I’ve been taking some time to regroup after a grueling year and a half-is of teaching. I didn’t think relaxing would be as hard as it has been. I don’t think I realized just how taxing a year of virtual work and life was until I started to slow down.
Given that Trace needed her spinal fusion immediately, her recovery has been our primary concern this summer. We had already booked plans to head down south and camp in Laurel, Mississippi, navigating our way down to Folly Beach and maybe even New Orleans, but we had to cancel all those plans to concentrate on things closer to home.
We found out in the early spring that our beautiful big red maple was causing foundation damage to our home, so out it had to come. This meant tearing up our beautiful wood deck out back. But we had to do what we had to do, so I decided if the deck was getting ripped out anyway that we would replace it with concrete. We would enjoy our summer vacation from the luxury of our own new patio. Win-win!
With the hope that all construction work would be done by the beginning of June, we ripped out the deck and threw tarps down so the dogs could still use the backyard. Well, those of you near us know the massive amounts of torrential rain coupled with brutal heat we have had this summer. Now the back yard is one muddy lake and the dogs have to be walked on leash out in the front in order for them to take care of their business.
And the construction work has yet to begin.
Except now we have an excavator taller than our house in the backyard and the contractor is heading off to vacation next week.
My poem today is in honor of the tiny gold finch bathing in the mud lake that is now our backyard, the late great Kurt Vonnegut, Jr., and staycations.
Summer came on steamy winds of spring
the torrid heat belied the month of June;
summer storms raged like May shower
bombs of heat detonating in waves.
All that remained come muggy morning
was the mucky mess of mud called garden
and one tiny goldfinch preening in a puddle
making me wish I had been born a bird instead.
--Carla Jeanne Picklo Jordan
The poetry challenge I place before you today this: I’d love for you to try writing a lune.
A lune is a sort of English-language haiku. While the haiku is a three-line poem with a 5-7-5 syllable count, the lune has two different options.
The first option for a lune is a three-line poem with a 5-3-5 syllable count. The second variant is based on word-count instead of syllable count. This means the poem still has three lines, but the first line has five words, the second line has three words, and the third line has five words again.
I chose this latter form to write my poem. Today I give you a Septet of Lunes. Try your hand at it and share it in the comments. I look forward to reading your take on the lune.
dinner on the deck
the cardinals always come-- strutting red coats, snapping seeds in a single crunch.
the dark eyed junco hops tentatively to feed, nervously glancing side to side
the chickadees flit over lightly with great decorum landing lightly on the feeder.
sparrows hide in the bushes waiting their turn, hanging out in patient packs.
the house finch dines together with the others-- sparrows, chickadee, cardinal and junco.
when the blue jay plows in to feed, the sea of birds part;
but the noisy starlings arrival clears everyone out-- iridescent bullies chasing away friends.
We are planting a garden again. I see all the little things I have missed. The wonder of growing and eating your own food.
I’m thinking about all of this as Evan is about to venture off on his first ever camping trip with his school class. They are sixth graders now, and they will stay three days at a beautiful campground inside the Sleep Bear Dunes National Lakeshore.
I know they are well-planned. I know his teacher is diligent and careful, but still I worry about all the things mothers do. He will be sleeping solo in his tent for the first time ever.
I started this poem a year ago and today, thinking about my own baby bird, it seemed the right day for reworking and finishing it.
I know it will all be ok. I know my baby bird needs to test his wings and fly, so a-camping he will go. But in the meantime, I’ll pray away the murder of crows.
Put the basil in the oil
and simmer gently. Breathe in the rich aroma of earth and life beckoning. I reckon I’ll stop a while and savor the scent.
While I waited, the garden started to green; flowers popped up on strawberry plants; and the bumble bees buzzed
around blooming flower pots. Deck sweeping becomes my new daily chore—helicopter seed pods, my arch rival. But
the scent is right for mid-spring and a robin has built its nest atop the back porch light. She guards her eggs carefully from
the fence post, flying at anyone who dares to walk too close. Most mothers are alike, you know, let a stranger even look too long
or wander dangerously close, and you’ll see us fly off with beaks pointing like a sword, dive bombing the noted offender.
But what if the offender looks like a bird? That’s the real danger— Crows can be tricky.
My son told me that the murder of crows are back again this year in Chicago. Seems to me a fitting thing for this year.
So what about that murder of tricky crows? Well, doesn’t that just muddy the waters? Bring on the mud daubers I say,
because they muck around building their nest from spittle and dirt, never bothering anyone unless provoked, and then,
oh! Oh and then those daubers reveal the truth in the saying, “Float like a butterfly sting like a bee!”
Basil and gardens and earthy scents; birds raising families the best way they know and murderous crows ruthlessly cutting them down.
What shall I do with the madness? When all I want is the bounty of summer in the middle of drought— in the middle of monsoon rains.
After the babies have hatched and grown feathers of their own, they fly up and over the garden wall and into the wild open spaces.
The danger of crows prevails, but I wonder how they will know the rich aromas of life on earth beckoning them to explore
I wonder how they will grow and plant and rise up; how they will be strong and wary and yet somehow
wiser than those who came before? Please dear God, let them be wiser than those who came before. Let them be wiser than I.
Today’s prompt was based on this poem by Claire Wahmanholm, which transforms the natural world into an unsettled dream-place. One way it does this is by asking questions – literally. The poem not only contains questions, but ends on a question.
The challenge was to write a poem that similarly resists closure by ending on a question, inviting the reader to continue the process of reading (and, in some ways, writing) the poem even after the poem ends.
Today was the day, rising
early to head to the water.
Was that the grasses waving
good morning as we drove by?
Squinting against the sun shining,
who did I hear whistling
high-pitched and clear through the sky?
What bright sparkling caught my eye?
Whose nest was filled with littered bits —
brilliant twig jewels in morning light?
All at once I saw them coming
fast and furious diving downward flight
orienting with the wind, floating
on air, streaking like lightning
hunting by high dive, plucking fish
like cherries from the fresh water.
Head buried underwater, tucking
talons back, gripping their wriggling
prey on upward ascent. Tell me,
what do you whisper to the wind?
--A Draft Poem by Carla Jeanne Picklo Jordan
Today’s prompt was a fun one. I had to find a factual article about an animal. I needed to go through the article and replace the name of the animal with something else and then rearrange and edit into a poem.
I chose an article in National Geography on sandhill cranes and replaced “sandhill crane”with “middle schooler”.
Middle School and More
The sound that signals spring more than any other sound is the rattling, staccato calls of gangly middle schoolers
winging their way into class. Sitting shivering amid the chickweed, dandelion greens, and residual remains
of sedge grasses, I find them listening intently to gossip as only pre-teens can do. I notice how they call
to each other with a kind of guttural growling texture like a spoon raking rhythmically over a metal washboard.
Spring brings all varieties to the yard—the trumpeters, the secretive, the seasoned by siblings, the happy-go-lucky.
But the true spring showstopper is the middle schooler who jogs across the schoolyard, wraps his arms around me and says, “Love you, mom.”
—A Draft Poem for my own Little Wonder with love from Mama
Let me know what you think in the comments below. 🤗
NaPoWriMo begins today (and that’s no April fools’ joke). To celebrate National Poetry Writing month, every day for a month there is a poetry writing prompt. The challenge is to write one poem every day for the whole month.
Today, the challenge was to write a lune. This is a sort of English-language haiku. While the haiku is a three-line poem with a 5-7-5 syllable count, the lune is a three-line poem with a 5-3-5 syllable count. There’s also a variant based on word-count, instead of syllables count, where the poem still has three lines, but the first line has five words, the second line has three words, and the third line has five words again.
I chose this latter form to use for my poem today.
(Photo credit: Tracy Kaye Photography)
dinner on the deck
the cardinals always come–
strutting red coats,
snapping seeds in a single crunch.
the dark eyed junco hops
tentatively to feed,
nervously glancing side to side.
the chickadees flit over gently
with great decorum
landing lightly on the feeder.
sparrows hide in the bushes
waiting their turn,
hanging out in patient packs.
the house finch dines together
with the others–
sparrow, chickadee, cardinal and junco.
when the blue jay plows
in to feed,
the sea of birds part;
but the noisy starlings’ arrival
clears everyone out–
iridescent bullies chasing away friends.