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When I was a student teacher, one of the big discussions we had – when we weren’t being fed careful sips of theory from our lovely teachers – was how to acclimate children to the dark and jagged place the world could sometimes be. I find it deeply ironic that, as a writer – in writing groups and at conferences and such, that’s still the same question we spend a lot of time on. How much do we tell them? How much do we reveal?

That refrain always reminds me Maggie Smith‘s poem. How much do we keep from the children? And how much do they know anyway?


Adults struggle, though we keep this from the children.
Adults struggle, and we struggle still
and in a million different ways regret
the choice to keep it hidden. What brought us here
we keep it from the children. A fear-based beat
drums deeply through our bodies, and that’s our
normal, though we needn’t tell the children.
For every friend, a bully stalks the playground.
For every clear drop, a neighborhood drinks down lead
from the River Flint. Trust is an alien potsherd excavated
by antiquarianists, baked in the dust of injustice on a
planet so profoundly and purposely poisoned it breaks you,
though we hide this from the children. Are we not trying
to market equity? Any bullish trader,
upselling such a valueless commodity, rattles on
about futures: This one could be the big one,
right? A little investment, and it could mean security.

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The Poetry Sisters’ recent pantoum project reminded me of how much I have disliked repeating poetry forms – but the pantoum was fine. However, I recently compared the pantoum to the villanelle. For a rigid topic, a villanelle works SO well – short lines, direct ideas. It’s good for inescapable truths. A pantoum sometimes leaves more wiggle room…

Pivoting back to my examination this month of those “deeper, unnamed feelings which form the substratum of our being,” that T.S. Eliot mentions, I started thinking about growing up poor. Talk about an inescapable truth. I remember seeing an hourly pay stub of my mother’s when I was in the seventh grade, and being …afraid. I remember murmured, late night conversations that were probably my parents trying to figure out what to do, what not to pay, how to stretch what we had. That they owned their home was their sole saving grace.

My life is so different! I don’t own my house. I don’t own much. Yet, am I better off?


Couch cushions never hid cash
We winkled every last cent
Never allowed to buy “trash.”

Squirreling away in a cache,
So youth could not be ‘misspent.’
Couch cushions never hid cash.

Washed and pressed – neat, not slapdash.
“Who do you girls represent?”
No one could call us poor trash.

Concocted “cures” for a rash.
A doctor’s care? Infrequent.
Couch cushions never hid cash.

In school we read of the Crash,
Kids worked in fields for the rent
They even reused their trash.

Treats – cash and candy – I stashed
Where I hid my discontent.
Couch cushions never hid cash,
We were never allowed to buy trash.

How’s that for not “evading,” my truths, Mr. Eliot?

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It’s one of those weeks where I’ve already lost track of what day it is — being busy on the weekend sometimes does that to you, when you have a List of things that need to be done by Monday.

I’ve been reading up on the little mental aberrations that humans in sport endure – the yips, the twisties, the waggles. They’ve all got such cute names, but they represent the times where your body says “No,” and you forget how to throw, how to bat, how to land, if you’re midair in a flip.

I don’t think sport is the only arena in which human beings encounter mental blocks…


if we just believed
the psychologists tell us
we’d be limitless
but we’re mimes in glass boxes
walls built of anxiety

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Another year, another eclipse, though we’re nowhere near the totality this time – though there must be myriads of people hastily traveling from here to there, eager to see the moon blot out the sun. I saw an eclipse in the first grade, and they were SO EMPHATIC about us not blinding ourselves that to this day, I don’t think of an eclipse without a mild sense of lingering dread. Though it is indeed dangerous to blind yourself with the sun, it’s a little sad when the wonder is wrung out of a thing due to warnings and reminders and instructions. It’s a bit sad that I don’t know why people hop on planes, drive for hours, and insist on being there… what are they looking for?

april 8, 2024

klaxons sound warnings
in silence totality
swallowing us whole

like birth, we’re released
the ineffable, reached for
while we stand, gazing

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Ugh, I am coming down with a cold. I played – outside – with a four-year-old all afternoon, who is getting over one, and despite the abundance of fresh air, my body, eager to pick up any little germ and panic about it, immediately decided to take this cold on. I can look forward to a fever tonight, and I’m already feeling run down and chilled. Just from a wee little cold – but nothing is “common” with my immune system, which is ready, at all times, to jump into action and overreact in any situation.

Hah, yes, as a matter of fact, I DO know people like that, too… and how exhausting that must be. I can’t imagine worrying that people would forget me if I wasn’t spinning up like an ambulance siren, complete with flashing lights, but psychologists explain that’s often the case, that people who create chaos dread being forgotten or ignored.

I’ll try to walk in shoes that put me on the path to compassion, since I find this personality type particularly trying…

drama llama

chasing life’s chaos:
Here in the eye of the storm
I’m choosing its spin.

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Extended family isn’t something I ever talk about, or write about, I realize. Those… extensions run a long way, and while I don’t love them any less for it, those extensions rarely ever lend themselves to poetry. However, this morning I considered the OTHER extended family I have, by law.

Cousin Mary Lee’s prompt to the Inklings’ poetry group this month was a haiku sequence in which they, using a mentor poem, talked about the topic of poetry without mentioning it by name. I was inspired to approach my own connections thusly, in a roundabout, gingerly fashion, carefully not naming – but letting the outline of a thing define its shape. I used both religious and forensic metaphors, which reflect specifics, and I was amazed by how much I wanted to reveal, when the object is to, in part, hint and obscure. I’ll have to try this again sometime…

A Last Supper

Actions speak louder
Than the space between silence –
Would you pass the salt?

hearts hide in plain sight
seeking, though silent. Something
Sings out its presence

prodigals plead for
reunion, not reckoning
choke on fatted calves

if we measure life
not in time, but in heartbreak
we’d call time of death

crisply chalked outline –
officially declare it
done: on to dessert

Poetry Friday today is hosted by Irene @ Live Your Poem.

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No observation of a family excludes siblings… I have SUCH …variant siblings (*waves*). You might think “variant” is just another way of saying “weird” (and… you’d be right, let’s face it [*waves again, then ducks*]). But, more genuinely, variant is another way to say exceptional.

I like the word “exceptional” a lot for this. We talked about being “2e’s” in the early 2000’s educational psychology circles. 2e’s were exceptional, both in being gifted AND in being highly challenged scholastically and emotionally. In many ways, this is the shelf on which all of us are classified, but I think in terms of my siblings, especially those with whom I share blood, of the gifts divided between us, this clearly speaks to the proficiency well as the flaws that come as our inheritance.

I’ve also given a lot of thought to ideas of quantum, since my mother’s blood quantum allows her to claim Native Ancestry.

She has not.


Defined by blood
Explores questions of “sum.”
Does mere birthright change Us to Them?
How come?

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Relationships with parents remind me that their parents had dreams, goals, and expectations which they passed along, pressed into them like clay, and which affected… us, their progeny. From the other side, my mother’s experiences with me must have been somewhat terrifying. I wasn’t the first child – by far – but the one who was so different than the others, it must have been a little off-putting.


She told me, at birth
I was like a new gadget:
Boxed, with no handbook.
Just rows of shiny buttons.
Just so many ways to break.

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From the beginning of my life, my relationship with my Dad has been… fraught. This year began with health issues, and aging issues, and though I am trying to reframe that relationship, I am learning that I must first take the time to look at it… Have you ever wondered what went wrong in a relationship which was supposed to be easy? Family – you’re born with those people. Why aren’t they your easiest relationships?


In early memory I said, “No,”
His opposite in every light,
His preference for my sisters clear
He left me home rather than fight.

His opposite in every light,
My busy fingers matched a mind
He left me home rather than fight
Me, whimsy-filled more than with sense.

My busy fingers matched a mind,
Head-deep in books and story-blind.
Me, whimsical, not filled with sense,
My world a foreign one to him.

Head-deep in books, I, story-blind
There was no chance we’d meet as friends
My world wholly foreign to him
Two aliens, too alien.

Never a chance to live as friends
Since children reap what others sow –
Two aliens, too alien
We failed to thrive, too starved to grow.

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Every single year, I think of nineteen National Poetry Month projects, and every single year, the first of April catches me wholly unprepared to enact said projects.

I’d say “Why am I like this?!” except… I know why. Reasons. This is who I am – over-thinky, wildly creative, too many zipping thoughts, colliding midair, and too scattered to actually settle on one. Right now, I’m still behind on rewriting my manuscript (one more month to catch up!) trying to be supportive as my family goes through various woes, as Himself job hunts through month six (uggggh) and striving to surface from the worst bits of Spring with my sinuses intact. As there is in every life, there’s a lot going on.

And, that’s why I’m here. That’s why I deliberately force myself to engage in poetry for a solid month …to tackle this idea of praxxis and practice. Making poetry forces me to stop, to look, and to listen… to both others, and to myself. As T.S. Eliot said, in his book The Use of Poetry and the Use of Criticism (1933), “Poetry may make us from time to time a little more aware of the deeper, unnamed feelings which form the substratum of our being, to which we rarely penetrate; for our lives are mostly a constant evasion of ourselves.” Dear April, let me not evade. Let me step out in other shoes, onto other paths, into others’ footsteps, and …find a new way.


first, step off the porch
make the adventure begin –
the other shoe drops

P.S. – One project that is actually quite prepared is the PROGRESSIVE POEM, which I’m taking part in for the first time this year. Check out the progress:

April 1 Patricia Franz at Reverie
April 2 Jone MacCulloch
April 3 Janice Scully at Salt City Verse
April 4 Leigh Anne Eck at A Day in the Life
April 5 Irene at Live Your Poem
April 6 Margaret at Reflections on the Teche
April 7 Marcie Atkins
April 8 Ruth at There is No Such Thing as a God Forsaken Town
April 9 Karen Eastlund
April 10 Linda Baie at Teacher Dance
April 11 Buffy Silverman
April 12 Linda Mitchell
April 13 Denise Krebs at Dare to Care
April 14 Carol Varsalona at Beyond Literacy Link
April 15 Rose Cappelli at Imagine the Possibilities
April 16 Sarah Grace Tuttle
April 17 Heidi Mordhorst at my juicy little universe
April 18 Tabatha at Opposite of Indifference
April 19 Catherine Flynn at Reading to the Core
April 20 Tricia Stohr-Hunt at The Miss Rumphius Effect
April 21 Janet, hosted here at Reflections on the Teche
April 22 Mary Lee Hahn at A(nother) Year of Reading
April 23 Tanita Davis at (fiction, instead of lies)
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
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