Summer Poems

Today my poem is in response to a challenge given to write a summer poem. So many poems celebrate the glories of summer. It was humbling to try to add my words. I kept thinking of the quote attributed to Albert Camus:

“My dear,
In the midst of hate, I found there was, within me, an invincible love.
In the midst of tears, I found there was, within me, an invincible smile.
In the midst of chaos, I found there was, within me, an invincible calm.
I realized, through it all, that…
In the midst of winter, I found there was, within me, an invincible summer.
And that makes me happy. For it says that no matter how hard the world pushes against me, within me, there’s something stronger – something better, pushing right back.

Truly yours,
Albert Camus”

The idea of an invincible summer appealed to me when I first came across these words nearly 50 years ago. I thought of summer memories and images I’ve loved over the years which have lived in me as my own points of strength. In addition, I love the form of the Praise Poem which I learned from Glenis Redmond. (You can read her lesson here). These thoughts came together in the poem which follows.

Invincible Summer

I am summer.
I am a cobalt blue damselfly
Darting here and there.
I am a lonely creek
Meandering through the hemlock-dark hollow.
I am a red-winged blackbird
Perched as a sentinel over the meadow.
I am a tiny Deptford Pink flower hidden in grasses
And secretly plucked by young lovers.
I am the slow winding down of hot
Summer days–
Sunsets that last for hours.
I am August’s crescent moon
Smiling as nature’s night songs lull
Children to sleep.
I am summer.

Marilyn G. Miner DRAFT
August 13, 2021

Thank you to all the poets who share their poems here, and to Christie Wyman, who is hosting today at https://wonderingandwondering.wordpress.com/

Dear Piano

Dear Piano,

I used to visit you every afternoon.
The hours we spent were sometimes frustrating,
But earnest in their striving.
Driven by dreams,
          I was young then.
Your response to my fingers was bliss.

Touch was a teacher of gentleness,
Of ferocity.
Weighted fingers from forearms or back
Lyrical caresses and sonorous pinched chords
          I loved the fire you stirred.
Thank you for teaching me that patterns
are beautiful.

Your black and white keys, so familiar,
remind me to use their pattern to safely navigate
the length, breadth, width, and height.
They give me a place to start
          Can I find you again?
Seated on the bench before you.

In my mind, I can hear the faint sounds we used
to make.
Music scored with memories of my lifetime.
My fingers feel the keys without touching them.
          Are you waiting for me?
I used to play you to please others.
Now, I have learned I must play first for myself.

I miss you.

A place for teacher-writers.

Inspired by Elsa

I’ve been reading Kristin Hannah’s new book The Four Winds. It is set during the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl years in the Texas panhandle. The main character, Elsa Martinelli, is a strong, determined woman who labors fiercely in order to provide for her children. A bleak landscape and lack of employment cause great suffering. It makes me realize that while we have faced our own hardships with COVID19, my family has been fortunate to have food, clothing, employment, and the things we need. I am grateful indeed.

Inspired by the tireless work ethic of Elsa Martinelli, I decided to attack my kitchen floor as if the Dust Bowl had been through town. The “lick and a promise” I have afforded that floor in recent months would make my mother turn over in her grave. I confess it has been a while since I cared much about housework. No one is coming over, right?

As I gathered my supplies, a memory kept flashing across my mind of my mother on her hands and knees scrubbing the kitchen floor. Back then, a good scrubbing was followed with a coat of wax. My mom knelt on a folded bathmat to protect her knees. I saw myself as I used to see her. I wondered why I never offered to help or do it for her. (She probably wouldn’t have let me.) I remember her saying that if you wanted the floor to really be clean, you had to get down on all fours.

So with Mr. Bronner’s Pure Castile Soap, a bucket, a brush, a sponge, and several cloths, I got down on my hands and knees and started scrubbing. First, I put extra soap and water all along the grimy edges where the floor met the wood moldings. I let that sit for a few minutes. Then I began the attack. I scoured that seam with a vengeance. An old toothbrush helped. Then I scrubbed a row of tiles with the sponge, followed by a wipe down with clean water and a wet cloth. Then I dried the floor with another clean cloth. I repeated this process for the next hour as I moved the trashcan, chairs, and recycling bin out of the way taking care not to bump my head under the table. Man, I worked up a sweat!

Somehow, when it was all done, I felt my mother closer. Maybe she was even a little bit proud.

Happy to be here. Thank you Two Writing Teachers.

Too Sad

I learned this morning that my oldest son’s best childhood friend passed away. I don’t know any details, but I don’t really need to. It’s a tragedy no matter what the cause. Only 42. The boys met in Kindergarten and became fast friends all the way through high school. Always welcome at each other’s houses. Always hungry. Always laughing, wrestling, listening to music.

I’ve been sad all day. I considered not writing, but I know writing helps. I’m sad my son lost a part of his childhood. I’m so sad for our friend’s parents. I think that is the part that I am carrying today. How do people go on when they have lost a child? One breath at a time.

It’s late. Be safe. Sleep well. All my love.

Thank you TWT. You make a difference.

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.