Friday, June 18, 2021

It's not so bad to be posting late on this first official day of MY summer break, because it allows me to respond nimbly to surprising developments...such as, that yesterday Juneteenth was declared a national holiday, and such as, that my school district IMMEDIATELY announced that today (since the 19th is a Saturday) would be a vacation day for all 12-month employees, such as the folks who were leading a training I was to attend this morning, which is now cancelled!  Yes, I slept in a while, thrilled by the way we have learned to turn on a dime if we choose to.

I grew up in Richmond, VA and I was hoping to report that the "June Jubilee" that I remember starting in 1976 was our version of a Juneteenth celebration, but no--it was a local arts festival that doesn't seem to have acknowledged (surprise) any part of Richmond's Black & African American history.  What I do know is that since then, the elementary school I attended, formerly known as J.E.B. Stuart School, is as of 2018 called BARACK OBAMA ELEMENTARY SCHOOL.  I adore this, of course.

If you're unfamiliar, let the NYT lay it out for you. Here's a poem for celebrating this historic day in 1865 and this historic day in 2021.  


The Stuff of Astounding: A Poem for Juneteenth


Unless you spring from a history that is smug and reckless, unless

you’ve vowed yourself blind to a ceaseless light, you see us. We

are a shea-shined toddler writhing through Sunday sermon, we are

the grizzled elder gingerly unfolding his last body. And we are intent

and insistent upon the human in ourselves. We are the doctor on

another day at the edge of reason, coaxing a wrong hope, ripping

open a gasping body to find air. We are five men dripping from the

burly branches of young trees, which is to say that we dare a world

that is both predictable and impossible. What else can we learn from

suicides of the cuffed, the soft targets black backs be? Stuck in its

rhythmic unreel, time keeps including us, even as our aged root

is doggedly plucked and trampled, cursed by ham-fisted spitters in

the throes of a particular fever. See how we push on as enigma, the

free out loud, the audaciously unleashed, how slyly we scan the sky

all that wet voltage and scatters of furious star—to realize that we

are the recipients of an ancient grace. No, we didn’t begin to live

when, on the 19th June day of that awkward, ordinary spring—with

no joy, in a monotone still flecked with deceit—Seems you and these

others are free. That moment did not begin our breath. Our truths

the ones we’d been birthed with—had already met reckoning in the

fields as we muttered tangled nouns of home. We reveled in black

from there to now, our rampant hue and nap, the unbridled breath

that resides in the rafters, from then to here, everything we are is

the stuff of astounding. We are a mother who hums snippets of gospel

into the silk curls of her newborn, we are the harried sister on the

elevator to the weekly paycheck mama dreamed for her. We are black

in every way there is—perm and kink, upstart and elder, wide voice,

fervent whisper. We heft our clumsy homemade placards, we will

curl small in the gloom weeping to old blues ballads. We swear not

to be anybody else’s idea of free, lining up precisely, waiting to be

freed again and again. We are breach and bellow, resisting a silent

consent as we claim our much of America, its burden and snarl, the

stink and hallelujah of it, its sicknesses and safe words, all its black

and otherwise. Only those feigning blindness fail to see the body

of work we are, and the work of body we have done. Everything is

what it is because of us. It is misunderstanding to believe that free

fell upon us like a blessing, that it was granted by a signature and

an abruptly opened door. Listen to the thousand ways to say black

out loud. Hear a whole people celebrate their free and fragile lives,

then find your own place inside that song. Make the singing matter.


I found this poem first at the Stanford University site, and it doesn't explain where the striking line for this Golden Shovel comes from, but oh what "breach and bellow" Patricia made of it! Let freedom ring and ring again, truly, and may it be so.

Our host today is Buffy Silverman at Buffy's Blog. I'll just mosey on over there after reveling in a little more resting in this fresh wide-open morning...a so much smaller freedom, but precious nonetheless.

Friday, June 4, 2021

truly fried

Pawel Kuczynski

my body is not weary;

I've energy to walk

and bike and swim.

but oh my brain is smeary 


And there is the begining of a little ditty I though I'd try this morning so as to post something, anything--and yet I cannot make it go any were  anyhewre  andywhere anywhere. I am even having trouble typing.

I many not ha lack physical energy, and I'm not definitely lnot tired of the children, but oh, my friends my brain is well and truley fried. ON Tues day I went to bed at 7:30pm. My click rate is adagio at best istned of my usual allegro. Yesterday efternoon I tried to produce some sthings and all I acocompolished wias to  methodically delete tons of emails from my main account. Perhaps that it the poem:

I need to sort


dump the clutter

clear the decks


So this is what is looks like to stall at nearly the end (7more days of AM in-person and Pm virtual PreK) of a year well you know what kinds ofyear, concluding with two seniors graduating and gap years to organize and new drivienr's on the Beltway and internships to support (principally by the loain of one of our cars) and roerganzing all the routines of the hosuefuold around a single car.

Also just realized that our Sunday Swaggers group had a challenge to respons to which got postposned but which I responded to back at the begining of May.  Thank sto Miolly Hogan we read "Today's Sermon" and wrote around it.  Here was my effort and apologies for being out of sync. (PS that poem ended with "thanks for the appreciation but y'all have no idea" but I think my irony missed the mark.)

IT's good to be with you no matter what and I bet I can count aon you all to accept and support me no mather what, but gosh I don't feel like myself today. Hope you are feeling livelier and more focused!

Thanks to fellow SwaggerMargaret for hosting today at Reflections on the Teche, where she is proving organized and proudctive enough for both of us!

Thursday, May 20, 2021



And then, 37 chapters of the best book ever came to a close, the last chapter having been a wild and unexpected roller coaster of still-so-much-to-learn, of heartbreak and triumph!  Congratulations to you, Mary Lee, a teacher and poet of extraordinary insight and imagination.  I hope my poem does your name and your work justice.





Christie at Wondering and Wandering rounds up all the tributes to Mary Lee this on!



Friday, May 14, 2021

brood X: cicada magic

ALERT:  My poem using the word "buffeted" is up against Rebekah Hoeft's in the first round of the (May) MADNESS POETRY TOURNAMENT!  You'll laugh when you see how alike our poems are in some important ways...but only YOU can decide which is the better poem for kids.  Go here to vote for your favorite by 5pm today, and join in the madness all month!


It's time.  The soil temperature in Maryland has reached 64*, and the 17-year periodical cicadas know in their entomological exoskeletons that it's time, finally, to emerge from the ground in 16 states* across the eastern half of the US.  The last time was in 2004, when my daughter was just 5 and I was her nursery school teacher.  Her class was the Caterpillar Class, and out came the cicadas, just as they prepared to emerge from their chrysalises as Kindergarten Butterflies. We called our end-of-year celebration "Fly-Away Day."

I wrote this poem that year, and then sent a revised version to Pomelo Books for THE POETRY FRIDAY ANTHOLOGY® FOR SCIENCE edited by Sylvia Vardell and Janet Wong (2014).  They very kindly printed up these gorgeous postcards, of which I still have not billions or trillions, but quite a few!** Thank you, Janet and Sylvia!

Enjoy, share widely, and listen for the subtle thrumming, the slow swelling, and the afternoon throb.

This wonderful book is still in print--teachers especially, grab it now if you don't have a copy!  Thanks to our Poetry Friday host today, the delightfully impressive Irene Latham at Live Your Poem.  Swarm on over, friends!

*I'm just going to go ahead and count D.C. as a state already, and I'm going to call it by my favorite proposed new name: Washington, Douglass Commonwealth.

**If you would like 1-5 postcards, send me an email with your mailing address...but I  won't be able to get them out until Memorial Day weekend.

Friday, May 7, 2021

the church of hybrid preK


Things to know:
*I go to school and teach 10 kids in person each morning, then zip home to teach 9 kids on Zoom each afternoon.
*all our specialists are virtual


Our host this week for the Poetry Friday round-up is with Bridget at Wee Words for Wee Ones. I appreciate her and every one of you teachers and mothers out there--are there any nurses among us?  And when is Poet Appreciation Week? 😉


*This poem draws from the humble litany of Cheryl Dumesnil's "Today's Sermon".

Friday, April 30, 2021

five fridays and a year

 As Catherine Flynn said last week in her host post, "Wasn’t it thoughtful of April to begin on a Thursday this year, so we have five Fridays to celebrate National Poetry Month?"


It's never too late to join our private Facebook group, PARADISE PAVED, if you need a place to park your daily (or intermittent) drafting practice and get a little feedback.  Just let me know if you want an invitation.  Today a poem video of mine is featured at the Poetry Boost website, thanks to Michelle Schaub, and today the Progressive Poem concludes at  More Art 4 All with Michelle Kogan!

Matt is our host for today at Radio, Rhythm & Rhyme--see you at the grand finale!