{pf: poetry peeps in the style of Valerie Worth}

Welcome to another Poetry Friday Poetry Peeps adventure!

Poetry Peeps! You’re invited to our challenge for the month of December! Here’s the scoop: We’re writing the eleven-syllable German cinquain, the Elfchen. Unfamiliar? There’s plenty online about this brief form, which has often been taught in German elementary schools, so intangible bonus points wenn dein Gedicht auf Deutsch ist (if your poem is in German). Are you game? Good! The Poetry Sisters are continuing to throw our 2023 theme of TRANSFORMATION into the mix as possible. Whatever your topic or theme, you have a month to craft your creation and share it on December 29th in a post and/or on social media with the tag #PoetryPals.

Poetry Friends! I hope you had a lovely Thanksgiving/Friendsharing/ChosenFamily/Family Day yesterday. I am putting this blog post together a week in advance, and might not ‘see’ some of your posts right away, but I will get there and add you to the Valerie Worth round-up! What with travel and meals and homes full of guests, those of us nearby may be a bit slower – so do pop back in for a full roundup later in the weekend. Meanwhile, it was delightful to meet with almost the whole gang at our Poetry Sisters prewrite last week. You must check out Mary Lee’s poem here. Sara’s poem is here. Laura is joining us here, while Liz’s poem is here, and Tricia’s poem is here. Laura’s poem flew in to land here. Michelle K.’s poem is here. Linda B.’s poem is here.

Poetry Friday is hosted by Ruth @There Is No Such Thing as a Godforsaken Town, long-distance from Uganda, so let’s take our time with Ruth and savor everything, along with a second helping of pie.

“Never forget that the subject is as important as your feeling: The mud puddle itself is as important as your pleasure in looking at it or splashing through it. Never let the mud puddle get lost in the poetry – because, in many ways, the mud puddle is the poetry.” (Valerie Worth, quoted in Another Jar of Tiny Stars, the second NCTE book of award-winning poetry, edited by Bernice E. Cullinan and Deborah Wooten

As I recall from our brainstorming session at the beginning of this year, we chose to write in the style of Valerie Worth first because many of us were less than familiar with much of her work, except her books for children, and secondly, because her poems are short(ish), small, plain-spoken (unrhymed), and specific. Note that when we say ‘small,’ we don’t mean an additional observation on length, but rather a topical observation on the dialed in, specific topics Valerie Worth judged worthy of poetry. Fence posts. Rags. Earthworms. Mushrooms. Valerie Worth was a poet who had, as Mary Oliver attributed to excellent writers, “an attitude of noticing.” I believe that observation lends itself to its own theme of transformation… In so many ways, when one is able to extrapolate the extraordinary from the mundane, it changes things seen, experienced, known, and understood. Inasmuch as Mary Oliver described that ‘noticing’ as a relentless and dynamic curiosity about the world, I believe that Valerie Worth’s unwillingness to exclude anything from observation is what enabled her to be a poet whose work is memorable and occasionally astonishing. To that end, in my own choosing, I purposefully looked for ‘small’ topics. I thought of my dead sunflowers, which I’ve left in place because the birds really love them, Himself’s giant clogs which I keep tripping over on the garage step, and the draft evader I fashioned from flat fiberfill stuffing and torn flannel rags. Sunflowers when they’re bright get plenty of ink – not so much when they’re dead. We might write poems to baby shoes, but not to rubber gardening clogs. Few find the wads of cloth we stuff under door and windowsills particularly poetic, and yet…

I started by hewing as closely as I could to one of Worth’s actual poems. Sparrow is one of my favorites about a dun-colored bird minding her own business, and not caring if you look at her. I transferred the sparrow’s ubiquity to the boxy rubber clogs that seem to grow on the back step – worn by anyone whose feet will fit, perfect for standing in the outdoor kitchen frying something, or chucking things into the compost bin in the rain…

Our garden is still quite lively, for all that it is considered functionally dead. The dry flower heads, yellow-browning speckles of mildewed stalks and fallen seeds are alive with an hundred thousand birds, chasing lizards, squabbling, pecking, rolling in dust, and scratching like hens. This is why we’re the WORST gardeners – we can’t bear to tear everything out and turn it under just yet because the birds are having way too much fun. May they all make themselves at home.

(This handsome specimen isn’t MY draft stopper, which is a scrappy, patch-worked thing in various shades of ‘dirt.’ Mine is in the wash just now and unready for its close-up, so we’ll just pretend I actually stitched something pretty.)

Mary Oliver’s famously succinct ‘Instructions for Living a Life’ admonishes us fussily to “pay attention.” Maybe in a less didactic tone, as there is nothing truly obligatory here, we might encourage ourselves to give attention to our lives, to see within our every day ordinariness a sheen of the extraordinary. As German actress and coach Uta Hagen once famously said, “We must overcome the notion that we must be regular…” As we tunnel out from stolid regularity into glorious irregularity, exchange our viewpoint on life as ‘usual’ for the chance to revel in the unusual, may we discover that life is more than we knew. May we, by being open, inventive, expressive, and questioning, live our uncertainty and questions into answers that change everything.

All poems ©2023 Tanita S. Davis

{11•17 gratitudinous}

I was nineteen, and a social work friend from work asked anxiously, “Hey, do you have time to fill out a questionnaire? I have a friend doing a project…” So many of us were guinea pigs for each other’s projects in school, I thought this wouldn’t be any different… but it turned out to be The Black Women’s Health Study, and all these years later, I’m still part of Boston University’s massive, multi-year study through the Sloane Epidemiology Center, to predict and provide better health outcomes for black women. So much has been uncovered and discovered, and there’s so much information to come. To that end, I filled a vial with saliva this morning…

All for a good cause, I guess.

genetic divination
pulls DNA
and uncertain fortunes
from crystal vials of spit – what

{11•10 gratitudinous}

Happy Friday, friends.

November’s cold, dark days have been lengthened and brightened by the uptick in rehearsals I have this time of year. Christmas Eve this year is on a Sunday, so my choral load has doubled, plus I somehow got roped into a performance in January (…how did that…happen?). It’s work – it’s a lot of work – to be a musician with dyscalculia. I memorize my part and everyone else’s, so I don’t have to rely on my ability to count. I count note signatures on my fingers. I forget the names of notes – routinely. It’s work. However, I love that music is work that I can do.

Work that we can do is… more important than we might understand. Especially for those of us with learning differences, who have so often had work set before us which we can make neither heads nor tails of, it makes a difference to be able to put our hands to something and see it through – to complete it, using the best of our abilities. To achieve. To succeed.

So, thanks, for that. For accomplishments that perhaps seem small and routine when viewed from outside, but which feed the soul of the hive.

legs laden

what sweeter music
than hum of satisfaction
as bee flies hiveward

Poetry Friday is brought to you by the letter K, and our hostess, Mrs. E, whose blog has a shockingly clever title. Be well and fly strongly, little bees.

{pf: peeps are talkin’ about bouts-rimés}

Welcome to another Poetry Friday Poetry adventure!

Poetry Peeps! You’re invited to our challenge for the month of November! Here’s the scoop: We’re writing in the style of Valerie Worth. Unfamiliar? Renee LaTulippe shared poet Lee Bennett Hopkins’ NCTE reminiscences on her as a poet, and Renee wrote a great post highlighting her. And, now that you’ve read a bit, are you in? Good! The Poetry Sisters are continuing to throw our 2023 theme of TRANSFORMATION into the mix as possible. Whatever your topic or theme, you have a month to craft your creation and share it on November 24th – yep, that IS the day after Thanksgiving, so plan accordingly – in a post and/or on social media with the tag #PoetryPals.

We’re grateful to our Poetry Friday host today, Carol Labuzzetta Tricia’s poem right here, and Sara’s poem here. Liz’s poem is here. Mary Lee’s is here, and Laura’s popped in here. Michelle K. borrowed lines from Emily D. here. You might discover more Poetry Peeps checking in throughout the weekend, so stay tuned for the full round-up as I find them. Meanwhile… on with the poetry.

The original tale of the Bouts-rimés form has to do with a nobleman complaining of having some three hundred sonnets stolen from him. As it turns out, it wasn’t sonnets at all, only the rhyming end words. Our rhyming end words were A: profuse/abstruse/chartreuse/truce; B: incline/shine/resign/supine; C: various/gregarious/hilarious/precarious, D: ceasefire/quagmire/higher/dryer, E: transform/barnstorm/uniform/conform, F: humility/futility/nobility/tranquility; G: perturb/superb/reverb/disturb. With a couple of (horrifying) exceptions, the word list isn’t really that bad – and for once I gave myself permission to use forms of the words like inclined instead of incline. However, as there are several types of sonnets, I couldn’t really decide which would work best. I dabbled a bit writing three sonnet forms, but I found I really disliked the Terza Rima with this word list, so that one won’t ever see the light of day. Instead, here’s a Shakespearean sonnet, and a semi-Spenserian. I’ve made it a s/he poem for your amusement, but I defaulted on my illustration to HE, because we live in a sexist world, and I only found two graphics of MEN yacking, and HUNDREDS of women. (This is me, doing my bit for… equality. Or something.)

The Yack Attack
A waterfall of facts profuse
In detailed minutiae s/he shines;
The more perplexing and abstruse
Towards peak verbosity inclined.
Beyond the mere gregarious,
That tongue admits to no ceasefire.
Pleas for peace, often, various,
Unheeded. A social quagmire!
What if relentless talk transformed
To listening humility?
Could need to air one’s wit, barnstorm,
Be seen as gauche futility?

If such a thought serves to perturb
Sit with it. SHH! Let it reverb.

I think the funniest thing about the next poem is that I rarely drink coffee… it’s a “Oh, sure, I’ll have some,” drink that I have maybe once or twice a week, if that. And I know that’s not other people’s experience with coffee (I’m reminded of my friend Jules’ mug that reads “Coffee! Do stupid things faster, with more energy!), so if you’re a coffee person, this one’s for you.

La Belle Dame Sans Coffee
My day begins with apologies profuse,
Decaffeinated brain cells whine, crying ‘truce!’
Whilst wincing through faux pas, who among us shines?
To ‘grit-your-teeth-and-grin’ we become resigned …
Flubs and mistakes pre-coffee are various,
We hold as we can, our grip precarious.
A few sips of brew won’t relieve the quagmire
A FULL cuppa’s all that will create ceasefire.
Then Monday, a day full of headaches, transforms
To calm – since caffeine makes moods more uniform.
Vicious conceits give way to humility,
Soothing savage beasts back to tranquility.

Indeed, it’s a powerful brew that’s superb!
So, until we’ve had some? It’s DO NOT Disturb!

Can we agree together to dispense with quagmire, ceasefire, barnstorm or abstruse in our poetry? Those are such delicious words, of course, and the point of this poetic game is to actually make your fellow poets work pretty hard by CHOOSING the more outré vocabulary, but oy. Barnstorm. It’s just somehow unwieldy!

This time of year is just the best time for table games – sitting inside, cozy, while the weather does what it will, and we keep our brains busy. (I promise you that sitting inside, being cozy still works even if the weather doing what it will requires an air conditioner or fan to combat it.) I hope that you’re able to try this poetry game with a class, or a group of friends – even if the poems you play with aren’t as long as sonnets – admittedly those are a lot for first-timers – I know that almost everyone can write a limerick. Giving people end words for them to compose their own limerick will be… enlightening, at the very least! Never forget that DOGGEREL is also a poetic form with a long (from the 14th century!) and storied history.

(For more on the cartoonist, Mickey Bach, visit the GetWords archive.)

And thus we come to the end of October.

The summer seemed briefly endless, and now we’re free-falling through autumn, plunging towards winter. In the month of November, that traditional time of pause, I’m going to try a daily exercise of poetic gratitude. It has been a grinding summer for me personally and physically, as well as for members of my family, for those of us nationally who love books and have deep concerns for inclusivity and freedom, and then globally – oof. I’ve gotten out of the habit of journaling over the years, so a daily poetry practice is for me one way to slow down and reflect on things which are happening, to recall what I’m meant to be doing right now, which is to be present in the moment, and then to also remember what I have done in previous years during this time. This reflective practice reminds us how troubles, though seemingly endless in the moment, always pass with time. This is an especially important message now, and I hope some of you will find a gratitude practice for yourselves in the days to come. This, too, shall pass. This moment, this place, this You is right here for a reason. You will find it. You will embody it, and you will shine. ☆You are made of stars.★

Happy Weekend.

{pf: poetry peeps pruning poems}

Welcome to another Poetry Friday Poetry adventure!

Poetry Peeps! You’re invited to our challenge for the month of September! Here’s the scoop: We’re writing Bouts-Rimé, which in French means literally ‘rhymed-ends.’ Bouts-Rimé is a poetry challenge wherein you supply a set of fourteen rhyming words, like June, stress, moon, obsess, snake, moot, cake, beaut, Garbo, play, hobo, day, rhinestone, cologne (from Columbia College’s journal, 2006), exchange them with a friend or poetry group, and then write a poem to the rhymes in the same order that they were placed upon the list. Great ingenuity is required to create something coherent – which is, of course, 90% of the fun. Are you in? Good! The Poetry Sisters are continuing to throw our 2023 theme of TRANSFORMATION into the mix. Whatever your topic or theme, you have a month to craft your creation and share it on October 27th in a post and/or on social media with the tag #PoetryPals.

Poetry Friday today is brought to you by the word ‘WITTY’ and is hosted by the generous, lovely, and delightfully witty Jama-J at Alphabet Soup. Do pop on over for poetry goodness that is not these rather silly poems of mine!

Oh, my goodness, poets, buckle up. Diminishing or Pruning Poems appear to be simple – but of course, you know the Poetry Sisters drill by now. Nothing we ever attempt – despite our best efforts – can ever just be easy. A poem built around a single rhyming word which diminishes by a single letter per line? Now, how hard could that be???

::insert eyeroll::

In order to find words to prune, I started with digraph and trigraph consonant blends, imagining that more consonants on the beginnings or ends of words would help. They did, kind of… however, the words I found somehow just did NOT seem to lend themselves to anything poetic. Scrump? Relapse? Paeon? Feel the poetry there, folks. I asked Himself to dig into his lists of words (yes, he keeps lists of words for fun, yes, you knew we were word-loving nerds in this house) and I pulled quite a few I could work with, but… even so, I started feeling like I was writing middle school assignments with these three line little… ditties. I don’t know, it didn’t feel very poetic, but you know, I started to lean into the brevity and the simplicity of idea, and the playfulness. Not all of them are worth sharing, but I have a few…

I’ll have you know, today’s poetry reveal is a reveal for all of us – due to several unforeseen circumstances only two of the Poetry Sisters met for our usual co-writing hour last Sunday, so we have the added amusement of not knowing anything about what anyone else is posting! But, if you check out Tricia’s poem here, you’ll get your first idea. Liz’s poem is here. Mary Lee’s is here. Michelle K’s poem is here, along with an offering of art, and Denise Krebs is writing poems of presence here. Linda B’s poem is here, and Carol V.’s seasonally perfect poem is here. Kelly, Laura and Sara are sitting out this dance, but more Peeps rising to the poetry challenge will be checking in throughout the weekend, so stay tuned for the full pruning poem round-up.

(CLICK IMAGES TO ENLARGE) Thematically, these poems are eccentric (#transformationfail), so… enjoy.

I had to include this one, even though TECHNICALLY this one doesn’t “count.” The rules of the Pruning Form describe the word that you choose to prune as “rhyming.” Morally, orally, rally, and ally sadly do NOT. However, I couldn’t pass it up.

Notes On Sixth Period Lunch Period, or “No One Wants to See Chewed Food, Guys”

MORALLY, it’s the right thing to do.
ORALLY, it’s tasteful and smart when you chew, to
RALLY your manners, whatever you do, and
ALLY yourself with a mannerly crew.

After having my LIFE changed by Nikki Giovanni’s poem, “Allowables,” I’ve tried to be a bit more Zen about all the life around me, even those bits of life I really despise. So, um… fleas are the longest/highest jumpers in the world? Yay? Still want them and mosquitoes to stay away from me, though. Shoo them with fire!

Yes, They’re Cool and All, But…

That ABLEST of jumpers, the house
flea is BLEST with thirst
like a vampire’s, LEST any forget!

As you can see, I may have a ways to go with the Zen thing…

Incidentally, I’ve begun to ask myself what it is about this form that brings out… the wildlife for me. I hadn’t honestly even realized I was writing zoology poems until…now? Anyway, this little ditty almost felt like it was cheating because of the palindromic poem “Madam, I’m Adam” which made me think of madam as a word choice – but I’ll take it anyway:


MADAM, we’re strangers: you don’t know me from
ADAM, however, your beaver has built me a
DAM. He’s billed, so I’ll pay him. That’s just who I

Look, I WARNED you they were a little goofy.

Shout out to the people who want to take libraries back to the days when the only books were to their tastes (perhaps – we’re not sure they ever actually, you know, read whole books), the only patrons were controlled and silent, and the only senators of note were named McCarthy. That era is aspirational for someone out there, but brace yourself, it’s not gonna happen, folks, so beware…!

Reminder: The Library Is For Everyone

SHUSHERS in the library whose
HUSHERS silence crave, you
USHER in the urge to make some noise and misbehave!

And, it’s back to the natural world – and a stop by the garden for a final salute to the beauty and peace I’ve found with my little DIY meadow this summer. Happy Friday to all, as the last vestiges of summer diminish and we welcome in the crisp and chilly – the fading, the falling, the fallow, the mist and the moss that means autumn’s arriving, amplifying and approaching its peak.


ASWARM in the garden aloud with their wings, a
SWARM of striped, bumbling, honeybees.
WARM thoughts of summer days bring to me:
ARMs and legs and feet bare. Free..

I’d LOVE to see you try your hand at some Pruning poems with some of the words I’ve chosen, or others. Uneaten. Abraid/Abrade (the first archaic spelling is still a word, thus legal for Scrabble, FYI). Slabs. Prelate. There’s got to be a poem somewhere in these most mundane of words!

Here’s to making a little time for wordplay – and even if your efforts are not the wittiest, the English language is such a rich, deep well from which to draw that it keeps our thirsty brains busy being smarty-panters. And, cheers to those bi or trilingualists who can riff in multiple languages, or with fingerspelling! Here’s to the world of words – and long may it do anything but diminish us.

Happy Weekend!

{pf: pp go mano a mano with monotetras}

Welcome to another Poetry Friday Poetry Peeps adventure!

Poetry Peeps! You’re invited to our challenge for the month of August! Here’s the scoop: We’re doing Exquisite Corpse poetry. These collaborative poems necessarily involve yourself and at least one other passing lines or stanzas along, so now’s the time to start choosing poetry compatriots. Are you in? Good! The Poetry Sisters are continuing with our 2023 theme of TRANSFORMATION somehow wedged or sneaked into this form – and we’re going to also sneak in a few of Linda Mitchell’s clunkers to give us more to play with. If you’re still game, you have a month to craft your creation and share it on August 25th in a post and/or on social media with the tag #PoetryPals.

It’s eleventy billion degrees here as I’m writing this (though tomorrow is forecast to be a whole five degrees cooler) and I view the calendar with horror… After a mostly mild summer which has suddenly hit ridiculous temperatures, it’s almost August… Which means it’s all but over. What?! My tomatoes haven’t even bothered to ripen!! In our neck of the woods, by August 1st, many teachers report back to school. At my nephew’s school, August 13th… is the first day of classes.

As the Bard says, “Summer’s lease hath all too short a date.”

As always, my imagination takes me back to school this time of year (no matter how former, no teacher ever seems to lose the idea that September begins a new year) and I was thinking about the differences between my nephew at the beginning of his junior high experience, when he was a talkative, shorter, rounder person – and who he became by the end of it – a lanky, tall person who won’t use two words when a grunt and a side-eye would do. These thoughts fit well into our poetic theme of transformation — though for a while it felt like not much fit a monotetra. This is such a deceptively simple form, just four lines and eight syllables per line – but the final line repeating the same four syllables was… hard. With such a short syllable allotment for the stanzas, it feels as if each word should do more work than simply sitting there, so a repetition seemed pointless. I tried to make it work with homonyms – and I’m aware I wasn’t entirely successful (and at one point just gave myself an out to do what I wanted) but did I mention that it’s eleventy billion degrees out? I’m doing a patented L.P. Salas One & Done today, since normally we’re all a mite envious of her ability to just crank a poem out and call it good. We peeps are here for the PRACTICE of poetry, not the perfection of it, and I’ve officially practiced. I’m out.

(Gotta admit, though, that I did like playing with the homonyms, and sometime when I’m in a better mood, this might be a form to revisit. For someone who usually doesn’t mind requirements of rhymes and rules and syllables … the final line thing felt unnecessary, and for me, didn’t add anything. Others may have had a MUCH better time, however, so don’t miss the Laura Salas special, or Sara’s poemsmith-ery, or Mary Lee’s wordswimming. Tricia’s poeming is here, and Liz’s poem is here. Michelle K’s parrot poem is here, and Heidi’s nototetra slays me, while Linda B’s is scary. Carol’s gorgeous flowers (and poem) are here. Kelly isn’t with us this month, but other Peeps may be checking in with their masterful monotetra-ing throughout the weekend, so stay tuned.) Don’t miss the Bookseed Studio Dragonfly Bonanza – thanks Jan, for hosting Poetry Friday today!


when you walk into a classroom
in eight grade, you won’t assume
that you’re a bud about to bloom:
(Cramped petals push: Make room! Make room!)

In every classroom, eyes compare
Those newly tall, some longer hair
Such change! Arriving from nowhere!
Of who, what, where – you’re quite aware.

Suddenly, last year’s playground joy
Is sneered at – who’s got time for toys?
The things you once loved now annoy.
You’re moody, coy, your moods decoy.

Fast as the year is passing by,
The sparkling social butterflies
Befriend the world. You’re so tongue-tied
You get a high from saying “hi.”

But then – the last class of the year!
One final test, and then a cheer
Erupting, you launch into gear.
You leap like deer. You disappear.

One thing the endless round of school years reminds us is that time. just. flies. The days get shorter and the years blur faster and the what you wanted to do won’t wait for the when you thought you would do it… No matter what happened yesterday, there is still a road forward into tomorrow. Now is the best present we’re ever going to get – so grab it with all your senses and make it count. Here’s to leaning open-heartedly into your one wild, precious life. Happy (Breathlessly Hot) Weekend.

{pf: poetry peeps write quote-ably}

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

Poetry Peeps! You’re invited to our challenge for the month of July! Here’s the scoop: we’re writing monotetra poems. This four-line stanzas form is in tetrameter, with a total of 8 syllables per line, and can be a single quatrain, or several. Each stanza is mono-rhymed (each line has the same end rhyme), and the final line of each stanza repeats the same four syllables Writers’ Digest has an example. The Poetry Sisters are continuing with our 2023 theme of TRANSFORMATION somehow wedged or sneaked into this form. You have a month to craft your creation and share it on July 28th in a post and/or on social media with the tag #PoetryPals.

Thought-provoking words from Robin Wall Kimmerer’s Braiding Sweetgrass: “We may not have wings or leaves, but we humans do have words. Language is our gift and our responsibility.” Those are the words before the sentence Mary Lee proposed for this month’s writing quote, which is, “If grief can be a doorway to love, then let us all weep for the world we are breaking apart so we can love it back to wholeness again.”

…language is our gift and our responsibility. Though perhaps not in the way that Kimmerer intended, because my mind is far from the natural world, this phrase has really resonated this month. I’m always conscious of when I make a social expression of concern… – promising to keep friends in my thoughts or prayers, to find a way to help, if I can; to keep a daughter/son/husband in mind if I hear about a job/hear about an opening/tutor/book they might need or like. We promise each other so many tiny things in the name of care, a hundred small words that we genuinely mean in the moment they emerge. How many of them do we carry through? Because I AM Me, these are the types of things that revisit my thoughts late at night.

I am always disappointed in myself when I fail to fulfill the social exchanges I have promised. I feel, frankly, like a liar. We all fail, though, to follow through sometimes – sometimes on smaller, and sometimes on a larger scale. What would happen if we let that sting of feeling bad about it …change things? What if it all… meant something? What if we could go backwards and fix all the times in the past, from bad faith treaties to outright grift and lies, that have made the social contract has fallen apart? What wouldn’t we all give for a time machine that we could flip, and get a do-over.

I started out trying to use a villanelle for this poem, but a four-stanza pantoum – a form I normally struggle with – suggested itself, and, shockingly, worked out. The shorter lines conveyed a sense of my theme without drowning me in it, hinting at multiple meanings and not locking me into one way of looking at grief, change, or loss. I also took the opportunity to use one of Linda M’s clunker lines while revising. I swapped a clunker of my own with “for minute sips of time,” which worked amazingly, and is an absolutely BRILLIANT line, so thank you, Linda, I’ll take it!

I like the way this reads, laid out differently, too:

Time Machine

If grief can lead the way/ ‘cross the threshold of the world,
For minute sips of time /recreate our past again.

Cross the threshold of the world/ where our words, no longer lies
Recreate our past again/ bedrock-solid as we stand.

With our words no longer lies/ we, who never kept our word,
Bedrock-solid, make a stand/ make this lever pivot worlds.

We, who never kept our word/ if grief can lead the way
Make this lever pivot. Worlds,/ for minute sips of time.

I’m so glad I’m not teaching this poem, so I don’t have to force it to mean something that makes entirely coherent sense to anyone but me. ☺ Other poetic thoughts on quotations can be found at Cousin Mary Lee’s place, at Laura’s blog, at Tricia’s, and at Liz’s website. Michelle K’s lovely responsive poem is here. More Poetry Peeps will be checking in throughout the weekend, so don’t forget to pop back for the round up. And, Poetry Friday is ably hosted today by Irene Latham, who invites you to celebrate the moon in June and read more remarkable, thought-provoking, creative poetry. Happy Friday, and enjoy the supermoon and Independence Day.

{pf: poetry peeps drink deep of the ghazel}

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

Poetry Peeps! You’re invited to our challenge in the month of June! Here’s the scoop: we’re writing in response to a quotation. Ours is an excerpt from Robin Wall Kimmerer’s Braiding Sweetgrass, p. 359, in the chapter “People of Corn, People of Light:” “If grief can be a doorway to love, then let us all weep for the world we are breaking apart so we can love it back to wholeness again.” How does that strike you? This time, the form and way you use this quotation – or another one which strikes your fancy – is totally up to you, but the Poetry Sisters are continuing with our 2023 theme of TRANSFORMATION. You have a month to craft your creation and share it on June 30th in a post and/or on social media with the tag #PoetryPals.

I feel like a dropped mirror – seven years of indifferent luck and little shards of self reflecting any number of different realities. This revision has just wrung me out – but in a better way than I had any right to expect of a novel outline done in a fit of pique that took me deeper than I expected. Himself sat patiently with me the times I completely wigged out and moaned aloud that I was never going to finish this on time. (I did. I always do. I always have. What is work, if you can’t be really dramatic about it, though?)

Oddly, all of this feels like really good prep for doing a ghazel.

No, seriously.

The #1 hardest thing for me to …embody in this couplet form is a sense of disjointedness. No, you’re not telling a story. No, you’re not pulling together the unified theory of anything. No, you’re not supposed to create an ensemble performance. Agha Shahid Ali, the poet who edited Ravishing DisUnities: Real Ghazals in English, in his foreword compared each ghazal couplet to “a stone from a necklace,” which should continue to “shine in that vivid isolation.” Sara had a great idea when she suggested we think of it as a new “13 Ways of Looking at a Blackbird,”, by Wallace Stevens. That’s the level of splintered we’re going for – and while I’ve been working the past several months on being able to be … loose with words and wordplay, this was still quite a challenge. Dabbling in Neruda last month helped create a feeling of voluptuous abandon with words. This month, I wanted less to luxuriate, and more to make clockwork, ticking along with a limited pas de deux, each couplet touched and spinning perfectly for just a moment…

Well, that was the idea, anyway.

After writing THREE of the bloody things, each one more hated than the last, I took Marilyn Hacker’s “Dark Times” as my mentor text, and tried again… I only lightly kept to our transformation theme, but I tried to order the couplets from darkness into light, or at least from skies of gray to deeper shades of blue.

“Bad Times”

Did thriftiness (or hoarding) got them THROUGH the bad times?
“Use it up, wear it out, make up, or make do” the bad times.

Expansive “destiny,” proud wagons Westward believed
Sepia-tinted lies: this past previewed the bad times.

Did colonialism urge dominion, so might made right?
Post-planet Earth, what’s our next berth, as we accrue the bad times?

Sixteen-nineteen, heartwood filled hell’s incinerator
Nineteen-thirty-three new genocide renewed the bad times.

Prayers on Angel Island’s walls, grief observed in stone.
Regardless of race, the spirit debut in the bad times.

No “time of trouble” singular – disasters, naturally,
Buffet with waves a weary world in view of the bad times.

Sing out for voices silenced, lift memorials, and rise,
For those war-broken who remain black and blue from the bad times.

What generation will survive? A remnant, not a nation
For thick-heads still persist and MISCONSTRUE the bad times.

What metals alloyed, intertwined strengthen weak to strong?
Fired copper, iron, gold sings TRUE in the bad times.

There’s always more poetry. Sara brought this to the table. And here’s Laura’s. Tricia’s poem is here, and Liz’s poem is here. Mary Lee’s lakeside ghazel is here, while Michelle K. joined the challenge here. Heidi’s ghazal is right here. More Poetry Peeps will be checking in throughout the weekend, so don’t forget to come back and read the whole roundup. Meanwhile, Poetry Friday is hosted today by Patricia at Reverie. Thanks, Patricia!

A Buddhist koan about life after enlightenment says that “A broken mirror never reflects again; fallen flowers never go back to the old branches.” Well, I’ll respectfully disagree – of course a broken mirror still works! It merely reflects different pieces of the same sky, which is both a kind of clarity and a kind of distance I think I can live with. And if you’re feeling a little broken, a little blurry, taped-together, and wonky, don’t worry, friends. You’re not alone. ♥


{pf: poetry peeps appreciate Pablo (Neruda)}

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

Poetry Peeps! You’re invited to our challenge in the month of May! Here’s the scoop: we’re writing a ghazal. The ghazal (tripping correctly from the tongue as “guzzle” – with apologies to those of you giving it a French flair as I used to) is the oldest poetic form still in use, with roots in Arabic, Urdu, Hindi, and Hebrew traditions. A ghazal is made to be sung, and is a couplet-based form with internal rhyme. (Find out more about it at Poets.org.) As always, the topic is totally up to you, but the Poetry Sisters are continuing with our 2023 theme of TRANSFORMATION. You have a month to craft your creation and share it on May 26th in a post and/or on social media with the tag #PoetryPals.

I feel like I need to set up a camera in the garden, so I can capture the milometers-per-hour growth of my seedlings. We have hit the 80°F mark this week in my part of the world for the first time in 2023, and the acceleration of — everything green is just gobsmacking. We’re happily stashing windbreakers and pulling out our short sleeves. …For the most part, anyway.

Last week at my Sunday gig (choir #2), a friend stepped behind the pulpit and slipped off her cardigan to put on her robe. She saw me watching her and winced. “I don’t usually wear sleeveless dresses,” she explained hurriedly. “My arms just look so bad…so crepey.”

Of course, I fussed at her about it, as we do with friends. She looked gorgeous in her spiffy dress, which I’d complimented the moment I’d seen it and I reiterated. I told her it was a gorgeous day and she had a gorgeous set of arms that needed to feel the sun on them. And then we settled down to warm up and rehearse.

But, I kept thinking about it.

Poets, my friend is eighty years old. She is a size six, maybe a seven. She swims one hundred laps in an Olympic pool three times a week, and walks two miles the other two days. She sings in the choir with me, and she’s louder and has a longer range. She sports a perfect layered cinnamon-brown bob with nary a silver strand twinkling, as well as perfect manicure at all times. More, she’s kind and funny. And she’s still worried that her upper arms look bad.

As I said to the Poetry Sisters when I mentioned this, good Lord, at some point we HAVE to be enough.

I mean, I get it. I don’t display my upper arms. Having been various sizes of fat my whole life, even when I was really lifting weights and playing sports, they were still… squishy in a way that was socially unacceptable. Bigger than other girls. I never wear sleeveless things outside of the house. But, I will not be eighty years old and still worrying about this crud. I. Will. NOT.

And so I wrote a lovely sonnet to my upper arms. The style of Pablo Neruda to me is layered and rich, loquacious and bountiful — just like my arms. He writes a lot of love poems, heady and redolent with beautiful language with which he woos the reader. I choose to attribute that to his Argentine heritage, a beautiful country filled with beautiful people speaking a lilting and glorious (and gloriously complicated, I say from the perspective of sixteen hundred days on Duolingo) language. Using the mentor poem “One Hundred Love Sonnets: XVII (I don’t love you as if you were a rose)” I speak of my arms – and your arms. And all of our arms. May we embrace ourselves, and our flaws, not like something about which poets sing – some romanticized, perfect thing. Rather, may we embrace ourselves as if we’re children who may or may not be sweaty, muddy, covered in pet hair, widdle, puke, snot, or tears and still – cherished, and worthy of love.

I Do Not Love You ‘As If’

I don’t love you as if you were a summer fruit, warm,
Firm, perfumed and toothsome:
I love you as an auntie loves a defiant toddler,
Exasperation woven from skeins of amusement and resignation.

I love you as the corner of the yard the cats favor,
Dense blooming bush beneath which they lie concealed, tails twitching,
Keen to pounce and leap and rend, replacing peace with panic,
Forcing conflict and change, challenge and confrontation.

I love you without knowing how, or when, or for what,
I love you austerely, without expectation or prediction,
I love you like this because I know no way but this, to embrace
The flawed and the fleshy, the crepey, creased, amd changed,
Complete in this moment as the sweet-fleshed perfection of a ripened peach,
Complete in this broad-shouldered, wide-bellied work of cradling a wailing world.

There’s always more poetry. You should see what Liz wrote. And here’s Mary Lee’s. Tricia’s poem is here. Michelle K’s poem is here. Heidi is “Neruda-ing” (yes, that IS a word) here. More Poetry Peeps will be checking in throughout the weekend, so don’t forget to come back and read the whole roundup. Meanwhile, Poetry Friday today is hosted by Ruth at There Is Not Such Thing As A Godforsaken Town. Thanks, Ruth, and Happy Seventeenth Blog Birthday!

Well, back to the garden, poets. I’m sending you out with a hug, from my arms to yours. Happy Weekend, you are loved. ♥