Friday, September 15, 2017

return of the 3LW and Burma-Shave

My One Little Word for this year is really 3:  Ready...Steady...Go.

I've been doing well with Ready:  keeping my eye on things as they develop in my family, in my classroom, in the world, and being better prepared for things not to be 100% rosy.

And Go has always been a strong point for me--I prefer to be Ready before I Go, but I can get Going even if I'm not quite Ready.  In fact I'm a little notorious for Going before all the possible research and analysis has been Ready.  There are models which call people like me "Drivers."

The tricky word for me is the middle one:  Steady.  With that word I was trying to remind myself of two opposing grips (which may explain the challenge I'm having).

On the one hand, I'd like to be holding the steering wheel, the rudder, the throttle, the string on the kite firmly, with a good sense of what is most important in the long run.  Steady.  On the other, I'd like to have a lighter, looser grip, so that day by day, when--as inevitably happens--the steering wheel rudder throttle string is knocked out of my hand by a gust or collision, I don't suffer whiplash and rope burn.  Steady.

How, you may be asking, is all this introspection related to Burma-Shave?

Well, I'd been holding firmly to the idea that my congregation's bazaar will happen this year on a new date the way it always has--with only my smallest contribution of effort.  Good and steady, Heidi. But when a gust of request came from the new bazaar chair for some Burma-Shave style rhyming advertisements, I was holding loosely enough to reach for that fun challenge--which is why I spent time this week writing, formatting and printing 100 pages of Burma-Shave jingles instead of writing a blog post in good time.

Here are a few of them.  Try not to think how much time I spent tracking down a Burma-Shave font (for which I then paid real money).

The peaceful roundup this week is hosted by Michelle at Today's Little Ditty.

Thursday, August 31, 2017


NOT my house

Usually in news reports when folks are "devastated" it's hyperbole, as in "When Man U beat us in the 90th minute we were devastated," but this is different.  Friends, the devastation in Houston and surroundings is unspeakable. I can't even imagine it, although my anguish at losing a box of keepsakes to a tiny basement leak is still with me.  And because I can't imagine the vastness, I'm applying that feeling in another arena. 

What follows is metaphor, and not intended at all to make light of the real tragedy of #Harvey.


“We have a Houston problem,”
said my young daughter long ago,
but this poem is about a hurricane
with a boy's name.

It’s been brewing off the coast,
and now we have days
when it just keeps raining and raining--
no more tearing winds--
just the storm stalled and the water
pouring down and welling up
full of copperheads and alligators
and it’s so muddy
you can’t tell what’s about to bite,

welling and laking and bayouing
into the basement
where we keep our scrapbooks—
sodden, lost—
into the first floor
where we boil our pots
and feed our beasts—
washed away—
up to the second floor
where we make beds full of
drowned dreams.

Someone’s always evacuating.
One of us takes next to nothing,
knows it doesn’t matter.
One of us can barely swim
under the burdens of everything
she’s trying to rescue.
One sets sail on a seesaw.

The library seems a likely shelter,
but the books with titles like
“How to Rise Above It”
have sunk unreadable into
the beloved sediment
of hurricane, tropical storm,
topical depression.

Houston, we have a problem,
and duct tape will not be enough.

draft (c) HM 2017

Friday, August 18, 2017

more swappiness

A welcome to Poetry Friday here
I'm pressed for time today:  guests and a birthday celebration this weekend, plus the last of my summer break and the last of packing for college, and Daisy is enforcing a VERY gentle pace on that.

So all I'll do this morning is share the glorious gifts of my most recent two Summer Poetry Swappers so all can appreciate them along with me.  I won't have time to get around and comment, I think, so feel free to glance and go.  : )

Brenda Davis Harsham sent a small but special treasure, this handpainted haiku:

 I adore the "clamshell clouds" so much that would have been poem enough, but then the golden seagull footprints and the taunting waves give us the down and out perspectives to go with the up!  Fancy making time to paint--thanks, Brenda!

From Buffy Silverman I received a poem custom-written for me.  Little does she know (or maybe she that I worked with an ESOL teacher this past year to establish the Early Bird Garden Club at my school, a free weekly morning club that involved about 40 1st and 2nd graders in building and planting a wee vegetable garden in a disused courtyard.  I've been visiting it regularly this summer to keep it watered and tended, so Buffy's poem is almost excruciatingly fitting.  And look at that photo!

I'm a lucky person to receive this goodness, and it ain't over yet!  That's right, there's one more swap and five days of summer break left for me.

Enjoy the other offerings over at A Journey Through the Pages with Kay McGriff, a first-time host.  Thanks, Kay!

Friday, August 11, 2017


Thanks to Steve Peterson (@insidethedog) and Amy Ludwig VanDerwater, some of us got started hunting poems of compassion to share with our elected leaders--in an effort to resist authoritarianism through empathy.  Check out #compassionpoem on Twitter and search on Facebook.  Don't miss the one Jeannine Atkins shared, by Ellen Bass!  Another good empathy exercise would be to go see the movie Step, about black high school girls in Baltimore on their way to college.  As my companion at the theater said last night as it ended:  "I've got all the feels now."  We need to practice having all the feels, especially if we're getting fatigued.

I was browsing a Carl Sandburg collection that appeared in my Little Free Library last night and found this, from 1955. It's really called "Psalm of the Bloodbank" and  I send it out towards Charlottesville this weekend...

The round-up this week is with Margaret at Reflections on the Teche, who is celebrating her birthday along with Julieanne and Linda!  Step on over and make some music with your words.

Friday, August 4, 2017

grab your summer poem swap!

A welcome to Poetry Friday here
Wow.  It goes without saying that this Poetry Friday community is a community of creatives, but my fellow Summer Poem Swappers keep exceeding my expectations!  Go here and scroll down to see Tabatha's genius idea explained.

From Linda Baie I received a very full package:  the poem you see below, a repurposed Altoids tin full of the best gifts in the world--WORDS--and a bag of genuine Captiva Island sand complete with  beach treasures. 

Just look at Linda's lovely poetry invitation, customized with little references to details Linda has noticed about little ol' me!  

It was all fabulous, but the collection of words clipped from magazines--"A box of words hums your name"--was instantly put to use.  I've been having some trouble accounting for my time this summer (which is part of the point of a summer break, right?), but I know that a lot of it that week was spent playing happily with my box of words. The "monster box" poem is just one of the many permutations I've explored.

Fun, right?  Thank you, Linda--I look forward to more playtime...

In other news, I have a question for the PF Hivemind.  I'm sure many of us are aware of the classic Hailstones and Halibut Bones by Mary O'Neill, but how familiar is anyone with another similar collection of hers called Take a Number?  Long out of print, it is rather fantastic, and seems to do rather exactly what I've been trying to do with my math poetry collection.  This could be very good or very bad....  Let me know in the comments.

Today's round-up is hosted by Donna at Mainely Write--go grab some more summer poetry memories!

Friday, July 21, 2017

paradis de Paris

Read about Poetry Friday here!
Today I'm sharing my first Summer Poem Swap arrival (which actually arrived quite a while ago).  Thanks to Tabatha some of us Poetry Friday regulars are receiving little gifts of poetry all summer; she's been organizing this for a few years now.  My gifter this time is Margaret Simon, who heard that I was traveling to France and--most reasonably--assumed Paris.

It's true that I have been to Paris; indeed while IN the south of France for yet another 4th of July, we realized that it was exactly the 10th anniversary of my family's Great Move to Paris, when we exchanged our house with a French family and moved to Vincennes, juste à côté du deuxième arrondissement, more or less across the street from a castle.  We spent only a year there, but all that Margaret has included in her dream of a poem was part of it. When we returned we fell back into life American-style so quickly and thoroughly that it felt like Paris actually had been a dream!

Luckily Margaret has that covered too; along with her poem, she sent a happy handcrafted exhortation to "BELIEVE" that it all really happened, and to "imagine you ARE heaven."  I'm not sure I can go that far, but having returned for just one beautiful evening to Paris, I can easily imagine that I was IN heaven!  I do long to live in France again--but perhaps in the south this time, along the Mediterranean...

I especially enjoyed (being, as I was once called, the love child of Emily Dickinson and e.e. cummings) how Margaret slipped in a few choice lines from Edward Estlin--can you pick them out?  And of course I must write a little response poem!  I'll work off of Margaret's piece and put in some of my similar but specific memories...isn't French a beautiful language?

Paris Parle

She moved to Paris--
was it a dream?--
floating over the river Seine
gliding through the Chateau de Vincennes
with new life in her love.

Paris spoke to her
in the silence of her listening,
the rush of the Metro,
the mélodie of the markets.

She marveled at espaces magnifiques,
spiral acres of concrete and
cobble, miles of white night.

Paris entered her
like Nutella on daily pain,
sucre citron and crêpes de sarrasin,
goûter de Papi Gâteau.
She moved through Paris as in heaven.

HM 2017

Thank you, Margaret, for the inspiration of your pieces, and thank you to Katie at The Logonauts for doing the rounding up today!

Friday, July 14, 2017

macaroni & cheese with my mother

I'm wishing a Happy Birthday to my mom today--which we have always known was Bastille Day--but it turns out that July 14 is also National Macaroni & Cheese Day.  Fancy that! 

It also turns out that there was a lot to learn about macaroni & cheese, especially the mass-produced kind that I grew up with (hey! it's a coupla years older than my mom, even!), and I will regale you with some interesting tidbits about its distinctive color before we get to my poem, which--as do all autobiographical poems--probably contains some powdery lumps of veritable untruth.

Industrial food coloring

Colby cheese colored with annatto

Annatto is used currently to impart a yellow or orange color to many industrialized and semi-industrialized foods. In the European Union, it is identified by the E number E160b.  Annatto has been a traditional colorant for Gloucester cheese since the 16th century. During the summer, the high levels of carotene in the grass would have given the milk an orange tint which was carried through into the cheese. This orange hue came to be regarded as an indicator of the best cheese, spurring producers of inferior cheese to use annatto in order to replicate it. The custom of adding annatto then spread to other parts of the UK, for cheeses such as Chesire and Red Leicester, as well as colored cheddar made in Scotland.[10][11] Many cheddars are produced in both white and red (orange) varieties, with the latter being more popular despite the only difference between the two being the presence of annatto as a coloring.[12] That practice has extended to many modern processed cheese products, such as American cheese and Velveeta.

A Threat

“Buy Sugar Pops or die!”
My brother, taller now, held a kitchen knife
to my mother’s throat.
He didn’t mean it, would never have hurt her,
but he was right:
my mother did not buy Sugar Pops, Coca-Cola,
or Twinkies. 
The closest we got to popular grocery products
was Kool-Aid,
lemonade flavor only, the thin packet only,
without added sugar.  She mixed it with less
than called for.
But I think, I hope I remember that we did have
Kraft Macaroni and Cheese,
prepared with the amounts of butter and milk
specified on the blue box.

Yellow-orange for years, until in 1993 Crayola
actually named an orange-yellow crayon
“macaroni and cheese.”
That color was how we knew we were getting
the real deal—
a real deal that my own kids were denied,
Yellow 5 and Yellow 6 having fallen into
rightful disfavor.
They ate the pale substitute, Annie’s Organic
Shells and Cheese, and they were
not fooled.
They knew the real stuff was inorganic orange,
and if Trader Joe’s had not found a way
to replicate the Kraft color using annatto,
it would now be me
with a knife to my throat, my tall son snarling,
“Buy Kraft Mac and Cheese or die!”

©HM 2017

I want to thank my brother, Mark Mordhorst, who has a better memory than I, and Catherine Flynn, for pointing me in the direction of an exercise by Rita Dove in The Practice of Poetry, which sent me down this path! 

The round-up today is with Tabatha, who had the genius idea of celebrating this day with mac&cheese poems!