A Pantoum For My Pops


My Pops

Happy Father’s Day to all the Pops, Dads, Daddies, Papas, Papis, Babas, Role Models, Mentors, and Step Wonders!

Today is Father’s Day, and so naturally I wanted to honor my dad. My Pops was hands-down the best dad on this planet for me.

I chose a new-to-me form called a “pantoum” (a Malay form from Indonesia) because pantoums are about memory and usually compare the present to the past in some way.

Pantoums are made of quatrains of any meter (though syllables are typically regular between stanzas), have no set rhyme scheme, and are really dependent on their repetition of whole lines.

The repetition looks like this: 
The first stanza

Second stanza

Third stanza

Fourth stanza

The pantoum carries this continuous pattern until, typically, it ends with lines A and C repeated in the last stanza. (For my pantoum this was the fourth stanza)

Here are some good examples: “Pantoum of the Great Depression” (Justice), “She Put on Her Lipstick in the Dark” (Dischell)

For Pops

Pops loved the simple things in life;
he loved God, his family, his wife.
Music was part of his being—
healthy, whole, and utterly free.

He loved God, his family, his wife—
walking alongside with kindness,
healthy, whole, and utterly free—
a man of solid conviction.

Walking alongside with kindness,
he had a gentle demeanor—
a man of solid conviction
and eyes with a hint of mischief.

Pops loved the simple things in life—
a lake, a dock, his fishing pole.
Music was part of his being—
my life the refrain for his song.

—Carla Jeanne Picklo Jordan

The Game of Shame


Photo Credit

Sometimes things happen, and I respond with a very quick knee-jerk reactions. Other times, I respond slower, but from a deep level of understanding and personal experience.

This week I was triggered by a parent not allowing their male child to buy a pink graphic t-shirt because he was a boy and wearing pink might offend the grandmother. Since when is a child responsible for someone else’s reaction—to a color, no less?!

I say nay nay.

Keep your oppressive shame to yourself. Don’t heap it on to a child who happens to be quite comfortable in his own skin. Don’t try to cram someone else, especially a child, into a box that you have chosen for yourself.

Thanks, but no thanks. That’s a hard pass for me.

F*** shame.

The Game of Shame

Oppressive shaming
Gotta get gaming
Passing out naming
Labeling and framing
Really just aiming
at a child’s heart.

Please tell me
you know about this—
saying to a child
he will be remiss
if he wears something
grandma won’t like.

It’s oppressive,
it’s aggressive,
it’s obsessive
and regressive.
It tears at a child’s heart.

Generational cycles
repeating and repeating.
Don’t you know
that fashion is fleeting?
Colors don’t reflect
“manliness” or sexuality.

It’s oppressive,
it’s aggressive,
it’s obsessive
and regressive.
It tears at a child’s heart.

It’s not ok to place
that weight upon a child
to tell him he’s responsible,
to make him feel exiled
all because he’s comfortable
inside his own skin.

It’s oppressive,
it’s aggressive,
it’s obsessive
and regressive.
It tears at a child’s heart.

I’m sure I did it,
I know that I lived it,
but I’m breaking that cycle
because I can admit it.
I can share my story
and overcome the past.

It’s oppressive,
it’s aggressive,
it’s obsessive
and regressive.
It tears at a child’s heart.

Oppressive shaming
Gotta get gaming
Passing out naming
Labeling and framing
Really just aiming
at a child’s heart.

—Carla Picklo Jordan

Basil and Bits of Wisdom


Photograph: Shutterstock

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.

—by Carla Jeanne Picklo Jordan
A typical day of “outdoor” school in 2020-2021. He’s got his camping chair and backpack, lunch, and violin, and it’s all held together with carabiners—his favorite accessory.

The Best Is Yet to Come


Photo Credit: my beautiful children and grandchildren

And so it was and so it is that the best is yet to come.

The best is always yet to come.

Motherhood is always mingled with darkness and light. It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.

My children have seen me at my mountain top best and my rock bottom worst. I have muddled my way through motherhood, making mistakes, overreacting, under-reacting, discovering the many sides of myself. But no matter the mistakes I made, my children beckoned me into their lives and loved me unconditionally.

For me, loving my children unconditionally was as involuntary as breathing. I adore them all, but beyond that I like them. And I feel the same about their chosen partners.

The interplay between them is amicable and hilarious, a little bit jabbing, and a lot bit loving. They know one another’s weaknesses and strengths. They play on them and lean into them as well.

The particular intensity of motherhood has not been lost on me. And now I get to enjoy the fruits of all those years as I watch my beautiful children begin to raise their own families. Grandparenting is the best of all worlds.

So you see? The best is always yet to come! I can’t wait to see what comes next!

First Time

Walking in to Walmart
that hot summer day
I wondered if everyone knew
I wondered if everyone saw
the marks of motherhood
on my body.

I am a mom.
A mom.

Surreal and hyper real.

Like no sleep in days
dripping faucet breasts real.

Like can’t sit down without a pillow real.

Like worried sick I’ll do the wrong thing real.

Like a tiny human now totally dependent on me for survival real.

I wondered
in that moment
what our life
would be like—
I wondered who
that tiny human
would become.

Today I look down at my body
forever changed,
forever marked by motherhood

I look at my grown children
and their beautiful lives
and their beautiful loves

I look at my Little Wonder
growing up too quickly
wise beyond his years

and I know
the answer:

the best was yet to come.

—A Draft by Carla Jeanne Picklo Jordan

Happy Mother’s Day to you and your mothers. Even if you aren’t a mother, you made someone a mother so YAY YOU!

NaPoWrimo 2016 Day Eighteen

Today’s prompt was to write a poem that incorporates “the sound of home.” I had to think back to my childhood, and the figures of speech and particular ways of talking that the people around me used, and which may not be heard anymore. Write a poem that speaks the language of home, and not the language of adulthood, office, or work.

I didn’t know where this poem was going when I started writing. Having grown up in a “shaming culture”, these stigmas are all ones I have worked hard to break. and so my perspective was trapped within these lines for many years.


“Land of Goshen, child! Don’t you ever sit still?!”
“Have you even brushed your hair this week?!”
“Why are you wearing that outfit?”

“Oh for pity’s sake, don’t you ever sit still?!”
“You beat to your own drum!”
“Well, I’ll tell you this: if you were my daughter, I’d put you on a diet!”

“Don’t you ever sit still?!”
“Ach du Lieber himmel, you can’t just bing bang the dishes around, you know.”
“Put a little color on your face, your lips are pale.”

“Why don’t you ever sit still?!”
“Oh for goodness sake you dress like a gypsy!”
“Where are your shoes?!”

“Don’t you ever sit still?!”
“You were the only one of all my grandchildren that I ever spanked., dontcha know.”
“Didn’t you just go to the bathroom?”


(Nope. I don’t. Little Drummer Girls never sit still, dontchya know.)