. A form created by poet Afaa Michael Weaver at a Cave Canem summer retreat, this is a poem with three stanzas, each followed by a single repeated line as a refrain. The first six lines presents an issue, the second eight line stanza discusses it, and the third six lines resolves it, and/or discusses the failure of resolution. Are you in? Good! You’ve got a month to craft your creation(s), then share your offering with the rest of us on August 26th in a post and/or on social media with the tag #PoetryPals.


The truth is, I never really give acrostics much weight as a poetic form – even phrase acrostics. It’s possible it’s because they’re so often used as elementary school art projects, where every kid finds a positive word to go with each letter of their name. Though I do like them, and the Poetry Peeps and I have messed around with them before, they’ve never really taken off as a form I’ve mastered. They’re simple, but… sometimes a little too regimented for how I’m feeling.

When Tricia selected a poem for us to take a line from for our poems, I think we all thought, “Okay, taking a line from a poem we already know? This’ll be easy.”

Yeah, that just shows what our past selves knew. No. No, this was not easy. In fact, using an utterly iconic poem like “Still I Rise” was immensely, fiendishly challenging. Additionally, a few of us found it difficult to separate the poet’s intention from our own poem – especially a well-known poet who lived during our lifetimes. This is Ms. Maya, y’all. This poem has spoken to generations of people with clarity and joy – we surely weren’t going to mess with that.

…well, obviously, we did, though I will say the good thing was that we read the poem repeatedly. I made it hard on myself by pulling the second-to-worst line in the whole thing to work with (the first worst is about having diamonds between my thighs; I’ll happily leave that one to someone else). A random line would work best, I thought, so I closed my eyes and picked…”You may kill me with your hatefulness.” …Great.

I did try to write from that line. I got halfway through and it was getting both long and depressing, and the internal rhyme felt forced. I tried a double acrostic, but those work best with really short subjects – which wasn’t what I was working with. I had to go away and come back several times and fiddle, fiddle, fiddle with word choices and order. I don’t often write a poem I’m happy with in a single sitting, but usually I can at least manage an entire draft. Not this time!

Finally I gave up, which was honestly the wisest choice. I don’t think I can write a good poem about hatefulness yet – not the way I tried to approach it. (ETA -*And here is where I forgot it was supposed to be a PHRASE acrostic…. oops.) Frankly, I’m sick to death of people’s hatefulness and could do without all that for a bit, so I switched to the important and meaningful part of the poem to me – “But still, like air, I’ll rise. Get on with your trifling hatefulness anyway. I’m over it – literally.

One of the ways I worked on creating rhyme within the confines of an acrostic was to record myself (ugh) reading it over, and over, and over. Here’s the last recording I made – it’s a really helpful (if dorky sounding) tool in the poetic arsenal.

I still don’t like the title – it really isn’t much of one – but I’m thrilled I finished with something meaningful, grounding, and largely coherent. I’ll take it.


I’m excited to see what Liz has come up with, if Sara joined the girl gang, and what Laura wrote at the lake. I’m looking forward to finding out what Tricia dreamed up, which one of the probably forty-three that Mary Lee wrote she ended up choosing. Here’s Michelle K’s beautifully upbeat take, and here, Carol V. shares another classic acrostic. Thanks so much everyone for playing along! More Poetry Peeps will be added as the weekend progresses, so check back later for the full round-up.

Meanwhile, Poetry Friday is hosted over at Marcie Atkins’ blog. Thanks, Marci!


Even if you don’t feel like you’re rising above like air this week, don’t forget the poem also suggests that you can rise like dust. Dust or grit is central to the oyster’s pearl, to the clouds that make the rain, and to the fragile impermanence of a snowflake’s beauty. Even the smallest of us has impact and purpose. Here’s to finding yours. Happy Weekend.

{bc casual ableism sucks the joy out of everything}

I finished my Master Pass for GO FIGURE, woot woot for me! And now back to the story that I need to have finished by the end of the summer and I feel like I’m not even halfway through yet (I AM, but it still doesn’t feel that way because I started a third story because it was bugging me and I thought just writing one chapter or so would work to get it out of my system. It did not. ::sigh:: ).


And now for a rant – no, not that one. This is a new one:

We don’t often talk about accommodation in our family. My sister JC uses a wheelchair, and when she got her first chair, my father ripped up all the carpet in the downstairs of the house, and tiled it. The pantry is no longer a narrow closet under the stairs but a wide space next to the fridge, with sliding barn doors. Things are at varied heights, and my sister’s closet in her bedroom has been rebuilt lower. None of this is an out-of-the-box solution my parents bought at The Disabled Store (if there’s any such thing, it’s ridiculously, prohibitively, stunningly, SUPER expensive – like her wheelchairs). They just figured out some things, and made them work. It’s a constantly evolving process.

Woodlands 14

We have learned, living with my sister, that casual ableism – subtle discrimination in favor of able-bodied people – is A Thing, really, an insidious thing, that exists. At her private, Christian elementary school, she was carried around like a piece of furniture – or, more realistically, like a fondly disregarded cat or a rag doll, even though she was a child too old to be carried – and honestly, how safe was it for the school to allow other children to carry her? Would they have allowed that with other children? No.

When she was older, she had to go up long inclines to even get to the wheelchair ramp for junior high and high school. The church our family attends was recently updated and modernized – and still lacks some basic ADA accommodation, including a ramp to the platform. Wheelchair users aren’t expected to actually, you know, be among the people giving the service, apparently. The family noted this, and basically accepted it in silence… because, what could we do? We’d asked a few questions to a few people, and gotten chagrined or blank-faced non-answers. Disabled people weren’t in the plans, and the plans would go forward as they were… because casual ableism Is A Thing. (NB: Some people feel we should have made more noise earlier. Probably. It’s hard to overcome conditioning when you’re in the minority twice over, though.)

We almost expect organizations to fail JC, because they do it so often. When she went to beauty school, they put off her enrollment for a solid month because they were working on getting her a special cart at her height, a special chair for her clients, and specialized seating in her classroom basically panicking, honestly. She did get to go to Disneyland, and she got to go first on all the rides, which was A Really Good Experience, but even though they had time and means to prepare, she had to buy her own specialized equipment. Her beauty school sent people to wash her client’s hair for her… because they couldn’t figure out how to make the world work for a disabled stylist, regardless of what they promised when she enrolled.

Being diagnosed with my autoimmune disease gave me more understanding and compassion about casual ableism than I’d previously had. When some days your hands don’t work to open jars in the kitchen, or your wrists and arms can’t carry heavy platters or a cast iron skillet… you have to make adjustments. When you can’t sit comfortably in every chair… you sit in your cushy chairs at home. You wear your mask everywhere, even though you hate it and would like to burn it with the heat of a thousand suns. You re-learn your life in a way that makes you hate yourself less for your shortcomings, you make allowances for the people who make assumptions, and who don’t understand… but you resent it with the heat of those same thousand suns, and those suns go nuclear over your baby sister.

Skyway Drive 132

So, when JC texted us six months ago, excited about attending her first concert at the Shoreline Amphitheater, we wished her eardrums luck, and didn’t think much of it… until she posted on Instagram that the venue was awful. “What happened?” asked. First, no one knew where the disabled parking lot was, and when they finally found it, they wouldn’t let her friends park there, even though they had a placard and a clear need. The parking lot was unpaved and difficult to navigate in a wheelchair. When they finally got in, finally found someone who knew where the ADA accommodating seats were, they discovered they had to go down a flight of eight stairs.

The woman on staff asked, “Can’t you walk down eight stairs?” and rolled her eyes when JC said she could not. And told her friends to “be quiet” when they interrupted to protest her being asked this.

I’m not the nice person in the family; that’s maybe reserved for …somebody else, maybe my parents? What I’d like to do is focus the light of those thousand suns at the Shoreline with a giant magnifying glass… but I’m instead just offering advice as asked, and quietly seething and ranting on blogs instead.

Some people just don’t get a break. They miss most of their senior year in high school because of surgery. They miss out on doing “normal” things with friends because they have to have friends whose cars are big enough for a wheelchair or who don’t mind breaking it down and putting it back together to get it in and out of a vehicle. They end up back on a kidney transplant list less than ten years after the first time. They’re in their twenties before they’re comfortable and confident enough to go to their first concert. It’s not fair, and while howling that into the stratosphere and a quarter won’t even get you a cup of coffee, I just had to say it out loud. With EVERYTHING ELSE horribly wrong in this country and this state and this world this week, this is icing-on-the-top of a bitter casual-ableism muffin of Not Fair, and we are going to do something about it.

Yeah, yeah, something without the sun and a magnifying glass.

Probably.


x-posted@Hobbits in Rivendell

{pf: poetry peeps try to byr a thoddaid}

Poetry Peeps! You’re invited to our challenge in the month of July! Here’s the scoop: We’re each taking an empowering and inimitable line from Maya Angelou’s “And Still I Rise,” and from them creating acrostic poems. Each of those forty+ lines are available to poets to create something memorable – grounding, empowering and expansive – of their own. Are you in? Good! You’ve got a month to craft your creation(s), then share your offering with the rest of us on July 29th in a post and/or on social media with the tag #PoetryPals.


Well, first off, you pronounce it beer ah TOE-thy’d, which won’t really help you write one, but hey, The More You Know.🌠 Second, once you get into the byr a thoddaid form, they’re… complicated? But, not actually HARD. I’ve decided that byr a thoddaid are like …long division. You might run out of attention before you finish all the steps (shout-out to my former students), but it is nothing that you cannot handle (Insert authoritative teacher-voice.).

That being said, let’s acknowledge: this seemed like a LOT of steps.

Mistakes were made. Repeatedly.

My process, when dealing with an unfamiliar form, is usually to read a ton of examples. Are there a ton of examples online that I like? No. Would I need to read them in Welsh or something to find a bunch of great ones? Probably. Did I spend more time faffing about on Google than I ought to have? Definitely. I kept thinking I HAD it, when it turned out I was forgetting the near rhyme and just concentrating on the end rhyme. At one point, I rhymed everything to the first stanza, which …could be done, I guess, but wasn’t one of the options listed. I finally pulled off a tiny one, but like that long division, it took longer than I felt it should have:

The season spills a thousand scents,

As summer twilight, liquescent

Shimmers, igniting dreams undreamt. Such light

Sparkles through stars at night.

So, that felt… like a good start, but then I heard people were making two stanza poems from their stanzas, I felt I ought to step up a bit. Also, it was time to pull out the Canva and make-believe I knew what I was doing…

Full disclosure, these are from my backyard nectarine and plum trees, but one of the loveliest things about this area is the many, many sidewalk fruit trees, and of an evening, you will see families – small children, whole rafts of folks in the national clothing of their home countries – with boxes, bags, little red wagons and step-stools, all out to get stone fruit for jam, for eating out of hand, to dry it, and more. It’s …it makes me feel like SOMETHING is going right in the world. Friends, I will gladly take this one thing.

Want to see the attempts of the peeps who also assayed this adventure? Tricia’s is here. Sara’s is here. Laura got inspired here, and Liz’s link is here. Cousin Mary Lee’s is here. Michelle K.’s poem is here. More Poetry Peeps will be added as the weekend progresses, so check back later for the full round-up.

Meanwhile, Poetry Friday is hosted by Catherine, at Reading to the Core. Thanks, Catherine!


And here it is, the end of a week, when just days – or hours – or months ago, you never thought you’d get here. See how much you’ve done with what you’ve got? Remember — like long division, life is nothing that you cannot handle. Take that deep breath of summer sweet, and hold fast. Happy Weekend.

{poetry friday: p7 string, rope, thread, chain…*}

I set up this post Tuesday morning, trying for an upbeat tone despite still processing the hate crimes shootings on May 14 and 15 in Buffalo and Southern California. By Tuesday night, I couldn’t face writing something else – I have no words. Today is for poetry, not tragedy, so I’m posting what I have. Perhaps other words will come later; right now there is only… a soul-deep heaviness.

Poetry Peeps! You’re invited to our challenge in the month of June! Here’s the scoop: We’re doing byr a thoddaid! Yes, it is INDEED a Welsh form, good guess. It’s got more than a few rules, so buckle up, Buttercup: 1.) A byr a thoddaid is a quatrain or series of quartrains, divided into two combined couplets. 2.) One couplet contains 8 syllables for each line with an aa end rhyme. The other couplet contains 10 syllables in the first line and 6 syllables in the second. 3.) The 10-syllable line of this other couplet has an end rhyme near the end of the line (but not AT the end). 4.) The 6-syllable line of this other couplet has a link (either rhyme, alliteration, etc.) to the end word of the 10-syllable line and then an end rhyme. 5.) Additionally, the couplets can appear in alternating orders like a traditional quatrain. WHEW. Are you in? (Are you scared?! I am, not gonna lie.) You’ve got a month to study up on the rules and craft your creation(s), then share your offering with the rest of us on June 24th in a post and/or on social media with the tag #PoetryPals.


Since my last post, I have packed for and gone on a vacation which required an airplane (and many hours with a mask. MANY hours. But, it worked), crashed my computer (which gave me some panicky moments with three Works In Progress, let me say), then crashed Himself’s computer because we connected it to MY drive (oops). Additionally, I’ve been juggling two volunteer projects, and the micro-managing director makes me regret every moment, plus I got one of my best friends involved, and she’s suffering through the micro-managing too. Ugh. Can we still blame the pandemic for everything? Y’know what? I’m just going to do so. I have been at the end of my rope, people, and I’m not even kidding. So, when I remembered our poetry theme this month was just a poem using the word “string, rope, thread, or chain,” I snickered, wondering if I was being tied up, tripped, or hanging on.

Well, I’ve decided it’s all of the above, though I’m thinking the rope and chains are mostly bent on tripping me. Still, I’ll hang on…(and volunteer for fewer things)

It has been such a blurry, busy month that the Poetry Sisters crew didn’t even get to hang out on our usual Zoom – so I’m super eager to see what everyone’s doing. Make sure you visit Tricia @ The Miss Rumphius Effect, Sara @ Read Write Believe, Kelly @ Art & Words, and Michelle @ More Art 4 All is here with twine, while Carol @ Beyond Literacy Link finds that thread binds us. More Poetry Peeps will check in on this challenge during the weekend, so stay tuned for a full round-up.


Want more? Poetry Friday today is hosted by Linda at A Word Edgewise, and you’ll find lots of other lovely poetry to brighten your Friday there. Thanks, Linda!

Hang in there, friends — even if you feel yourself dangling by a thread… tie a knot, and hold on. And if you have to drop, it’s all right to let go and fall – those who love you have got you.

{npm22: 30 ~ wash}

To end the month, I just had to include an Icelandic proverb not directly translated in English – hopefully one of the more comprehensible ones. (The Icelanders have a saying about “the raisin at the end of the hotdog” which is like the gold at the end of the rainbow and roughly translates to something like being happy for finding “a cherry on top,” or an extra bit of goodness. I. Have. QUESTIONS. And as a side note, have you heard of the Swedish banana-chicken thing…? I’m getting a feeling this is a Scandinavian cultural taste which I’m happy to watch them enjoy. ) This is the quintessential Icelandic slogan, we’re told, and it’s “Þetta reddast.” It isn’t so much a …proverb as an attitude, not so much a slogan as a way of life. I read it described as “positive fatalism” once. You might have no idea how things are going to work out – you might not know what to do. But, you can’t get too down, because “Þetta reddast!” It’ll work out. Or, the closest English proverb/phrase I can think of:

“It’ll all come out in the wash.”*


Float
Deep breath:
They say “hope floats.”
So blow – breath, soap, and dreams –
Make some airborne optimism
Bubble


(*According to Phrases.org: Henry Festing Jones, who collaborated with the novelist Samuel Butler, once quoted Butler as saying in 1876: ‘As my cousin’s laundress says, ‘It will all come right in the wash.'” From The Dictionary of Cliches by James Rogers (Ballantine Books, New York, 1985).

{npm22: 29~ bloom!}

Greetings! Welcome to another Poetry Peeps adventure on Poetry Friday!

You’re invited to our challenge in the month of May! After such a big month for National Poetry Month, we’re taking it easy for now. Our simple task is to write a poem with the theme of string, thread, rope, or chain. Any poetic form, rhymed or unrhymed, but we’re including one of those four items. Plotting? Good! You’ve got a month to string your line(s), then share your offering on May 27th in a post and/or on social media with the tag #PoetryPals. Can’t wait to see what you come up with!


This month the Poetry Peeps wrote poems in imitation of Taylor Mali. For Laura, that meant this poem – short(ish) and sweet. Tricia explored her ideas here. Sara’s meta poem ON the poet is here, Cousin Mary Lee enfolded climate greening into her poem, Liz’s project, plus a bonus poem is here, and Andi’s popped in here. More Poetry Peeps may pop in with more words and thoughts as the weekend continues, so stay tuned. I may be very slow doing the roundup (as in finishing it next week), since I’m away from my usual haunts (and time zones) so bear with me.


I started out with the best of intentions to flatter poet Taylor Mali by imitating “Totally Like Whatever, You Know?” Alas, the longer I spent with it, the less I found flattering to say. Published in 2002, soon after the 1998 “Ebonics” conversation the talk show circuit, this poem is reflective of the social critics of that time, which is to say it hasn’t aged well. Mali’s mocking contempt echoes still of American society’s knee-jerk tendencies to mock and belittle the young, especially young girls, for the way that they speak, act, the media they consume, the bands they love, and the clothes they wear. When devaluing fully 51.1% of the population becomes automatic, misogyny persists, and follows girls into adulthood. More importantly, it leaves a mark. And men aren’t the only people who belittle and begrudge the young; it’s an American past time, which is why this poem so needled me.

I remember running into my 8th grade English teacher as a college student. She quizzed me on my activities and my GPA, and then, as I was proudly telling her my news, she interrupted. Reaching forward, she fiddled with my collar, smoothing it. “You know,” she said in a low, confiding voice like she was revealing a secret, “You’d sound so much smarter if you didn’t say ‘um, okay’ quite so often.” Well, that was me told that I wasn’t up to her level! Rather than enjoying my weekend home, I spent the rest of the time listening to myself, wincing at each “um” and “okay” and wondering desperately how people ever learned to change their speech.

I look back on that incident and seethe.*

My NPM project this year was sticky-note proverb poems. They are proverb-based and SHORT, but Taylor Mali doesn’t lend himself to short, so today I’ve creating two poems, first, the freestyle, unrhymed imitation (not my favorite style; feel free to suggest revisions in the comments), using the words of consent and consensus which are so often dismissed, and second, a sticky-note sized distillation. Additionally, today’s poem calls for a new proverb, one I’ve just made up. It is:

“Wisdom celebrates variation; not every difference suggests flaws.”

um, okay

Okay, but have you noticed
how it is somehow A-okay fine
for them to get right in your face
straighten up your collar and say
“right, if you would just -” and
okay, you knew you weren’t up to par –
yeah, you couldn’t pass as perfect
or more than okay, but who is?

Okay, so, have you noticed
the ground between us
is like potholes and mountains,
it’s that uneven, which is like,
fine, whatever
but what makes them think
the place they’re standing is
always the high ground, right?

Okay, but had you noticed
how they steal your words when they
crush your voice, grind words into pulp,
when they smother your spark
had you noticed why? they silence you –
like you’re just a piece of work
right, but if they would just,
back off, you could work out
making the pieces
whole, right?

Okay, so you had noticed
that consensus creates strength, that two heads
are better than one? so, okay you seek approval –
yeah, sometimes you ask permission –
So? you don’t know if you’re allowed
to take up space, to speak
aloud, so you rehearse
your sounds, right?
and you check your strengths
’til you know them
by heart.

Okay, so had you noticed
your flex, your stretch, how strong
you’ve grown? they did not, which is like,
fine, whatever –
you’ve blown past their
okay


bloom
okay
so, it’s your space
send roots into the earth
shout “I’ve arrived! make here the place
you grow


Want more poetry? Poetry Friday is hosted today at Jone’s place.. Hope you have a wonderful weekend.

*I taught school, too. I recognize that for some, the job is changing the world through their students. But, I’d really rather leave the world unchanged than be remembered for the kind of casual cruelty that implies someone sounds/is stupid.