Friday, December 21, 2012

Poetry Friday: light the darkest night

Poetry Friday is here and now, on the Winter Solstice, when the sun stands briefly still at its lowest point on the horizon.  All day shadows are long, and the night, when it comes, is the longest night of the year.  But take heart, diurnal creatures:  poetry has the power to light the dark! 
Susan Cooper (yes, that Susan Cooper, of the The Dark Is Rising series) leads the procession of those who call the sun to return.
The Shortest Day | Susan Cooper

And so the Shortest Day came and the year died
And everywhere down the centuries of the snow-white world
Came people singing, dancing,
To drive the dark away.
They lighted candles in the winter trees;
They hung their homes with evergreen;
They burned beseeching fires all night long
To keep the year alive.
And when the new year's sunshine blazed awake
They shouted, revelling.

Through all the frosty ages you can hear them
Echoing behind us - listen!
All the long echoes sing the same delight,
This Shortest Day,
As promise wakens in the sleeping land:
They carol, feast, give thanks,
And dearly love their friends,
And hope for peace.
And now so do we, here, now,
This year and every year.

Welcome Yule!

A couple of folks who don't blog sent me poems to light the dark ahead of time.  This one, by the woods-whisperer Joyce Sidman, reminds us that furred and feathered creatures also eat and drink of the light.
Winter Solstice, At the Feeder | Joyce Sidman

In your burrows under the snow
all you will hear
is the dry swirl of frozen breath,
the rasp of bare limbs,
the slow stamp of some large creature. 
On this coldest of mornings,
when all is either stone or dust
and the shadows reach blue fingers
into the splintered air,
I am planting flowers of the sun. 
Each seed drops into the powder,
a striped case holding its secret map
of burning velvet yellow.
Can you smell it, this promise,
this nugget of unconsumed heat? 
I can see by your footprints
that you have been here before.
Pheasant hen, finch and mouse:
when I am gone, come and eat.
Turn your faces toward the light. 
from Like the Air, Finishing Line Press, 1999.  Reprinted with permission.

Another echo, unclad of the mists of time, came to my inbox via the Academy of American Poets.  In it, Jake Adam York (go to the obituary of this suddenly, recently departed poet to wish for More Time) addresses not the literal sun, but a musician who knew himself to be of the "Angel Race" of Saturn. Reading this poem, I felt the longing many of us have, as we rush around the shopping malls and freeway interchanges, to connect with the ebb and flow of the cosmos.  To see, "To get it dark enough," we "have to fold back/into the hills, into the trees."

Letter Already Broadcast into Space | Jake Adam York

                         -To Sun Ra, from Earth

You are not here,

you are not here
in Birmingham,
        where they keep your name,

not in Elmwood's famous plots
                or the monuments
of bronze or steel or the strew

        of change in the fountain
where the firehoses sprayed.

                In the furnaces, in the interchange sprawl
        that covers Tuxedo Junction,

in the shopping malls, I think,
                they've forgotten you,

the broadcast towers, the barbecues,

        the statue of the Roman god,
spiculum blotting out
                part of the stars.

To get it dark enough,
        I have to fold back
into the hills, into the trees

                where my parents
planted me, where the TV
        barely reaches and I drift

with my hand on the dial
                of my father's radio,

spinning, too, the tall antenna
        he raised above the pines.

I have to stand at the base

                of the galvanized
pole I can use as an azimuth
        and plot you in.

The hunter's belt is slung again,
                and you are there

in the pulse, in the light of
        Alnitak, Alnilam, Mintaka,

all your different names,

                you are there
in all the rearrangements
        of the stars.

                        Come down now,
come down again,

                like the late fall light
into the mounds along the creek,

        light that soaks like a flood
to show the Cherokee sitting upright
                underground, light

like the fire they imply.

        Come down now
into the crease the freight train
                hits like a piano's hammer

and make the granite hum

                        Come down now

as my hand slips from the dial,
                tired again of looking
for the sound of another way

        to say everything.

Come down now with your diction
                and your dictionary.

Come down, Uncle, come down
        and help me rise.

I have forgot my wings.
Some remember their wings through a rather famous book of poetry.  This piece is contributed by my father, a Lutheran pastor.  The poet is John (yes, that John, of the New Testament).

"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
In him was life, and the life was the light of all people.
The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.
The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.
He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him.
But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God,
And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father's only son, full of grace and truth."
Gospel of John, selected verses 1-14

And how does a nice Lutheran girl, a PK, become a pagan-tinted Unitarian Universalist who tracks the sun's journey around the wheel of the year?  I can only say that it's there in my cells (and in Pumpkin Butterfly).
Solar-Powered Sun Puppet | Heidi Mordhorst
the dark side of me
glowers inside
drags at the tips of my toes
it feeds on clouds
on rainy skies
and only my shadow knows:
how heavy
the day is
how low the horizon
how sodden
and sad
I am
then sweet sun punches a hole in the clouds
sizzles and swims in my eyes
my shadow spills out through a hole in my sole
my darker side hung out to dry
how sudden and mad I am!
I’m sunny side up
I’m pumped full of light 
my silhouette dances on walls
Now I can see clearly:
my dark doppelganger
freed by the sun's high call
my demon cast out, my shadow of doubt
is the shadow that proves that I am!
I hope that you and yours will find living light--outer and inner--on this shortest day, this darkest night and all through the season.  Now for the Round-Up!

April Halprin Wayland led us to the archway of the Solstice with an original poem she posted last week at Teaching Authors, her last post for 2012.  It's called "Winter Solstice: Girl Talking to the Sun."

Irene Latham leads on with an original poem "First Day of Winter" that appears in her book WHAT CAME BEFORE.

More ways to see winter come from Laura Purdie Salas, who gives us a triolet of icicles to catch the glancing light.

Bridget Magee joins us from Wee Words for Wee Ones with a "Solstice Song." 

Diane Mayr shares a slew of seasonal selections.  At Random Noodling she has 2 original poems with two very different views of St. Lucy's Day.  St. Lucy's Day originally coincided with the winter solstice.  At KK's Kwotes there's a quote by A. E. Housman and at Kurious Kitty a Housman poem.  It's not a celebration of the solstice, but echoes her feelings this week. And finally, at The Write Sisters, Diane has an original solstice tanka in an illustrated form.

Nonfiction expert and poet Buffy Silverman has done us the honor of writing her very first blog post ever for today's Winter Solstice celebration.  She brings us the "Colored Candles" of Chanukah.  Welcome, Buffy!

Tabatha Yeatts at The Opposite of Indifference takes us back to the beginning with a poem about the Norse goddess Freya, and, coincidentally...

Robyn Hood Black celebrates the Winter Solstice with Tabatha's "In the Great Book of Winter" at Read, Write, Howl.

Mary Lee Hahn shares an original from the Winter Poem Swap organized by the very busy Tabatha, called "Sensing the Solstice."

Amy Ludwig Vanderwater joins in with "A Candle No One Else Can See" at The Poem Farm.

Laura Shovan writes, "My post is in response to the Sandy Hook shootings. After 9-11, I heard a Wendell Berry poem that begins, 'Now you know the worst we humans have to know about ourselves.' It has always stuck with me, and came to mind last week. It is about combating darkness with the light of love."
From Liz Steinglass at Growing Wild, a piquant mouthful called "Seasonal Feasts."

Marjorie brings some Caribbean sunshine to our northerly darkness with a post on John Agard at Paper Tigers.
Linda Kulp shares granchildren rhymes at Write Time.

Tara's offering is Mary Oliver's "The Gardener," from her new collection.
Matt Forrest Esenwine has cookies over at Radio, Rhythm and Rhyme.  Yum!

Margaret Simon is lighting the dark with some reflections.

Renee LaTulippe is playing with homophones today at No Water River, and my apologies for an oversight...Renee also has a Grinchy Christmas poem and poetry video by guest poet Penny Klostermann called "Max Mostly Moves On":

Matt Goodfellow has a poem inspired by information on the Solstice.

Iza has "Christmas Memories" from New York from us on her blog.

Violet shares a two-part poem that riffs on various aspects of Christmas.

Today Linda at TeacherDance hones in on the important things in life--a good exercise at any time of year.

More music for us at Mother Reader:  Peace Love and Understanding!

Ruth is in with "Winter Stars" by Sara Teasdale.  It's killing me that I don't have time to go and read these until tomorrow!

Little Willow has posted Last Answers by Carl Sandburg at Bildungsroman.

Kate's "darkness into light" poem is here at Book Aunt.

Charles Ghignawould like to help light the dark with "Present Light" at The FATHER GOOSE Blog.

Fats Suela is in today at Gathering Books with Jack Prelutsky's "I'm Wrestling with an Octopus." It's far from being a solstice poem, but definitely in keeping with the bimonthly theme "Stream of Stories and Whispering Water Tales."
Sheri Doyle is in with a poem and a song about light and dreams.

Joy has not only ornaments but poetry crafts at Poetry for Kids Joy!

Gregory K has surprised himself by posting an original poem today:  Oh, Well

Thanks to all who are brightening a grey and rainy morning here in Bethesda, and who helped me ready this post along with the gingerbread men, chestnut pate and parsnip roulade.  I'll be rounding up again at 1:30 or so, but by evening my family will be lighting the 12 candles on our Yule tree and speaking our Winter Solstice words:  "On this dark night we celebrate light and power of the human spirit to brighten and warm the season of cold and dark..."  Thanks for visiting, and I look forward to making my way to all your postings during the weekend!

Friday, December 14, 2012


Once again I have participated in a round of SPARK, which randomly matches artists and writers who exchange inspiration pieces and then produce response pieces over a ten-day period.  I always look forward to the challenge and to "meeting" a fellow artiste, and I've found that many of them are writers as well as painters or photographers or sculptors.  Some people just gotta express themselves!

This time I was working from two inspirations, really.  Recently my friend Charles Waters sent me perhaps the best compliment I will ever receive.  Charles wrote that he liked my poems in The Poetry Friday Anthology (nice enough in itself!) and then, "I do believe if e.e. cummings and Emily Dickinson had a baby it would be you."

Oh my.  If ever there was a compliment worth living up to, that's it.  I even began to hope it might somehow actually be true (no offense to my actual earthly parents), and I went and double-checked birth and death dates to see if Emily and Edward might ever have met.  (No.  Emily died eight years before e.e. was born.)  Still, I was wearing Charles's lovely speculation on my head like a crown (that's how good it made me feel) when I received a photo from Jules Rolfe (see it here), and so my response poem is all metaphysical and punctuated.


Many thanks to Jules for her wonderful Nebraska landscape and to Charles for his generous challenge!

The Round-Up today is with Jama at
Jama's Alphabet Soup--always a tasty smorgasbord of treats. And next week I'll be your host right here; if you're planning to participate in my Solstice-themed edition of Poetry Friday, feel free to send me your links as early as you like!

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

OIK Tuesday: overheard in the car

Every year at our congregation there's a holiday party between the two services, which offers kids the chance to make cards for sick kids, donate mittens to the mitten tree, roll up little goodies in crepe paper streamers that become Joy Balls intended for parents' stockings.  But you know what they head for first, don't you?  It's the graham cracker "gingerbread" house station, which gets its own whole room.

Both kids took quite a bit of time and effort over theirs this year (Duncan's being thatched with red licorice whips and then further shingled with brown M&Ms. There has been a lot of damaging weather this year and you just can't be too careful in a time of climate change), and on the way home in the car ("MOM!  Would you mind driving a little more carefully!") they commented on the less designed, less elegant approach of some fellow architects. 

"Most of them end up looking like sheds more than houses!"


Gingerbread Shed 

Four walls, flat roof
to make a lid—
built a bunker’s
all you did.
Shape is lost in
gobs of frosting.
Your hands, and arms,
and neck
need washing.
That’s no house—
it’s a gingerbread shed
to store the tools
of a sugarhead:
is that a froot loop on your face?
your eyes say “Rush me to Insane.”
That’s no house—
it’s a gingerbread shed.
Now give me that
and go to bed.

Heidi Mordhorst 2012

Postscript:  Duncan pronounces this "the best thing you've written in a long time.  It rhymes and it tells the ideas in a way I can comprehend!"  I guess my campaign in defense of sensitive free verse for children is not over.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

OIK Thursday: profligate

She was trying to explain the quality of her work with a particularly challenged, particularly unready group of kindergarteners.  Leaning wearily on the table in the teachers' lounge, she slalomed her hands forward like slippery fish.

"We're just doing the best we can, squandering our way into learning."


Go on--

Use up every yip and shout!
Waste every chance to taste the paste
to plunge your fingers into paint
to wallow in the fallen blocks
to bear-hug buddies on the rug

Empty every box of counters!
Dump the baskets full of books!
Don't hold back,
don't save or budget--
Spend it, spill it all right now

Splash out every flash of wonder,
squander every surge of squeal!
Tomorrow is another day and
all amazed, we wake up wealthy.
Looks like learning grows on trees.

Heidi Mordhorst | 2012

Friday, November 30, 2012

postcards from new york city

Last month I wrote about the fine day I had teaching 8th graders at my daughter's school in Silver Spring, MD.  I invited students to send me the poems that resulted from their 5-day visit to New York, and now (with apologies for the smallification of the text to accommodate line lengths)  I'm pleased to present five views of the city that never sleeps, rendered by 13-year-old souls.  They form a perfect arc from arrival to reflective departure.


Migration to New York  | Mikaela G.

Stumbling off the ferry on unsteady feet
Nauseated groups of students entering New York together.
The stench of greasy pretzels and the pungent river drift through the air like a greeting,
Following us away from the ferry, and into the city.
We cluster on the sidewalk, a massive roadblock
Ignoring looks from people with things to see and places to be.
Suddenly we are like a flock of birds, moving to the benches on the left
Sitting down, everyone is in deep thought, eyes wandering, and scrawling first impressions.
Most too absorbed to notice a dozen pigeons strutting by,
Graceful, confident and proud.
As we write, we observe the New Yorkers,
Walking by briskly, not giving us more than a glance.
They yell into phones, converse in foreign languages, or bargain with their companions.
Nobody’s without a purpose.
On the right, more tourists pour in,
As many as possible are crammed onto a single ferry until it overflows with hopes and dreams.
Our time was short, but just enough.
We find our groups, our families
And shuffle down the street.
As we wander further from our first impressions,
Our next destination awaits.

Mikaela casts the horde of 100 student tourists as immigrants, finding their feet and their way through foreign territory, "as many as possible...crammed onto a single ferry until it overflows with hopes and dreams."  I like the way she contrasts the human response to New York with the pigeons' attitude.

Street Performer | Maniza H.

My eyes scan the crowd,
their eyes coated with anticipation.
Others walk by, New Yorkers they are called.

They ignore me, but I notice them.
I am tired, but the day isn’t done.
I have to forget all the eyes,
I have to let my body take over me,
And I have to move to the beat of New York.

As I move, I feel a connection to my friends.


I can hear my fellow trumpet player,
from the corner of Times Square.

Oohs and aahs follow after the artist
creates a masterpiece of New York.

Caricatures are drawn with smooth curves,
and as the curves come together,
a grin peaks out,
as they see their face so exaggerated

I see my buddies in costumes,
Alvin, Elmo, and Cookie Monster.
They stride through the street;
and their faces fill with glee as they take a photo

I come to a stop
Clap. Woot. Whistle.
Sweat glistens on my skin,
my breathing unnatural.
I am a street performer

A real New Yorker 

I love how Maniza shows the subtle and slightly surreal way that "ordinary" visitors to New York find themselves transformed into street performers just through being there, through participating as bit players in the big show that is street life.  "I have to move to the beat of New York....Clap. Woot. Whistle."

Leah writes from the opposite position, from way outside the hustle and bustle, with the pointed assessment of an outsider, and yet with imagination and compassion for each stranger's "mystique."

Disconnection | Leah S.

All different sorts of people hustle through the street;
Some look quite similar, like the businessmen shuffling their feet.
Others are more prominent, like the man performing flips in Central Park,
While thousands of made-up ladies in high heels leave their marks.
All these people look so much alike, 
with their matching black umbrellas, and shiny grey bikes.
But really, each person has their own defined story,
Like the smiling adolescent who is utterly worried.
The homeless man over there, looked so down upon,
Has just had a bleak life and all his relations are gone.
That “good” man just there, with a quality life,
Might not make such fine choices and could be cheating on his wife.
I go through New York City, the land of dreams,
So authentic and bursting with people at its seams 
and I realize something that I have always perceived:
No one really knows what a person is like inside, 
we just look them up and down and judge from the outside.
Oh, that chubby girl on the right isn’t cool one bit,
But the slender girl to the left must be popular and fit.
The secrets of New Yorkers remain confined, and it keeps the city abstruse, 
like a puzzle in your mind.
But the mystique of each person also allows judgment, and it creates a world of disconnection.

Jenna captures a moment of stillness that you can find amid the hustle and bustle, if you pause and submit to awe.  Up high, at the top of the Empire State Building, you might as well be on Mount Olympus with the gods, both tiny and mighty.

Star-lit Night in New York | Jenna W.

Lights. The silence.
The city illuminates the night
Like fireflies.
Neon stars dancing
Under the moonlight.

Queen of the City
Watches over
The vibrant colors.
Standing tall
Beaming into the night sky.

She reaches out
To trace over
The star-weaved darkness.
A blanket stretching
Across the never-ending distance.

The flow of light
Fills the city
All gleaming lights sparkle
In the city of eternal light –
New York.

Grace closes with an image of New York as a lifelike--but artificial--being.  She and I share the experience of New York as both exhilarating and exhausting, if you dare to experience it wholly.  At some point you either have to give in ("lights blur as complex reality slips") or harden yourself to it--or drive to safety through a rainbow tunnel.

A poem for two voices |  Grace W.

They say New York is the city that never sleeps
New York is the most tiring city in the world

The city is full of life, yet it remains lifeless, so how could it sleep?
The city pulses with a perpetual energy, keeping me awake

I like the idea of a living city though
The adrenaline emanating from the ground throbs through me with each step

Each building is a bump or crease on this enormous being
The electric air flows around me, giving me tingly goose bumps

People are blood flowing through their subway veins
My blood courses through my veins as my excited heart rate quickens

Tangled trees are the bedhead of this insomniac
Gentle breeze feeds my exhilaration and blows my hair into a frenzy

The problem is the city is artificial, it has no heart
The city combats my human frailty with its overwhelming industrial force

No tired brain to slowly, s l o w l y find the simplicity of rest
The dizzying images of lights blur as my mind lets complex reality slip

No listless body struggling to cross the bridge from waking to dreaming
My whole body aches while we keep walking through this unforgiving town

Despite this, the city’s intensity vanishes into a foggy tranquility
Finally the exhilaration submits to exhaustion as we drive away, through the rainbow tunnel

The city falls into an ambiguous silhouette as time passes on
                         Now I'm waiting for the blanket of darkness to untuck these lego buildings and toy cars, because it's almost time for morning.

Many thanks to these 8th grade poets for sharing their work with me, and to Mrs. Kiernan Cantergiani and the many other extraordinary staff at EMS who made this trip and these poems possible for their extraordinary students.

The Poetry Friday roundup today is with another teaching poet--and friend of the famous Mrs. Ray!--Amy Ludwig Vanderwater.  Visit her at The Poem Farm to enjoy Poetry Friday in the Kidlitosphere.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

OIK Tuesday: a hole is to dig

A favorite book of mine is the classic A Hole Is To Dig (1952) by Ruth Krauss, illustrated by Maurice Sendak before Wild Things made him a star.  Anyone who teaches 5-year-olds can hear their voices in this "first book of definitions," just as I hear them all the time in my classroom.

Last week the Minnows and I were getting familiar with some images and vocabulary from the story of the first Thanksgiving.  (I'm thankful for my subscription to Scholastic's Let's Find Out, which comes with lots of handy whiteboardable resources.)  As we compared a Pilgrim boy's Plymouth Settlement house and a Wampanoag girl's home, we noticed the difference in roofs (rooves?), peaked vs. domed.

Then I indicated the rectangular prism on top of Pilgrim Boy's roof (no, I did not call it a rectangular prism.  We have not reached Marking Period 3, Indicator 3.K.A.4 , "Analyze and compare two- and three-dimensional shapes, in different sizes and orientations, using informal language to describe their similarities, differences, parts and other attributes.")  So I pointed to the chimney and said, "Look at this part of the house.  Who knows what that is?"

So excited, Tonya shot up her hand.  "I know!  It's for Santa to come down and bring the presents!"

Christmas Eve Incantation

go, magic smoke, go high, go high
go rise into the Christmas sky
show the way to Santa's sleigh
burn a path to Christmas day!

oh chimney, open up your mouth
swallow Santa"s north and south
keep your ashes to yourself
bring Santa down into my house!

You can tell we've been reading Bartholomew and the Oobleck lately, can't you?

Saturday, November 24, 2012

plan ahead to light the dark

I'm looking forward to hosting Poetry Friday at My Juicy Little Universe on December 21 this year--a day which is special to me and my family since we celebrate the Winter Solstice rather than the other December holidays.  However, Dec. 21 is a regular school day for me AND we have a special dinner for guests that night, so I've asked for the assistance of some Solstice elves in getting it all done gracefully.  Here's the plan, for those who would like to help out.

1. You write or select a poem on the general theme of lighting the dark  (Here's a little background info on Solstice traditions, if you're interested.)
2. You prepare your Poetry Friday post early (starting Dec. 15, perhaps) and set it to publish at 12:01 on December 21. emailing me your post title as you do so.
3.  I'll start putting together my host-post early too, and add your links as I receive your emails.
4.  On Friday morning it will all pop into being c. 6:00 am, and I'll go off to school knowing that we have all brightened the darkest day of the year with our dozens of points of poetic light!

I'll be able to do some rounding up twice during the day as well, so if something prevents you from posting early, don't worry;  I can still include you!  I hope you'll want to participate both with the theme and the schedule, but joining in with either one will help make our Winter Solstice Poetry Friday something special!

With thanks to my farflung community...

Friday, November 9, 2012

good honest work

After last week's wobble, I'm pleased to say that oh me of little faith has enjoyed election elation of a physical nature!  Here in Maryland, in addition to our reliable support of the Democratic candidate for President (a particularly admirable one, in my view), citizens also voted resoundingly for a DREAM Act which eases undocumented immigrant students' access to higher education, and FOR civil marriage rights for same-sex couples.  This last is particularly momentous, since it is the first time that the people (not the courts, not the legislature) of a state have voted directly in favor of marriage equality for their LGBT neighbors.

Compared to many of our friends, we did only a little to educate and inspire, but there was some work involved.  To see our investment of time, money and energy come to fruition leaves (heh heh "leaves") me with a feeling similar to that captured in this poem from Amy Ludwig Vanderwater, which my kindergarteners are currently building at the Pocket Chart and illustrating in their Poetry Anthologies.  She posted it last year and it went straight into my classroom.  Thanks, Amy...and thanks, Maryland!

If you're a teacher and you want a copy of my "Raking" pocket chart, just let me know and I'll send it to you.  The roundup today is over at Think Kid, Think! with Ed DeCaria--jump in!

Friday, November 2, 2012


Wordle: mixed feelings

hybrid storm
hot then cold
fast wind churning slow
terrible  wild
passing to mild

leaves a mess
of mixed debris
schadenfreude isn't right
something luckier
something sadder

and it matters

Heidi Mordhorst 2012

And not only that--the clock fall back this weekend.  Links of interest:
Richard Cohen

Poetry Friday roundup is with Donna at Mainely Write.  GOTV!

Friday, October 12, 2012


This week Daisy entered a writing contest at for which she had to provide an alibi absolving her of the murder of an unbeloved fiction editor named Herman Q. Mildew. To our surprise and delight Miss Google-It asked from her seat in the library-lounge of our new home, “Do we have a dictionary?"

Ha! Do we have a dictionary?! We ARGUED about how many of them to pack and move to the new house! Not only that, Fiona knew where to find one. Daisy proceeded to make rather good use of the Collins English Dictionary (inscribed FG Oct '85). You can heart her submission here if you register for a figment account, and then she might win dinner in New York with Jon Scieszka.

Now, trawling through my poetry files in a place with no internet connection, my wish comes true and I find a poem I forgot I had ever archived. How timely, how tasty, how fine to find myself

“in the candy store of language,…sweet compendium
of candy bars—Butterfingers, Mounds, and M&Ms—
packed next to the tripe and gizzards, trim and tackle
of butchers and bakers, the painter's brush and spackle,
quarks and black holes of physicists' theory.”
Do step in…

Ode on Dictionaries | Barbara Hamby

A-bomb is how it begins with a big bang on page
__one, a calculator of sorts whose centrifuge
begets bedouin, bamboozle, breakdance, and berserk,
__one of my mother's favorite words, hard knock
clerk of clich├ęs that she is, at the moment going ape
__the current rave in the fundamentalist landscape
disguised as her brain, a rococo lexicon
__of Deuteronomy, Job, gossip, spritz, and neocon
ephemera all wrapped up in a pop burrito
__of movie star shenanigans, like a stray Cheeto
found in your pocket the day after you finish the bag,
__tastier than any oyster and champagne fueled fugue
gastronomique you have been pursuing in France
__for the past four months. This 82-year-old's rants
have taken their place with the dictionary I bought
__in the fourth grade, with so many gorgeous words I thought
I'd never plumb its depths. Right the first time, little girl,
__yet here I am still at it, trolling for pearls,
Japanese words vying with Bantu in a goulash
__I eat daily, sometimes gagging, sometimes with relish,
kleptomaniac in the candy store of language,
__slipping words in my pockets like a non-smudge
lipstick that smears with the first kiss. I'm the demented
__lady with sixteen cats. Sure, the house stinks, but those damned
mice have skedaddled, though I kind of miss them, their cute
__little faces, the whiskers, those adorable gray suits.
No, all beasts are welcome in my menagerie, ark
__of inconsolable barks and meows, sharp-toothed shark,
OED of the deep ocean, sweet compendium
__of candy bars—Butterfingers, Mounds, and M&Ms—
packed next to the tripe and gizzards, trim and tackle
__of butchers and bakers, the painter's brush and spackle,
quarks and black holes of physicists' theory. I'm building
__my own book as a mason makes a wall or a gelding
runs round the track—brick by brick, step by step, word by word,
__jonquil by gerrymander, syllabub by greensward,
swordplay by snapdragon, a never-ending parade
__with clowns and funambulists in my own mouth, homemade
treasure chest of tongue and teeth, the brain's roustabout, rough
__unfurler of tents and trapezes, off-the-cuff
unruly troublemaker in the high church museum
__of the world. O mouth—boondoggle, auditorium,
viper, gulag, gumbo pot on a steamy August
__afternoon—what have you not given me? How I must
wear on you, my Samuel Johnson in a frock coat,
__lexicographer of silly thoughts, billy goat,
X-rated pornographic smut factory, scarfer
__of snacks, prissy smirker, late-night barfly,
you are the megaphone by which I bewitch the world
__or don't as the case may be. O chittering squirrel,
ziplock sandwich bag, sound off, shut up, gather your words
__into bouquets, folios, flocks of black and flaming birds.

Today’s Poetry Friday round-up is with Betsy at Teaching Young Writers. Oh PF friends, please know that I have tried to find time to visit you and comment over the last week with no success. Wish me a couple of free hours this weekend!

Friday, October 5, 2012

fairly major life events set into the context of current political affairs with geological metaphor and sensory detail

Tying the Knot

The knot was already tied, in truth,
and not so much tied as woven--
no, not so much woven
as lastingly accumulated,
like the layers and layers of
deeply hued sediment
you see at the Grand Canyon,
interrupted by an occasional colorful,
cataclysmic event.  This was one:

We registered for glasses

and a total of one hundred and eight expensive new Polish-made glasses

arrived at our little house with its Ikea folding furniture & cat-tattered sofa.

Each box was greeted at the door by a toddler who knows how to

clink her sippy-cup and say “Cheers!”

They are indeed beautiful: fine, well-balanced

and perfectly clear, they chime when the ice goes in,

unlike the rustic, bubbled chunks we bought 
made from recycled Coke bottles.

It wasn’t a wedding; not exactly a “commitment ceremony” either,

since we’ve been together ten years and had the baby already.

We shouldn’t have registered at all, really, for a mere anniversary,

except we wanted glasses.

And now we have them: juices and coolers, highballs, flutes,

red wines, white wines, pilsners and cordials,

and all-purpose goblets. It wouldn’t be unfair to say

we do a lot of drinking.

We chipped three in the first week. Now we remind each other to carry

them carefully; when loading them into the dishwasher, they each get

a little more space. The ones with stems we wash by hand,

and of course we have to supervise the baby closely:

Taking bites out of glasses runs in the family. It takes time and attention,

keeping so many glasses in one piece.

The knot was already tied, in truth,
by transatlantic travel and
daily faxes when a rented fax machine
was cheaper than telephone,
by the acceptance and denial of
family, by wanders through Camden Market
and internationally resourced bed linens.
The knot was already tied
by complicated legal arrangements,
risky career moves and repeated packing
of cardboard boxes, by adventure chronicled
in memorable sunburns (intangible) and
small crockeries (tangible), but mostly by paper,
layers and layers of
brightly hued paper
lastingly accumulated into a rock-solid,
basement-scented granularity that
now we have to move.

There's been mining going on,
digging through, panning for gold,
sifting out the gems:
this sheep made of salt dough, this
giant silly cow from we don't even know
which carnival midway, this posterboard
calendar which held one new earring
for each of 42 days, not to mention
donor forms headed "Forklift Vegetarian"
and "Coffee Ice Cream Saint Bernard."
Heavy work indeed, lending new meaning
to the combination exquisitely + painful,
and no amount of cellphone camera data
relieves the ache of dragging so much
shared earth out to the curb.

The knot was already tied, in truth,
before the "real" wedding, before the mining
and ditching and rescuing began, and
sometime soon the crafting will begin. 
We got it all here, tied up in knots
of packing tape, and sometime soon
all those layers, topped off by a marriage
license from a place we don't call home,
will be hewn by hand into a monument
to our knot, perfect for that
interesting corner of the new parlor,
crowned by the silly cow.
May she be granted the right she is due.

~Heidi Mordhorst 2012

I'm glad to be back, friends.  The Poetry Friday roundup today is with Laura at Writing the World for Kids