Today the challenge was to write a poem in the style of Kay Ryan, whose poems tend to be short and snappy – with a lot of rhyme and soundplay. They also have a deceptive simplicity about them, like proverbs or aphorisms.
I’m not sure if I accomplished it, but here is my poem for today.
Ghosts in Late Summer
Words hung softly, but still too loud for a dead thing. All that remained of summer seemed spent, so I ran straight away into the chill of autumn nipping. Never mind the plotted hours of living where we found stolen strength to see past what was in front of our eyes. When I heard your last whisper through the wall, I wasn’t ready to face winter alone. I felt lost, for we loved deeply and without many words. Imagine then my surprise at the loud voice of your ghost.
Today the challenge was to write a poem about a mythical person or creature doing something unusual – or at least something that seems unusual in relation to that person/creature.
I tell you the truth, this one threw me. So I turned to my friend Jennifer Kautz, an expert in mythology. She suggested I do a dragon who serves food instead of fear, so all the credit goes to Jen for that brilliant idea.
I used a six line poetry form with an ABABCC rhyme scheme and a meter of 10, 10, 10, 10, 14 and 10. Not sure if it works in the epic way I thought it might before I started, but I wrote, which is always the most important thing for me this month.
The Horse and The Dragon
The horse met up with the dragon one day To discuss her plans for a coffee shop; With a great aplomb (and a rare Beaujolais) Horse methodically let her vision drop. Thus began the legend of their fine collaboration Cloaked in love and honest admiration.
The dragon shifted shapes from salty beast To honest hard-working entrepreneur; Slowly the vision saw steady increase as a conifer cone became a fir— dragon opened up and learned to serve food instead of fear, and shared with horse a miraculous year.
The prompt for today was to write a poem . . . in the form of a poetry prompt. If that sounds silly, well, maybe it is! But it’s not without precedent.
The poet Mathias Svalina has been writing surrealist prompt-poems for quite a while, posting them to Instagram. You can find examples here, and here, and here.
And as always, you can read my spin on it below.
An Ode To Writing Prompts for Spring 2022
1. Come to the garden gate 2. And lie down in the patch of hydrangeas. 3. Write your name in the earth; 4. Remember how it belongs only to you. 5. Count the plants and name the blossoms; 6. Write their names in the sky like clouds. 7. Choose the most brilliant blue to mark this sacred place 8. and choose to remember (do not be fooled: this is the hardest part)— 9. Choose to remember where you alone have been.
Today’s prompt is based on Robert Hass’s remarkable prose poem, “A Story About the Body.” The idea is to write my own prose poem that, whatever title I choose to give it, is a story about the body. The poem should contain an encounter between two people, some spoken language, and at least one crisp visual image. Here is my attempt.
For me, holding things in has been a way of life. The natural outcome of this internal action has been the external result of packing on the pounds.
I was never allowed to talk about anything negative, especially any sort of family issues in front of anyone else. And I learned that habit young.
Only recently have I learned to express myself in healthy ways, holding others accountable for their words and actions. Only recently have I been able to consistently begin to shed the weight of those secrets, and along with it, has come actual weight loss.
Fifty-two pounds, to be exact.
There is no more holding of secrets, and I don’t plan to pass this on to the next generation. It can stop with me.
“Sssh. Hush hush. Don’t say that. It’s taboo.” Only the perfect blush of color is allowed in our flawless family tree. No embolus of evil, no skeletons here. No binges of beer or illegitimate broods. No family feuds. “Sssh. Hush hush. Don’t say that. It’s taboo.” And so my story begins: I'm not allowed to show disappointment or speak pain into the air. “Surely it wasn’t quite that way. Anyway,it all happened yesterday.” I must move on. Get over it. Suck it in. Suck it up. So I suck up everything I can find until my body swells with the excess weight. My feet slow, my spirits droop, and even in my sluggish state, I hear her voice, “But don’t you dare spit it out.” So I shut my mouth—I suck it up like a Hoover vacuum, like the vortex of a tornado, like a slurpee through a straw, and all I'm left with is one colossal brain-freeze.
Musings on the International Day of Peace and the first weeks of school:
Here I am teaching in-person for the first time in a year and a half. It seems funny to even use the words “in-person”; I mean, how else do you teach?
But now many of us understand words Ike virtual learning, zoom calls, and home office from firsthand experience. This past year and half we learned the value of hunkering down and staying home to “be safe” and the sheer joy of being able to gather together with friends and family. We found peace and made peace and offered peace where none was given.
We saw conflict, felt tension, and recoiled from verbal combat every time we opened a social media app.
But just like teaching, living in peace with one another is less about relaying information or our point of view and more about building relationships. It’s less about building fences and more about building bridges.
So with these thoughts in mind, I taught the students the song “With Just One Small Voice” this week, and we talked about what it means to use your voice together with others to speak out for or against something. I asked the students what things they would speak out about if given the chance.
A fifth grader said he would speak out against homelessness, another said they would raise awareness about hunger, a third grader said she would want to use her voice to encourage others to clean up the environment, and a second grader raised her hand and shared her heart for the plight of Haitian immigrants so passionately and articulately, I thought I had been transported to middle school.
These are the future peacemakers and bridge builders of our world. These are the thinkers and change makers.
And I get to work with them every day.
I will bind myself willingly to this kind of work–to peacemaking and restoration and love because I believe this is what will ultimately change the world. Respect, cooperation, listening with empathy, being willing to change your mind: these are the heart of hope for our future.
And so with this fullness of hope in my heart, I pray that peace finds its way to you wherever you are and in whatever you do.
We are what the world is becoming, so with one small but collective voice let’s sing so our voice is heard.
The backyard has been a minefield of mud for the entire spring and summer months. The contractor we hired the end of April has used very excuse you can imagine as to why the work wasn’t complete.
As a teacher, I have heard many an excuse in my day as to why work wasn’t finished, why books weren’t brought to class, and why one child needed to insult another child. Often I have reminded students to simply stand tall and own their truth, even if they think they might “get in trouble” for it.
In my own life I have found that honest self reflection leads to growth.
Unfortunately, this contractor wasn’t interested in self reflection or growth. He was a poor communicator and gave excuses instead of owning his truth. Nearly four months later, he finally poured our patio. All the roots still aren’t trimmed around the edges of the patio, and the attention to finish details simply aren’t anywhere to be seen there, but we have a poured patio.
For now this is enough.
After the concrete patio was set, we hired these young men (with better communication skills, respect, and follow through than the older contractor) to build the gazebo kit we bought. They communicated clearly the dates they were available (all within the week’s time) and showed up right on time. When they finished there wasn’t so much as a scrap of paper lying about the yard. The job was finished above and beyond our expectations. The work ethic and follow through of these young men restored my hope in builders.
Tonight Trace, Ev, and I sat out on the patio with our dear friend Jen, listening to the thrum of cicadas and watching the dragonflies dance in the evening sky.
Peaceful rest is what Jen called it, and I quite agree.
In those moments, I rediscovered my muse; it was the magic of the late summer garden at sunset.
Swarming dragonflies, honking geese heading south— they left me wondering how the summer waned into fall without word or warning. All I did was blink.
When I was growing up in the fundamentalist evangelical church, I was taught that I was too loud, too bossy, too brass and too crass. I was chubby and wore half sizes in children’s sizes which was the plus size version for kids. My best friend was skinny, flat chested, and sporty. I was chubby, developed breasts early, and quite clumsy.
I wasn’t allowed to date until I was 16 and then only Christian boys because the Bible said it was a sun to be “unequally yoked”. I couldn’t see PG rated movies, use playing cards, listen to rock music, or use “crass language” including “substitute” words like gosh, darn, golly, shoot, poop, or (Heavens to Betsy!) crap.
But it was the messages I heard about sex and my body that have been the toughest to overcome. Sex outside of marriage wasn’t even an option. Should I do such a thing, I would be forever ruined, someone else’s trash.
The list of rules for girls was quite long:
- Bodies should be covered up, even when swimming.
- Nakedness was something to cause shame.
- Virginity is what gave women value; it’s was her gift to her future husband.
- Sex is shameful, don’t do it… unless you’re married.
- Once married, women won’t want sex as often as men, but never refuse your husband.
- Always keep yourself looking good for your man.
- Put something pretty on just before your husband comes home.
- Women should submit to the authority of men for their own protection.
- Only men have strong sex drives.
- If women have sex before marriage they are damaged goods and no one will want them—they are like a crumpled rose.
Deconstruction is a process that I am still experiencing. It’s amazing how quickly the teaching and indoctrination of my youth comes back to bite my enlightened feminist modern soul. I find it difficult to separate the good from the bad of my upbringing. But I am determined to continue this work.
Men are visual Or so I’ve been told So many times It is woven into my DNA.
Be careful Watch what you wear; Watch how you walk don’t be forward or loud or brassy.
No one likes A brassy woman Women are responsible For the lusting found In the hearts of men.
I tell myself I have grown out I have moved on From such foolish Patriarchal nonsense.
I tell myself I have deconstructed Whatever that means I have separated The truth from the lies.
Until something happens And all of it comes Rushing back— Guilt, Anger, And Burning Shame.
At the end Of deconstruction There remains a giant Pile of rubble, one Mess of mortified me.
But I own Every last piece Of senseless shame Every tiny bit Of damning guilt
I own my story I own my future I alone own The power to rebuild my life.
The hardest thing about vacation is the preparation. We are trying desperately to get away for our first family trip since last August. That middle of pandemic trip where a fluke fire consumed our truck, camper, and Evan’s bike in a single night.
We were awakened from a deep sleep to a neighbor banging frantically on the doors, walls, and windows of our camper. When we opened the door, the wall of orange flames threw us backward with their heat.
“Get out! Get out! The gas tank might blow!”
Those terrifying words shocked us in to action. We had to wake Ev and get the dogs, before running as far away as we could from the camper.
The whole experience left us shell shocked and bereft of vehicle and camper.
So you can imagine how the memory of that night one year ago drags on us as we pack to leave on our first camping trip since the fire.
I decided to use the triolet with its tight repetitive structure to speak the words we are all feeling.
The list growing by the minute works us hard so we don’t forget; we try harder just to win it. The list growing by the minute has us seeking virtue in it to make sure we do not regret. The list growing by the minute works us hard so we don’t forget.
—Carla Jeanne Jordan
A triolet is a poem of eight lines, typically of eight syllables each, rhyming abaaabab and so structured that the first line recurs as the fourth and seventh and the second as the eighth.
Sounds like some weird crazy poetry torture device, doesn’t it?
Well, I finished off my coffee and found this helpful cheat chart.
Triolet Lines: 1. A 2. B 3. a Rhymes with 1st line. 4. A identical to 1st line. 5. a Rhymes with 1st line. 6. b Rhymes with 2nd line. 7. A Identical to 1st line. 8. B Identical to 2nd line.