{pf: poetry peeps sound an ode to ourselves}

Welcome to another Poetry Friday Poetry Peeps Adventure!

Poetry Peeps! You’re invited to our challenge for the month of June! Here’s the scoop: We’re writing a poem with the title ‘Wabi-Sabi.’ Aaaand, that’s… the scoop. That’s it. A little unsure of the concept and philosophy? In his book Wabi-Sabi Simple, Richard Powell described wabi-sabi as a philosophy that acknowledges a lifestyle that appreciates and accepts three simple truths: “Nothing lasts, nothing is finished, and nothing is perfect.” We’ve left ourselves room this month to meditate on all sorts of things, including, but not limited to, ellipses, pauses, and periods to acknowledge endings. Are you game? Good! Whichever way wabi-sabi wafts you, you have a month to craft your creation and share it on June 28th in a post and/or on social media with the tag #PoetryPals.

Friends, this month was a doozy.

Periodically in our poetic perambulations, we wander into a quagmire and find ourselves just… stopped. Stuck.

This time, it was because we were writing in the spirit of Lucille Clifton’s “homage to my hips,” and uncovered a lot of body image issues in ourselves. Here’s this lovely poet, praising the promising swing and sway of her bountiful hips, and we… recoiled from a paean of praise to our own bodies, because… eew. There was imperfection. There was wistfulness. There was frustration. There was a lot to dig through to get unstuck.

Soooo, we had to do a little therapy. As one does. Results? Liz’s poem is here. Mary Lee’s affirmation is here. Tricia’s poem is here, and Laura’s is here. Michelle’s poem is here, and Linda B.’s poem is here. More peeps with poetic panegyric might sally forth to give thanks for their thighs – as I discover their poems, I’ll post them, so do check back for the roundup.

From Process…

I was so, so grateful that I’d found the Bill Moyers’ recording of Lucille Clifton reading her own poem aloud. She made people laugh. She made people worry. She laughed at herself, and, gently, at their worry. She claimed she had “thrilling” body parts. In performance she was a live wire, and her joy in herself – in opposition to the societal norms which bid her condemn rather than celebrate the swish of her hips – is infectious. We all listened, and we none of us could resist that joy. So, step one, if you’re ever stuck writing something kind about yourself – listen to Ms. Lucille.

I listened for the “presence” word as I reread the poem. Ms. Lucille’s hips are big, they take up space, they don’t fit just anywhere; those hips are free and have never been enslaved. They were mighty and magical, and then she offered us proof of this. When the poem is stepped through instead of skimmed, it is easier to see where her hips sort of “break through” the confinements and actions of other people’s calmer, tamer hips. With that in mind, I turned to my own poem.

…to Poem

Of course, that meant trying to find a body part that I could deal with. Oh, sure, I could have echoed the mentor poem, but Ms. Lucille had capital ‘h’ Hips. I have… a hinge that does the job, but without much ‘verve and swerve,’ as it were. I do have shoulders that hit all of the presence words – big, take up space, don’t fit… but five lines into trying to write about them, I became entangled in the metaphorical uses of shoulders – people use them to cry on, they have to bear the weight of the world’s problems. I have shoulders like a linebacker (with only minimal exaggeration) but I don’t always want to be leading the defense and protecting the quarterback. That’s… less about the shoulder and more about what a shoulder’s expected to do. Nope. Wrong direction.

I sighed and considered. Belly buttons – what can one say about an ‘innie’ in a squishy belly? – necks – boring, really, – fingers – um, right now the joints are a bit too inflamed to be giving me praiseworthy vibes – feet, hips, spine, same issue. This is the problem with a flawed body, friends. A lot of my systems started to fail in my late twenties, and I’ve had somewhat of an adversarial relationship with my body since then. It’s too easy to find fault with it. Too easy to look at the scars of deficiencies and disorders and the associated insufficiencies and think there’s no room for homage, only abhorrence. And that’s …not good. Understandable, but not sustainable. I have to LIVE here, after all – we need a working relationship, and at minimum, respect and care and appreciation. So. Back to the drawing board yet again.

I considered body parts which I actively dislike, but couldn’t summon the energy to fight myself for them. I wondered aloud if hair was a body part – I mean, technically that could count? – and then I saw a picture of a stairwell in a museum which I love, and remember walking down those stairs MANY years ago in three-inch heels (for an event) and thought, “I loved those shoes, they made my calves look…” Oh. OH!

Suddenly, I was unstuck.

Acclaiming My Calves

These calves are strong calves,
bulging muscles Foundational
to my under
standing. Like cocoa-butter silk,
when I’m bothered to shave
them, these calves – not milk-fed (yet
Outstanding in their field) –
they don’t fit into
ordinary settings
or stovepipe boots.
Solid maple, this Mare’s
shanks. These calves,
they like a lug sole
a long stride, and a
short skirt ‘cause these calves,
they gotta Breathe.
Legs louche or Ladylike, these calves,
they lay it out, straight,
no chaser, though I have known them
To stop on a dime and Flex,
To strengthen the stretch
of my strut.
draft ©2024 by tanita s. davis

That was just the warm-up! There’s more poetry this Friday, hosted by Janice at Salt City Verse, exploring a great new poetry anthology, so check that out and the community’s poetry as well. Thanks much for hosting, Janice!

Meanwhile, here are the calves in question: you’re WELCOME.

Don’t forget what Ms. Lucille said. You have thrilling body parts. You are, both body and soul, breathtakingly made. Celebrate the wonderfulness that is you.

{book news: rylee swanson earns a star!}

Hello Friends!

The Science of Friendship hits bookshelves near the end of August, but we’re already hearing good things from readers. My first and favorite mention remains Afoma Umesi from Reading Middle Grade who mentioned a favorite quote on her Instagram page. She chose one of my favorite Rylee scenes, and I was excited to hear she enjoyed it.

Meanwhile, Kirkus is renown for its rigorous anonymous reviews, and I am deeply gratified to have received a nod from them. What I love, love, LOVED was how the reviewer talked about the growing Rylee did in this book. Our girl is hit with some tough stuff, but it, in turn, makes her turn and look at herself. (I mean, eventually – nobody gets into self-reflection right away.) According to the review, in THE SCIENCE OF FRIENDSHIP you can find “the gentle modeling of emotional-regulation skills such as self-compassion.” I need to sit and appreciate how smart that makes this book sound. I don’t read reviews unless my editor sends them to me, but this one – this one makes it feel pretty worthwhile.

You can read the it here for yourself, and I can’t wait ’til you meet Rylee this summer.

Meanwhile, Happy Weekend!

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After the kettle melted yesterday, you’ll be excited to note that the vacuum cleaner quit for no discernible reason, mid-room, – ! – and I was just the tiniest bit grumpy. I went out to water the new flower seedlings, and glowered at the weeds which also inadvertently benefit from the same lovely sunshine and mild temps which are giving the seedlings such verve. I must admit I sighed a bit about the weeds. And a bit more. And snatched a couple of spiky-leafed ones and growled a bit more, until Himself said mildly, “Do you see the flowers at all?”


YES, yes, consider the lilies. Some of us aren’t built for that – we consider the weeds, and plot how to eradicate them. The glass isn’t half full for everyone, okay????

Paean for the Pessimist

Can’t see the forest for the trees.
Don’t see the stars by light of day.
Can’t find the flowers for the weeds.
Don’t find the “bright side” or cheer lead.

Don’t see the stars by light of day –
I’ll smile – but also watch the news,
Can’t see the “bright side” or cheer lead
Knowing is power, some folks say.

I smile, but also watch the news,
My favorite shade’s “Foreboding Blue.”
Knowing is power, some folks say,
When things are wrong as two left shoes.

My natural shade’s “Foreboding Blue,”
I smile, but I’m not built for cheer.
When things are wrong as two left shoes,
We Eeyores do our best, my dear.

I smile, but I’m not built for cheer,
Can’t find the flowers for the weeds.
We Eeyores do our best, my dear;
Can’t see the forest for the trees.

I don’t think I could be any more on-brand me for the end of this National Poetry Month if I tried. Thanks for coming along for the ride, friends.

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I am having the MONDAYEST of Mondays… You know it’s going to be One Of Those Mondays, when you turn on the kettle for tea – with the lid cracked so it won’t whistle and interrupt your partner’s business Zooms – and then forget it’s on the stove. And it heats for a couple hours or so, well past the water boiling dry, and then the lid melts. You go to open the blinds for the orchids and smell something…

SIGH…And it was technically vintage, since I’ve had that kettle since the 90’s…

Whine, whine. This feels appropriately dramatic:


Some days, I just don’t know…
Should I have stayed in bed?
Hear now my tale of woe.

I CAN go with the flow:
Should I push back instead
some days? I just don’t know.

My pride’s received a blow.
My confidence is dead
from hearing tales of woe.

It’s said, “Rain makes us grow,”
But I’m no flowerbed!
Some days, I just don’t know.

We reap that which we sow.
Here’s where my sowing led:
To today’s tale of woe.

This, my hard row to hoe,
Compost already spread…
Some days, I just don’t know.
Here ends this tale of woe.


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This morning, the minister at the church at which I sing read a portion of John Donne’s “No Man Is An Island,” and told the (potentially apocryphal) background of the poem, which I had never heard. Donne was apparently hospitalized on his daughter’s wedding day, during a plague pandemic. He’d requested that the bells be tolled when his beloved child said her “I Do’s,” as a way to let him know that the deed was done. Instead the bells rang all morning – to mark the deaths of his fellow patients. Ask not for whom the bell tolls, indeed.

Living or dying, we’re each other’s responsibility in so many ways… So many hard to articulate ways. But, it’s interesting to try and think about them.

a meal for two places, draft

Community feels possible
When I am held accountable:
Holding each other’s trust and bond,
A single rock impacts a pond.

For this I’m held accountable –
I so dislike what brings you joy!
A single rock impacts a pond:
“Cozy” and “lush” for you may cloy.

I may detest what brings you joy –
But, pool our differences, we make
“Cozy” from “lush” – which still may cloy,
But a setting where all can partake.

Let’s pool our differences to make
For East, for West, red State or blue –
A table where all can partake –
The dinner bell’s ringing for you.

For East, for West, Christian or Jew,
Holding each other’s trust and bond,
The dinner bell rings out, for you:
Community feels possible.

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Remember those Nike ads from the late 90’s that demanded, “Is It In You?” I never think of those without thinking of Dr. Ruth O. Saxon, one of my brilliant writing professors at Mills College who insisted both literally and metaphorically that we “define the it” in our writing. Graduate school has so much reading and writing that it’s easy to slide into a kind of academia voice wherein you use a lot of words but basically communicate nothing of substance. Ruth rained fire on that, and is often who I think of when I find myself writing around something. So here I am to define my “it.”


Asked, “Is it in you?”
We demanded, “Define ‘it.'”
Questions are a way
To evade assumption’s claim
Forcing “it” to speak its name.

(Explanation: a lot of people don’t know that the first recorded use of the word “microaggression” was in 1970, in an essay by Black American psychologist Chester Middlebrook Pierce (1927-2016). In the case of this poem, the “it” being forced to speak its name is whatever reasoning lurks behind the microaggression of even people who know and love me occasionally assuming that I can do something better than they can, because I’m Black. No: I can’t. I have to practice like every other human being, thank you.

And yes: it’s National Poetry Month, kids. Beware that every interaction with me this month WILL, in fact, turn into a poem…)

{pf: poetry peeps answer the unanswerable}

Welcome to another Poetry Friday Poetry Peeps Adventure!

Poetry Peeps! You’re invited to our challenge for the month of May! Here’s the scoop: We’re writing in the style of Lucille Clifton’s homage to my hips, and choosing our own body parts to pay homage to. Are you a fan of your neck? Have you always wanted to write a sonnet to the bumps on your tongue? You can read a few body part poems to get your motor running (or, listen to Miss Lucille read! You’ll get goosebumps). Are you game? Good! Whatever song of yourself that you sing, you have a month to craft your creation and share it on May 31st in a post and/or on social media with the tag #PoetryPals.

Welcome to the wondering, as we sit in this space of unanswerable questions. This month’s challenge might have been a bit more complex to me if I hadn’t already been in a sort of… unfettered frame of mind. One thing that committing to writing a poem a day for NPM does for me is break me out of “regular” lines of thought, and make me fall swiftly into a state where I can dive deeper into words. A whole month of thinking sideways made unanswerable questions a little more accessible, a little more instinctual to me.

There are others who grapple with the unanswerable this month. Sara’s poem is here. Tricia’s is here. Here’s Laura’s poem, and Liz’s poem is here, and Mary Lee’s poem is here. Michelle K’s poem is here. Other Poetry Peeps may be checking in throughout the weekend with their poems, so don’t forget to stop by for the roundup. In the meantime, Poetry Friday is hosted today by Ruth, @There Is No Such Thing As A Godforsaken Town. Thanks, Ruth!

From Process…

Our process was less straightforward this time, and more… gauzy. To begin, the Poetry Sisters got together and made lists of unanswerable questions – or what they felt were fairly esoteric questions in the moment. The list was long, but they were a delight to read through. How many rings in a doorbell? Where does an echo go? What is the best time to lose? How do you know when you’re grown? Who loves you best? What color is a mirror? How much change is enough? Why now? What does the oak know?

Last month, Padraig Ó Tuama’s prompts for the pantoum really resonated with me. We were instructed to write a line about something that’s become ordinary for us, or to write a line showing us an object that’s associated with this ordinariness. In answering the prompt, I wrote about dirt, about dust and birds, fence posts, and the horizon through the window. What else, I wondered, could I expand on in a way that embraced the ordinary? People are cottage-core fixated on the After of the Before & After phases, when things are pretty, when the flowers are blooming and the honeysuckle is curling ’round the door. Cottagecore doesn’t seem to encompass sweating and tripping over dirt clods.

The question that appealed most to me was a variation on the last… What does the oak know…about me? A few years ago, I wrote a mask poem about a plum tree which narrated its concerns (or lack of them), about the phoebe which lived in its branches, its human, and the world around it. I think of this poem as in conversation with that one.

…To Poem

What does the garden remember of us? The weeding, turning, digging, and planting? The watering, sweating, grunting, squealing (in joy or dismay when spiders or crane fly larvae make themselves known)? The sighing, early morning stumbling, surly muttering or full-voice singing over the noise of the tiller? What do any of us know of this season, in comparison to what it knows about us?

A Garden Remembers

The bite of a hoe, bright, invasive fang,
The dull grind of knees against soil,
Back-and-forth boots, combative, they bang
The grunts born of splinters, sweat, toil.

The fork and the tines, the lift and the turn
(The YEEEUCH! as fly grubs are flung far)
The scent of the balm smoothed on for windburn,
The brown of earth easing our scars.

A flop, falling flat. CO2 cloud exhale,
A silence of survey benign.
A humming that swells into chorus full scale,
A hymn for the living enshrines.

Padraig’s last questions in the prompt list are, “What is a single feeling you have about this ordinary thing? What do you most wish to say about this ordinary thing?” To which I can only answer – it is, and I am, and together, we are – a living thing. May you raise your own hymn to the living this weekend, revel in your ordinary extraordinariness.

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Today is one in a series of drearily overcast, windy, drippy with fog, and chilly, but not really that cold days that are just… depressing. It’s a day to light candles and try to think of lighter things, as the heaviness of the sky presses in. In Scotland, we called days like these – with the requisite added rain – dreich. (Digression: I always wonder why some things catch on and others don’t – we’re all about our hygge [though I know very few English speakers who pronounce it properly], but people don’t seem to have found dreich as easy to love. At least it’s easier to say!)

I think my rather low state of mind is in response to a conversation. Several friends having recently received adult diagnoses of neurodivergence are navigating the responses and processing the news – and the reactions. While some embrace getting those diagnoses in adulthood, others are deeply resistant, holding a “What does it matter now? We’re out of school!” attitude. I get it: a diagnosis today won’t yank us back through a time machine and allow us the scholastic accommodation we needed, no. But, when I tried expressing some of what it does give people to discover – at last – that there’s a name for what they’ve struggled with their whole lives, and that there are reasons behind their feeling out-of-step, I heard, “I’m not going around telling people I’m defective. You can tell everyone on the internet that you are, and that works for you, but not for me.”

As my friend Claire always says, Jeez O! Ouch.

Here’s the thing: telling “everyone” on the internet that I’m “defective” does not, in fact, “work for me.” Every single time I use the word ‘dyscalculia’ or speak openly about my repeated failures to pass the state exams to teach in a public schools, for instance – it is hard. Every interview for Henri Weldon where a classroom teacher or librarian asked if the character was grounded in anyone I knew or my own life, it was hard. No one enjoys exposing failures. But if we don’t normalize disability through visibility, it will always be stigmatized. We will always rob people of feeling acceptance and joy in their identity. We will continue to allow people to blame themselves for a perceived deficit and internalize feelings of worthlessness to the “normal” neurotypical world. We will always have people hiding what they see as anomalous parts of themselves that are merely different, not bad. We will always continue to fail as a society.

It doesn’t “work for me.” Most of my life, it’s worked against me. But, it’s me – and I claim all of me, even the parts that don’t work like everyone else’s.

and untitled draft

Fear not: we are unbroken,
Though the world tried teaching shame,
Standing, we’re still outspoken.

Truths we hold our only token:
Who we are is all we’ll claim.
Unbowed, we are unbroken,

Though we’ve only just awoken
To a Self we used to blame.
Stand, and remain outspoken,

Our new-born courage oaken,
Solidly intent declaim –
“Fear? Not we. As the unbroken,

We cannot waste time soft-spoken.
Too much is riding on this game.
Stand and remain: outspoken.

Let acceptance you find soak in,
Stretch tall, fully as you claim:
Fearless, we are, unbroken,
Standing, we will remain outspoken.

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Whew! So glad we got the Progressive Poem launched yesterday and is on its way! Long have I admired people who can write collaboratively, because of how cruddy I normally am at doing so… I have tried writing linked short stories (a shared town/setting), flash fiction (a shared six words), and a novel with other people. ALL OF THEM were dismal, abysmal failures. (Imagine hyper-controlling child me complaining to an adult that So-and-so’s not PLAYING RIGHT!” Yeah.) Maybe the trick is only to contribute a couplet at a time. Or, maybe the trick is for me not to be in charge in any way, shape, or form, and take such ownership of a thing I’m unable to be flexible and collaboratively open with it. Hmmm.

I have a good friend with whom I share this tendency – but it’s a teensy bit ironic that neither of us likes public speaking, we don’t crave leading, and we’re both always rattled and in need of a quiet padded room when it’s over with. However, when things are disorderly and shambolic, neither of us can stand THAT. Like so many women, I will wade in and DO. Even when it’s not my circus and not my monkeys. This is a bad habit. No, really – despite all the people glad to see me coming: this is a bad habit. People should sort their …um, stuff, and the longer I enable them to go without doing so, the worse I make it for everyone. ::sigh::

NOT MY CIRCUS: A Meditation

You don’t have to be the boss,
Despite how you come across
Sometimes your best work is backstage,
So, find a chair and disengage.

Despite how you come across,
Heed the voice inside of you!
Go find a chair and disengage.
Let that wisdom carry you.

Heed the voice inside of you –
Don’t “gird your loins” and “join the fight.”
Let this wisdom carry you:
Set “heavy” down, and pick up “light.”

Don’t brace yourself and join the fight –
Not every burden’s labeled “Bear.”
Set “heavy” down, and grab some “light.”
Not everything is your affair.

Not every burden’s yours to “Bear,”
Sometimes your best bet is backstage.
Not everything is your affair,
You do not HAVE to be the boss.

May ignoring everyone running around like headless chickens be your forte.

{npm24: progressive poem!}

Aaaah! It’s been exciting to watch this poem take shape. This is my first year, and as I watched the couplets collect at first I thought, “OH NO, I should have picked a MUCH earlier date to contribute!” There were intimidatingly beautiful phrases! (…the tender, heavy, harsh of home – *alliterative swoon*) And so many details as the poem took on a narrative shape. I felt like I was too late to do anything “good.”

Well, that was silly. This day, this moment in the life of these young immigrants… this time is perfect. Cousin, thanks for giving me a strong springboard from which to jump into playing with you all. The mastery of the Muse to those poets providing our conclusion, including:

April 24 Molly Hogan at Nix the Comfort Zone
April 25 Joanne Emery at Word Dancer
April 26 Karin Fisher-Golton at Still in Awe
April 27 Donna Smith at Mainly Write
April 28 Dave at Leap of Dave
April 29 Robyn Hood Black at Life on the Deckle Edge
April 30 Michelle Kogan at More Art for All

And now for our featured presentation…

Cradled in stars, our planet sleeps,
clinging to tender dreams of peace
sister moon watches from afar,
singing lunar lullabies of hope.

almost dawn, I walk with others,
keeping close, my little brother.
hand in hand, we carry courage
escaping closer to the border

My feet are lightning;
My heart is thunder.
Our pace draws us closer
to a new land of wonder.

I bristle against rough brush—
poppies ahead brighten the browns.
Morning light won’t stay away—
hearts jump at every sound.

I hum my own little song
like ripples in a stream
Humming Mami’s lullaby
reminds me I have her letter

My fingers linger on well-worn creases,
shielding an address, a name, a promise–
Sister Moon will find always us
surrounding us with beams of kindness

But last night as we rested in the dusty field,
worries crept in about matters back home.
I huddled close to my brother. Tears revealed
the no-choice need to escape. I feel grown.

Leaving all I’ve ever known
the tender, heavy, harsh of home.
On to maybes, on to dreams,
on to whispers we hope could be.

But I don’t want to whisper! I squeeze Manu’s hand.
“¡Más cerca ahora!” Our feet pound the sand.
We race, we pant, we lean on each other
I open my canteen and drink gratefully

Thirst is slaked, but I know we’ll need
more than water to achieve our dreams.
Nights pass slowly, but days call for speed
through the highs and the lows, we live with extremes

We enter a village the one from Mami’s letter,
We find the steeple; food, kindly people, and shelter.
We made it, Manu! Mami would be so proud!
I choke back a sob, then stand tall for the crowd.

A slapping of sandals… I wake to the sound
of “¡GOL!” Manu’s playing! The fútbol rebounds.