Friday, June 24, 2022

well hello, precarious

Greetings, Poetry Friday friends. As you may have read elsewhere, it is done: my long career as a classroom teacher is satisfyingly concluded, although not without second thoughts and longing backward glances...and, as my new career(s) are not yet begun, it is a time of uncertainty.  

On the one hand, it's a summer break much as I've always been privileged enough to enjoy, where I can choose or not to work with kids in organized programs. On the other, knowing that it will take time, hard work and (this is always the tough one for me) patience to bring my vision into being, it's a moment unlike any other since, perhaps, 1984, when I made the decision to train as a teacher. 

Except this time I'm creating the path, not Bank Street College of Education. Ambiguity will need not only to be tolerated but cultivated (another area of challenge for an Activator like me). Doubt will have to be entertained. 

Or maybe something will happen suddenly & serendipitously--who knows?

So here's my first poem in 3 weeks, which is a long enough pause to make me wonder "How the heck did I ever write a poem every day for weeks on end, and will I ever be able to do that again?"  It's a definito.



In other news, 105 copies of Tabatha Yeatts's anthology IMPERFECT II--in which many of us find our poems of perspective--have been placed in the hands of every 5th grader at my school.  Here they are, ribboned and tagged and boxed and ready to go to the Promotion Ceremony.  You can read my speech here if you're interested, and know that the kids listened, got carried away during the choral "reading" and randomly thanked me in the hallways during the following days. I unrandomly thank all of you who helped make this project happen, and thanks to my family, too, who joined me in the manual labor!






Finally, thanks to Catherine at Reading to the Core for hosting us today, with an alphabetical summary of all that we teachers did all year (and I hope, in my case, for 34 years) and a wish for our summer!

Friday, June 3, 2022

an announcement of sweeping gratitude

With three days in a row above 90* this week (reminding us that yep, global warming is a thing) it feels well past spring here in the DC area. But a heroic amount of cull and clean-out has been happening both at my house (chimney rebuild, interior & exterior painting) and in my classroom as I excavate (like ripping off my actual skin) 34 years of classroom contents.

And later today, I will share in a retirement celebration with Ms. Alice Hall, who has been a Building Services Worker--cleaning classrooms including mine--for every one of those same 34 years. I bow in awe and thanks for her service to children and teachers.

It is in this context that I tackled Molly's challenge to the Inklings this month.  She says, "Year after year, I turn my back on spring cleaning, so I thought it might be fun to write a poem about some sort of domestic task. (Writing a poem = way more fun than cleaning!)"

Please meet our cleaner and friend, Monica.


   Ode to Monica

Her clockwork regularity,

her infinite flexibility!

The way, most weeks, 

I do not even see her

and yet her magic aka hard work

abides in our abode. 


or should I say HarMonica, for

the multiple notes you play in

one breath upon each room, for

your steady alternating rhythm

upstairs, downstairs and in my lady’s

chamber? I am no lady, I am no

Tidy Clean Heidi Jean, until you

bring your harmony of Clean to my

slapdash melody of Tidy. You have

spared our family 20 years of buzzing

infrasonic disharmony.


I can cook, I can garden, I can 

accomplish multiple volunteerisms; 

I can plan the heck out of a week 

of school–but that one year in France 

I spent way more time planning how 

to clean our apartment than I spent

actually cleaning it.


I cannot descale my own teeth, 

I cannot scope my own colon, 

and I can. not. clean. my own house,

no matter the model of respectable

Puritan godliness I grew up with.

My guilt still buzzes, but the work you do 

with deftness and fortitude, with 

thoroughness but not perfection, 

keeps me humble, hopeful, brings

me psychic safety every day. 


our needs and gifts stand in sweeping

complementarity; we pay money, of course,

but service as well. When there has been ill

to contend with we have asked and 

received of each other, cared for each 

other's children, time and health, and 

due to you we've been calmer, stronger,

cleaner, for you are our Cleaner, 


draft ©HM 2022


Can't wait to see how my fellow Inklings addressed the challenge--usually we've seen some versions of some poems before, but this time we haven't met recently enough for that.

Margaret @ Reflections on the Teche 

Catherine @ Reading to the Core 

Linda @ A Word Edgewise 

Mary Lee @ Another Year of Reading


It is not a joke, not an exaggeration, to say that this blog exists thanks to Monica. I wish you all whatever assistance brings you the psychic safety you need to carry on writing, to do the work of your heart.

Thursday, May 26, 2022


Tuesday was a hard day for everyone who works in a school, or is a parent, or abhors the shooting of human beings of any age. Like many of you, I reached for poetry, for something to hold onto in this freefall of tragedy.



I hope you found some cushion, too. Our roundup is hosted this week by your friend and mine, the brave Linda Mitchell, librarian extraordinaire, who has put herself on the line to protect students this year. Thank you, Linda, for putting a word in edgewise, again and again.


Friday, May 13, 2022

grateful glee

A simple post today--a gleeful expression of gratitude and excitement! Thanks to the donations of 26 people from all my different circles, I'll be able to carry out my clandestine plan to honor the 5th graders at my school as they head to middle school--many of them kids I taught as 2nd graders before moving to PreK. I'll be speaking at their promotion. : )

The plan features IMPERFECT II: Poems about Perspective, an anthology for middle-schoolers. A little perspective will go a long way at this time, and I'm so thankful to everyone who got motivated about this idea along with me! 

 Here's a favorite from the book by my deeply, wisely creased friend Margaret Simon. 



Our host today for Poetry Friday is Rose at  Imagine the Possibilities, where she's also honoring lots of poets from our community.  Technically it's the 3rd Friday of the month and a climate post day--but today I'll just mention that the climate right now is one of danger and disregard for our civil rights as Americans.  Get out there tomorrow and demonstrate your support for a woman's right to choose.

Thursday, May 5, 2022

may inklings challenge: #inhonorofnpm

May the Sixth Be With You! 

(I know that's not right, but I adore this Star Wars cleverness so much I'm recycling it for today.)

The Inklings all laughed uproariously when I quipped about a complicated plan to meet Linda's challenge this month: "Honor someone’s April Poetry project in some way with a poem in the spirit of their project, a response poem or any way that suits you." So then I had to do it...


Thanks to these three Poets I Want to Be When I Grow Up for their unique and powerful inspiration. I've been reading even if I haven't been commenting. Now go enjoy all the ways the other Inklings tackled the challenge!

Mary Lee Hahn @ A(nother) Year of Reading
Molly Hogan @ Nix the Comfort Zone
Linda Mitchell @ A Word Edgewise
Margaret Simon @ Reflections on the Teche

Our host today is Jama at Jama's Alphabet Soup, where she's poignantly Mother's Daying. One last note: should you want to help me celebrate my impending retirement from the full-time classroom thing (though not from teaching, of course!), please go here to see how. It's juicy!


Saturday, April 30, 2022

npm 30: imperfect all over again



What, you may ask, does an anthology of not-particularly-climate-related "poems of perspective" for middle-schoolers have to do with Truth, Courage and Connection and solving the climate crisis?

It's a great question, and yet, as climate communicators like Katharine Hayhoe, Emily N. Johnston and--well, I--have realized, every aspect of our lives and every identity we claim (and even those we're unaware of) is directly touched by the fact that we are hurtling by the day towards some truly unknowable consequences of our quotidian destruction of the planet.  Everything really is connected by those interwoven lines of the interdependent web of all existence. 

So, as we try to pick a path forward in our anxiety and grief, any little dose of perspective goes a long way. And way better to begin younger to grasp all that "keeping perspective" can do for us.  Big thanks to Tabatha Yeatts, her  team, and all the poets for bringing IMPERFECT II to us, which closes my April project--but not the brilliant ALL WE CAN SAVE that I still haven't finished reading, never mind processing--here today.

As Tabatha writes in the Introduction, "All of us have to do something similar [show a realistic perspective] in our daily lives.  Things may happen that we view out of proportion--we see them as being bigger, smaller, more permanent that they really are."  The trouble, when it comes to climate disaster, is that if you accept the science,*  it's hard to pin down what a "realistic" perspective might mean, and our climate chaos future really is looking bigger and more permanent than many of us can imagine.  What can we, parents and grandparents of the kids IMPERFECT II is made for, take from this slim but "high-nutrition" volume?

The Perfect Book for Now

Is it stubborn to insist


comes along at the perfect time?

Or is it always/ every day/

each moment/ this week/

tomorrow/ oops just now/

the perfect time 

to practice/remember/ 

realize/ learn that 

there is no such thing

as perfect?

If these pants fit me "perfectly,"

that won’t be true for you.

If my project lacked perfection/

even completion, does it

mean I failed? Why, no.

And if my poem strikes you as

perfect, it won’t be so for everyone–

only for the you who came to it

precisely when and how you 

needed it.

draft ©HM 2022


Here's some of what I read in ALL WE CAN SAVE this week and the perspective I needed--and found--in IMPERFECT II.
Ash Sanders:  "How do we confront the reality of climate change and convince others to do the same? The environmentalist Alan AtKisson calls this predicament Cassandra’s Dilemma...AtKisson connects the myth to climate action: the more a person knows about environmental destruction, the more they will try to warn others, and the more others will, in fear and defensiveness, resist them."  --Under the Weather, ALL WE CAN SAVE

 Robert Schechter:
"If you really knew me,
If you could see right through me,
If you could glimpse the true me,
If you could rightly view me,
I wonder if you'd like me more, or less?"
"Your Guess" (excerpt), IMPERFECT II

Amy Westerfeldt:  "Exxon CEO Lee Raymond said in a 1996 speech..."It's a long and dangerous leap to conclude that we should cut fossil fuel use...there's simply no reason to take drastic action now."  The m***erf***er. These speeches and memos infuriate me." --"Mothering in an Age of Extinction," ALL WE CAN SAVE
Lisa Varchol Perron:
Some words, like stones, are heavy--
they knock me to my knees.
While other float like feathers
and scatter in the breeze....
But I can start refusing 
to carry stony things.
I'll gather all my feathers
and stitch them into WINGS.
"Stones and Feathers" (excerpt), IMPERFECT II
 Ash Sanders: "Ultimately, [Chris] settled on one word to describe both others and himself. He called it ignore-ance, or “returning from a state of consciousness to a willed state of not knowing.” That’s where he was now, he said, and where so many people insist on being. He was surviving, but he didn’t admire himself. “You do it by pretending,” he said, as if teaching me how. “You pretend that this life is OK, that college football is fun, that driving is normal. You pretend, to justify living a lie.”--Under the Weather, ALL WE CAN SAVE

Linda Mitchell:
I pledge allegiance to my hoody,
and the safety it
a life jacket in
and cover for me...
"My Hoody" (excerpt, IMPERFECT II)
Emily N. Johnston: "We can feel fear and grief and anger, in other words — we can even feel avoidant sometimes — and still attend to the world’s very real and immediate needs, as long as we don’t let our feelings be an excuse for abandoning our responsibilities. And in truth, serving the world’s needs is the only thing that I have seen consistently lighten that fear and grief and anger in others, and the only thing that has done so consistently in my own life." --Loving a Vanishing World, ALL WE CAN SAVE

Mary Lee Hahn: 

"My eyes are not the best in the animal kingdom, 
but I can see both sides of an argument, 
giving me the power of perspective,

I can see into your pain,
giving me the power of empathy,
and I can see what might be,
giving me the power of imagination.

"Point of View" (excerpt), IMPERFECT II

Emily N. Johnston:  "Everybody has different skills, and different temperaments...We can best use our own abilities within the landscape of our feelings, in other words, by valuing those of others. We have one volunteer who spends a day every week doing our books, another who does all the tricky work on our database, another who writes all our thank-you notes for us. We even have a retired massage therapist who offers us free massages. All of the work is critical in this moment, and we must do it with humility; learning as we go; taking on both the deeply satisfying and the unpleasant or routine tasks. We don’t have to believe they’re adequate — we only have to understand that not doing them would mean we’d decided not to care for this world..."-- Loving a Vanishing World, ALL WE CAN SAVE

Here I can turn to one of my own poems, even!

The Bigger Picture


i am one particle among

millions and

billions and

trillions of us

each of us our own particular

grains and

shapes and


crystals and

infinitely numerous

colors and

formed through unimaginable

eons and

from uncountable

eruptions and

erosions and

somehow we are all called



Again, thanks to Tabatha Yeatts for including my work along with all the many talented poets included in this anthology. Order your copy here!  

*Pet Peeve: it's not a question of "belief," which does not depend on data; it's a question of accepting the science, which IS the data.  We should stop talking about whether people "believe" in climate warming. Do they accept the scientific data or not?--that's the question.


My project for NPM 2022:
This month I'm making "human stories to move human beings.  Human stories are more powerful for inciting action than counting carbon or detailing melting glaciers." (Favianna Rodriguez, from her essay "Harnessing Cultural Power," in ALL WE CAN SAVE.)
2 Gratitude for those who take the time to fix things
5 A comparison of beaver wisdom with human attempts to control water & fire

Thursday, April 28, 2022

npm 29: and now for something not at all completely different!

 Greetings, Poetry Friday friends!  Today, to for the last Friday of National Poetry Month, I'm changing gears--but only a wee bit. I've been trying to write more narratively the stories of humans--especially women--who are helping humans solve the climate crisis.

But here is truly All We Can Save, the next generation, the foundation of our future. Here are the PreK Pandas learning about the miracle of seeds and writing collaborative poems about our garden. 

We have not read BEHOLD OUR MAGICAL GARDEN by Allan Wolf, but we will, and we have read DANIEL FINDS A POEM and WONDER WALKERS by Micha Archer, THANK YOU EARTH by April Pulley Sayre, and A NEW GREEN DAY by Antoinette Portis.

I was going to type them all up fancy, but maybe you'll enjoy seeing our process.

1) A small group visit to the garden to notice colors, shapes, textures, and elements of the garden.
2) Sticky notes: "What words do we need to write a poem about our garden?  Write the first letter here." Then I write the rest, mostly upside down.🙃
3) Rehearse words, often with signs or gestures.
4) Next, "Who has the first word?  What goes with that word?  Which order sounds better, 'smooth, soft' or  'soft, smooth'?"
5) Build poem together and read and reread, repeating each line twice.
6) Share with the class and make any changes that reading aloud make us notice. 


planting brown 
flower seeds
soft green
plants growing up

by Lyanna, Vincent, 
Mateo, Nina



green stalk
smooth soft leaves
sunflower nasturtium
water brown soil

by Emely, Ismat, Mariela, Molly

garden soil
hard seeds
water soft
green roots
flowers corn

by Carter, Fernanda, 
Matthew, Noella

Panda Flowers

dirt       water
seeds     plants
green green
yellow growing

by Michael, Kelsey, Christian

planta verde
flor suave
semillas en la tierra
agua para las plantas
por Allison, 
Santiago, Hector

Flower Magic
stem       beans
flower    leaf
crinkly green
dirty roots

by Josie, Jewels, 
Ava, Bella


A Poem about the Garden
Una Poema sobre el Jardin
water black seeds
stem          leaves
sunflower flower
rain from the sky

by Matthew, Gabriel, 
Brandon, Kaylee
sunflower growing
water black seeds
maíz plants
green triangle leaf
by Andrew, Helen, 
Kairi, Adish

And now, to close, a bonus poem spoken by Carter on the playground.  He said, "How about a flower?" and I said, "THAT sounds like a good poem!  How about a....?" and off he went. (He might have meant fins instead of fur, but we're going with it.) Carter is 57 months old.

How About A...

How about a flower?
How about a sunflower, following the sun?
How about a rose, shining in the sky?
How about a plant, spreading out its leaves? 
How about a fish, feeling all its fur?

by Carter (a spoken word poem)


Our host today is Jone Rush MacCulloch, who is beginning our day with a fine poem from IMPERFECT II.  I'll be closing the month tomorrow with another look at this brilliant anthology edited by Tabatha Yeatts.



My project for NPM 2022:
This month I'm making "human stories to move human beings.  Human stories are more powerful for inciting action than counting carbon or detailing melting glaciers." (Favianna Rodriguez, from her essay "Harnessing Cultural Power," in ALL WE CAN SAVE.)
5 A comparison of beaver wisdom with human attempts to control water & fire