Thursday, July 15, 2021

it's climate friday

Happy Poetry Friday, friends, where we all digress as needed when there are burning, flooding, subsiding, melting issues at hand...At least each third Friday I'll be posting a climate action PSA along with the poetry.Today's action has to do with keeping cool at home  while making the least contribution to greenhouse gases.  

I'm sure you know the basics:

1) Every refrigerator and air conditioner contains chemical refrigerants that absorb and release heat to enable chilling. Refrigerants, specifically CFCs and HCFCs, were once culprits in depleting the ozone layer. HFCs, the primary replacement, spare the ozone layer, but have 1,000 to 9,000 times greater capacity to warm the atmosphere than carbon dioxide. YIKES.  Don't let your refrigerants leak into the atmosphere!

2) More manageable for most of us at home is to look at electricity usage.  Here's a little comparison: 

  • A small table fan uses about 10-25 watts per hour.
  • A ceiling fan uses about 40-50 watts per hour.
  • Your central air unit uses between 2000 and 5000 watts per hour!

3) So here's your home climate solution: run your AC if you must, at no cooler than 78*.  Then use fans to help circulate that gently cooled air in exactly the spot you need it. This reduces the load on your AC and reduces emissions at the power plant that feeds it; uses electricity much more efficiently; and is cheaper for you! (at least after you buy--or find/thrift/inherit--the fans 😊)

This information comes from a surprisingly authoritative article at eHow, and is corroborated by information from Project Drawdown.  You can read more about how building-based solutions are an important contributor to reducing CO2 emissions fast here.  Now pass this info on!


Let's find some steamy cooling breezy poems to pair today....

Are We There Yet? Dobby Gibson (from Skirmish, Graywolf Press 2009)
You only have to make her one grilled cheese
in the suffocating heat of summer
while still wearing your wet swim trunks
to know what it’s like to be in love.
And you only have to sit once
for a haircut in the air conditioning
with the lovely stylist to forget all about it,
and to forget that anything in the universe
ever existed prior to the small, pink sweater
now brushing softly against your neck.
In this world, every birth is premature.
How else to explain all of this silence,
all of this screaming,
all of those Christmas card letters
about how well the kids are doing in school?
We’re all struggling to say the same old things
in new and different ways.
And so we must praise the new and different ways.
I don’t like Christmas.
I miss you that much.
For I, too, have heard the screaming,
and I, too, have tried to let it pass,
and still I’ve been up half the night
as if I were half this old,
and like you, I hate this kind of poetry
just as much as my life depends upon it.
They’re giving away tiny phones for free these days,
but they’ve only made
a decent conversation more precious.
One medicine stops the swelling,
another medicine stops the first medicine.
Just like you, I entered this world
mad and kicking, and without you,
it’s precisely how I intend to go.
Oh, serendipity--look what I found in FIREFLY JULY (ed. Paul B. Janeczko, Candlewick Press 2014).
 In Passing | Gerald Jonas

Open-backed dumpy junktruck
stacked full of old floor-fans,
unplugged, unsteady, undone,
free whirling like kids' pinwheels
in a last fresh breeze--
What a way to go!
I do hope you can feel the air circulating around those companion poems, one for adults and one for kids, and around you! Our host today is Molly over at Nix the Comfort Zone--enjoy summer ten times with her!

Friday, July 9, 2021

slps 7: Shovan and Bramer

Last week I wrote about responding to a writing challenge that "I get good mileage from putting two poems side by side and aiming for the overlaps in between." This week I return to that practice as a reader, continuing my self-led poetry study, which I unintentionally abandoned when National Poetry Month struck back in April. So many items of the moment (progressive poems, climate emergencies, retirements, cicadas, challenges, Juneteenths) to distract a person from her studies!

But this week things are settled (allow me to pause here in the moment and note that: THIS WEEK THINGS ARE SETTLED. There is an unrushed feeling of peace and refreshment. I needed it and I am getting it. Glory be and gratitude!), so I'm pulling books off my shelves and studying.

I have owned the chapbook MOUNTAIN, LOG, SALT AND STONE since its author, your friend and mine Laura Shovan, gifted it to me in 2011. It is my shame to admit that I never really read it--intimidated to find, I believe, that my new SCBWI friend also had adult chapbook chops! My loss, and apologies to you, Laura.

Today I find  this poem:

The Listening of Plants | Laura Shovan

On the buffet where she kept her celadon dishes,

Mother placed a vase of pussy willows

hurried out of their branches

The buds were cat toes walking up a mottled branch,

miniature koalas hanging on their eucalyptus

in a scattered line.

I snapped one off the twig and rolled the bud 

on the flats of my thumb and finger,

Its smoky grey coat how I imagined koala fur might feel.

I rubbed the willow bud along the bone of my jaw

wanting to know how a plant can wear animal skin.

It was too small, like touching nothing.

I splayed my hand along its curves, 

felt the hairs rise in the divot of my palm.

I would have needed a sweater of willow to be satisfied. 

Instead I slipped it into my ear. How did I know 

a pussy willow was the right shape for the foyer of my ear,

long hall leading to the eardrum and the bones behind?

The bud rested there and I listened,

wanting to hear what it had to say

which was quiet, which was the muted listening of plants.




I guess I chose this one because I am smack in the middle of BRAIDING SWEETGRASS: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teachings of Plants by Robin Wall Kimmerer, a book which is speaking to me directly about why as a kid I was powerfully drawn to "playing Indians." That's a thought I'll come back to another day, but for now, see how that child reached out for a quiet conversation with a plant clad like an animal? 


Scanning the shelves for a children's book which might have a companion poem inside, I pull down CLIMBING SHADOWS by Shannon Bramer, which we included in our NCTE Poetry Notables List for 2020. I'm not is another quiet poem.




You Speak Violets | Shannon Bramer


sometimes you are     quiet as a trillium     yet your eyes speak


the language of wild basil     red butterflies     impatient


for a buzzing loud summer     you've got a young forest inside you


i see waterfalls     beyond tall     white     sleeping trees


birches     poplars     where everything is moving and alive




I see rushing water in your eyes when you get a new idea


sun through the branches making shadows inside you


when you find it hard        to say what you are feeling



                                                                                                    you speak violets




I'm not currently in thinking-about-school mode, but wow--all I can think right now is how much noisy TALKING I do in the classroom and how it might be a goal to let it be     just    quiet     sometimes, so that the children can hear what the plants, animals, shadows are speaking.


 Thanks to my pal Margaret over at Reflections on the Teche for hosting us today and bridging the distance online as we have become maybe too accustomed to doing. Wishing you plenty of SETTLED right now!

Friday, July 2, 2021

what you know and what you don't


Welcome to July! Here's where you can learn more about the Poetry Friday tradition...all are free to join in and link up.  What Is Poetry Friday?

This month I am the Challenger for our little critique group, who borrowed the monthly challenge idea from our Poetry Friday friends the Seven Poetry Sisters. This month I have also borrowed the challenge itself from Tabatha Yeatts, whose post last week featured a poem by Gail Martin and noted what a good mentor poem it could be.


 What Pain Doesn't Know About Me | Gail Martin

How I visualize him as a rooster.  How I nickname him Sparky.

My rabbit-heart. How it looks motionless in the bank of clover 

but secretly continues to nibble.

I can tell time underwater.  I sing hymns there.

He's not pocketed by vanity.

My history with onions.

(read the rest here at Willow Springs Magazine)


I had some other bits in my challenge about using throwing in either some invented/compounded words or some anthimeria, which is converting a noun into a verb, a verb into a noun, etc.--but then I got distracted by the prompt at Poets & Writers this week. (I get good mileage from putting two poems side by side and aiming for the overlaps in between.) Here's the poem it's based on, by Stephen Dunn, who died recently.

The Routine Things Around the House | Stephen Dunn

When Mother died

I thought: now I'll have a death poem.

That was unforgivable


yet I’ve since forgiven myself

as sons are able to do

who’ve been loved by their mothers.

I stared into the coffin

knowing how long she’d live,

how many lifetimes there are

in the sweet revisions of memory.

It’s hard to know exactly 

how we ease ourselves back from sadness,

but I remembered when I was twelve,

(read the rest here at


So now my response has more of those elements of uncommon or surprising memories and no invented words, no anthimeria. Here's what I came up with.



Be sure to go and see how the rest of us have tackled this challenge, and whether my partners in rhyme have been more obedient than I!  

-Catherine at Reading to the Core -Margaret at Reflections on the Teche -Molly at Nix the Comfort Zone
-Linda at A Word Edgewise

Our host today is Laura Shovan at her homebase. See you there!

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".