Poems in the Chat

For many of us, Zoom and similar platforms have been a blessing and a curse. For me, Zoom has been mostly a blessing which has allowed me to make new friends and stay in touch with family.

The chat function is an interesting feature. It can enhance what it being said; it can hold questions; it can provide humorous asides (or snarky comments); it can provide links for further study. In my experience with my writers group at TeachWrite, the chat does all of these things. Sometimes, serendipitous things happen.

One night, a group member was listing her writing goals for the week and ended with “and a partridge in a pear tree.” We all laughed. Next up, the science teacher. He listed his goals, but shook his head when others tried to add the partridge to his list. A chat opportunity opened!

I started with “A falcon in a fir tree?”
Someone else followed with “An owl in an oak tree?”
Then, “A sparrow in a spruce?”
And, “A cardinal in a conifer?”

I realized in that moment, my community of writers had extemporaneously collaborated on a small poem-ish text. It was a moment of happiness for me. I felt I belonged.

Image from Pixaby.com

Come, See

A friend introduced me to the Blitz Poem, a form you can read about here. I began the process with a simple line and was surprised by where the poem ended up. It was a lot of fun to play with. I hope you enjoy my first attempt at a Blitz Poem.

Read a book
Read a poem
Poem of love
Poem of joy
Joy in smallness
Joy in sound
Sound the trumpets
Sound the drums
Drums of gladness
Drums of warning
Warning against hate
Warning of storms
Storms inside minds
Storms clearing air
Air for breath
Air for space
Space for all
Space to be
Be just
Be brave
Brave to share
Brave to give
Give light
Give joy
Joy in sorrow
Joy in silence
Silence to honor
Silence to revere
Revere what’s good
Revere what’s true
True kindness
True to you
You are mine
You are song
Song of birds
Song of mothers
Mothers who walk
Mothers who run
Run to truth
Run to rivers
Rivers over rocks
Rivers through lowlands
Lowlands toward oceans
Lowlands looking back
Back to children
Children skipping rocks
Children playfully calling
Calling Hey Mom
Mom come see
See me

I think this exercise, or form, would be fun to do with small groups or even a whole class. There is so much unexpected pleasure in making the last word, the first word. The possibilities are endless!

Reading with Alice

In August, I asked my son if I could practice my teaching with technology skills with my granddaughter, Alice, who is a home-schooled 6-year old. I was thrilled when he and his wife agreed. Alice is the fifth of six children and has a spunky (sometimes sassy) personality. I figured I could help her with her reading as I became more comfortable with Zoom-style instruction.

We now have a routine to work together four mornings a week for about 40 minutes. I sent her a box of reading tools. She has magnetic letters and a tray, a mini-whiteboard, a “bumpy” board, crayons, markers, and a composition book. I also sent her some decodable readers and emergent readers to get her started.

One day last week, we were working with the word, “come.” I knew she would be needing that word soon. First, we tapped it on our left arms and said the letters, c-o-m-e/come. We repeated that several times. We wrote it in the air, on the whiteboard, and with our eyes closed.

I said, “Alice, can you build the word come?”

Immediately, she sat up tall. She pushed the laptop back a little. She moved some papers, and wiggled her bottom in her chair. Finally, she let out a big sigh, and said, “Okay, let’s DO this!”

Whereupon, she built it. I’ve never seen a prouder smile on a child’s face. She turned her tray to the camera to show me “c-o-m-e.” It was perfect.

Next, we got out our book for the day.

I said, “Alice. I think you know a word in this title.”

“Come!” she squealed.

A reading teacher grandma’s delight.

Not the first day of school

If I had not retired,
Today would have been the first day of school.
Today I would have had the jittery joy of a new beginning.
I would have combed my shelves for just the right book to read.
I would have had new markers and notebooks to share.
I would have worked hard to learn new names and remember names of former students.
I would have dressed up and put on lipstick.

But today is not my first day of school, so I spent the day imagining it.
September, 2020 marks a shift in what school is and what it may become. I hope that school will open like a dahlia bloom with every petal having its place in the Fibonacci sequence. Each petal important to the shape, color, and size of what is possible.

It’s not my first day of school, and I miss it deeply. September beginnings are in my blood. This is my time to find out what the school of life has to teach me next. Perhaps it can be my first day of school, after all.

Rage Against the Roach

It’s war. This week we have had many heavy rains and I have come across not one, but four large American cockroaches in the house. They are huge! More than 2 inches long. Some may think their cherry wood brown color a lovely match to my end tables, but I’ve been freaking out. I don’t know how they are getting in as their habitat is OUTSIDE.

I found one roach already dead downstairs. Relief. The next one I trapped under a glass. After showing it to the grandsons, my husband took it outside. The third I was able to wound and catch; whereupon, it was promptly flushed.

Then last Thursday evening, I happened to glance up at the painting over the fireplace and was horrified to see another creeping down the wall. It was huge! The biggest one yet with long feelers moving every which way. I jumped to my feet, grabbed a flip-flop, and was determined to end this invasion of my home.

It dropped. It moved so fast; I couldn’t find it. A few minutes later, I heard a noise coming from behind the lamp on the window blinds. Aha! I whacked it with my flip-flop, but only grazed it. It dropped again. I saw it hiding in the corner. Slowly, I crept toward that brown menace. Whack! Whack! [scream] Whack! I know I made contact, but that blasted roach took off again.

I moved the couch ready to pounce. It had vanished. I got up twice in the night to surprise attack. But there was no roach. I’ve been on edge ever since. Roach #4 is still at large.

My husband reminds me that cockroaches have existed longer than mankind, and that they will likely survive long after we’re gone. That was not comforting, thank you very much.

August 11, 2020

All the best to my teacher friends and colleagues who are beginning this unprecedented school year! You can do it!

*****

This may be a ramble, but I have many things going through my mind. As teachers are preparing for the fall and school decisions are filling the news, the reality of my retirement is sinking in. I think I have noticed it as a bit of relief that I don’t have to be the one to support the reading needs of an entire school during distance learning. Our county has decided on virtual instruction at least through the first quarter.

That said, I am retired, but I am also a learner. I have continued to sign up for webinars and virtual conferences to do my best to stay current with my skills as a reading teacher and to improve my skills with technology. I’ve also signed up with teacher/writers at https://www.teachwrite.org/ to participate in writing workshop. Many are virtual friends from this SOL community. I have loved writing with them and trying new things in my notebook.

I also signed up to take a course in learning to draw with https://www.thegreatcoursesplus.com/home. This is a stretch goal for me. I’ve always wanted to be able to draw, but lost my confidence when my 8th grade art teacher said things that made me feel like I had no talent and it wasn’t worth my effort to try. I realize now how sad that was and how many years have gone by that I let her voice speak too loudly in my ear. I’m ready to try, to enjoy, and not to worry if I have talent or not.

People often said that I had a talent for playing the piano. There may have been some talent, definitely exposure to classical music at home, but I also WORKED at playing the piano. I spent probably 15-20 hours per week for 10 years of my young life practicing scales, argeggios, Hanon, and the great piano literature of Chopin, Bach, Beethoven, and Brahms. Those practice hours have served me well. Music will always be an important part of my identity.

Now I have some freedom to explore and expand my identity further. I’m going to work at my writing and my drawing over the next few months. We’ll see what happens.

Swimmer

Invited by clear blue water,
I dive in the pool.

Age slips away,
and I am 10 again.

“Swimmers!”
“Take your mark!”
“Go!”

With goggles suctioned to my face,
freestyle feels as natural as walking.

But backstroke feels even better
because looking up at the wispy clouds on blue sky
and gazing up at gigantic oaks and tulip poplars
reminds me

I am a swimmer.

My body rhythmically pulls the water.
I kick with joy.

I am free.

A Swimmer

I dive into the water and the years dissolve and I am 10 again. The water invites and seems eager to feel my arms pull and my legs kick. I meet it with my own joy in rhythmic strokes and full breaths. It seems like so long since I have felt this free. I am a swimmer once again. The odd laps are freestyle; the even laps backstroke. I count the laps, remembering how my dad celebrated our lap count each evening at dinner. He gave us other challenges such as measuring how far we could swim under water with no breath.

My father taught me to swim at Tuckahoe. I remember feeling is hand under my back as I learned to trust the water to hold me while I floated. Then his hand under my tummy as I learned to use my arms and legs. He taught me all he knew about freestyle. Only later did I realize that he wasn’t a very strong swimmer (speedwise) because of the unique way he used his large, gentle hands.

Most swimmers know that a clean hand entry into the water with a strong pull of the hand and forearm is what helps you move smoothly and quickly through the water. My dad’s big hands seemed to pet the top of the water like he was petting a horse. His flat hands with his fingertips up were caressing the top of the water, never going too deep, almost like he didn’t want to break the surface tension of the water or cause too big of a disturbance.

I love the memory of my dad swimming. He didn’t often stop working long enough to play at the pool, but once or twice a summer he was there with us. Those few hours are precious to me now. Perhaps he was remembering younger days as well, when he swam in the cold North Sea off the coast of Germany where sperm whales gently migrate.

March 31, 2020

Only the explosion of blossoms and buds,

Only the shouts of children playing games,

Only the love from my children and grandchildren,

Only the connection with friends on Zoom,

Only the walks among trees and along rivers,

Only the kind helpers in neighborhoods,

Only the words shared on these pages,

Only the music and poetry,

Only the walls of home,

Only time,

Only this.

This is not small.

Thank you to the amazing educators at TWO WRITING TEACHERS who give so much of their time and talent to supporting students and teachers. I’m forever grateful.



March 2020 Slice of Life Writing Challenge