Thursday, December 28, 2017

art of losing: welcome to the round-up, and tree cycle

Welcome to all on this last Poetry Friday of 2017!  If you are new to our Poetry Friday tradition, please let Renee at No Water River explain it all to you, and to old friends--I greet you with virtual hugs.  You all know how valuable this community is.

At this time of year there is a tree in my house, just as there is likely a tree in yours.  Even if you are not Christian (and perhaps especially if you are pagan), you may have a a special tree residing indoors right now: cut or living, evergreen or white PVC, electrified or candlefied--and is a menorah is a tree of sorts as well?  It's my favorite thing at this time of year to come down early, switch on the lights, and come to in the glow of our indoor tree, which gives its life for our celebration of the rebirth of the sun and the hope of spring--noel noel.  I'm never tired of this poem.

[little tree] | E. E. Cummings

little tree
little silent Christmas tree
you are so little
you are more like a flower

who found you in the green forest
and were you very sorry to come away?
see          i will comfort you
because you smell so sweetly

i will kiss your cool bark
and hug you safe and tight
just as your mother would,
only don't be afraid

look          the spangles
our little tree
that sleep all the year in a dark box
dreaming of being taken out and allowed to shine,
the balls the chains red and gold the fluffy threads,

put up your little arms
and i'll give them all to you to hold
every finger shall have its ring
and there won't be a single place dark or unhappy

then when you're quite dressed
you'll stand in the window for everyone to see
and how they'll stare!
oh but you'll be very proud

and my little sister and i will take hands
and looking up at our beautiful tree
we'll dance and sing
"Noel Noel"

I have always been a tree-hugger.  This poem is from Squeeze and can be dated to approximately 1972; below is my daughter visiting the very cedar mentioned in the poem in 2006 (click here to see it on a map).

How to Run Away | Heidi Mordhorst

Take money.  Pack light.  Coast your bike
down the fastest hill in the neighborhood.
The one by the Baptist church is good.

Claim a weeping willow:  plunge through
hanging curtains to find a private room.
The swish of long leaves keeps you company.

Or lie under a cedar with triple trunks
capturing air and space above you.
Its needles make a pungent carpet.

Or climb a dense magnolia.  There are
leathery leaves to hide you from enemies,
fuzzy grenades to lob through the branches.

Then go shopping.  You don’t need much:
saltines, peanut butter, a carton of milk.
Your finger makes a perfect knife.

Now move in and build your nest.
Hang your bag on a twiggy hook.

Stay.  Eat.  Read your book.
Stay until you know they’re worried.
Stay until you miss your brother.
      Stay until the shadows cool your mood.

Then pump your book, your bag, your bike
back up that hardest hill
toward home.


I'm always watching the trees in my yard, those close by in my neighborhood, the ones across the field from my 2nd-floor classroom.  Joyce Sidman captures their essential wisdom in this poem from Winter Bees (2014)  which we can't get enough of.

What Do the Trees Know? | Joyce Sidman
Illustration by Rick Allen

What do the trees know?

To bend when all the wild winds blow.
Roots are deep and time is slow.
All we grasp we must let go.

What do the trees know?

Buds can weather ice and snow.
Dark gives way to sunlight’s glow.
Strength and stillness help us grow.


So as always I was communing pretty closely with the trees when my spouse surprised me the other morning with a report on the 80-foot tulip poplar we share with a neighbor.  "It's confirmed unhealthy and we need to take it down before it falls on our roof," she said, and there I was crying into my son's lunchbox.

Dec. 27
one of our trio of tulip trees, 18??-2018

"All we grasp we must let go All we grasp we must let go All we grasp we must let go."  I repeat
and repeat what the trees know, but this tall tulip that hugs our patio, shades our outdoor table,
drops honey-bearing nectar on us all May, that stood here long before the patio, long before
the house indeed (coincidentally born the same year as I), that stood in a wood I can
 barely imagine, unmapped, unloved, not a feature but a creature of an unpeopled
landscape—this  tall
tulip with its  straight
trunk   unlimbed   to
30  feet, is  precious
to me. I should speak
for  this  tree, save  it  
from  our ill human
meddling,  but  good
sense, this tree's own
deep-rooted  wisdom
counsels me: stillness.
Bend, give way; strength
and stillness, stillness helps us grow.

draft (c) HM 2017

May it be so with the eternal internal conflict:  when to stand strong in resistance, when to bend, when to let go?  The rooted stillness itself becomes the greatest challenge. 

But, once let go, there may be another kind of rebirth: to wit, craft worked upon the fallen tree.  My brother lost an American black walnut tree some years ago and finally reclaimed the wood in the form of several gorgeous pieces given as gifts this Christmas.  The wheel of the tree at the turning of the year.

Looking forward to seeing what portents you all have for the New Year!  Leave your link below, and as the French say, neatly avoiding any religious sentiment at all, 

meilleurs voeux a tous pour la nouvelle année!!

Thursday, December 14, 2017

art of losing: 109 earrings

I've attempted to continue my art of losing PoPerDayMo project, but temporarily lost control of my time and a number of opportunities to write this week.  I'm not losing heart, thought--will try to catch up while you try to count the earrings in the collage below...

Dec. 8
So Many Earrings, 1976 -

  lost and found  lost again lost in a pocket lost in a bag lost one then the other
lost and kept the mate kept the mate kept the mate kept the mate until it
was time to make an artwork out of them
  lost the same
pair of silver hoops over and over again  lost getting 
into the car lost getting out of the car lost pushed
out by a scarf  luckily never lost in a cat fight 
lost in the classroom  found at the end 
of the year  lost on the dresser  lost
in the bathroom
  blown off 
the sink by the hair dryer 
lost in the wastebasket 
lost so regular
that my Villa
Voice person
ad noted                      my
of 10                                    9

I wonder
how many
I've lost in a
lifetime of 


draft (c) HM 2017

The round-up this week is hosted by Diane at Random Noodling.  Which reminds me that I discovered at age 26 that you could dye dry pasta with food coloring and peroxide for some very intense hues, and then string those bad boys into some really great-looking earrings!  Seems like alcohol is recommended now...
Image result for dyed pasta earrings

Friday, November 17, 2017

live from #ncte17

Like many of our poetry posse, I am lucky enough to be in St. Louis for the annual National Council of Teachers of English convention.  I arrived in time for a walk around its most famous landmark in beautiful crisp sunshine, and then I attended the Elementary Get-Together, which is not just "Hellooo!" and [HUG] and chat but which includes the presentation of various awards.

The specially honored yesterday were Katherine Bomer and Randy Bomer, and rather than summarizing the significance of their work or their talk, I'll pull out one small thing that Katherine said, about how, since her first NCTE in 1989, this event seems to come along just when teachers really need it. "Is it that way for you, too?" she asked, and there were nods and "Mm-hmms" and not exactly any "AMENS," but the room said "yes."

So I'm going back to understand why this 3rd week of November event has felt so important to me over the years, and see how it turns into a poem!

2009 Philadelphia
2010 Orlando
2011 Chicago & boots
2012 Las Vegas
2013 Boston
2014 Washington DC
2015 Minneapolis
2016 Atlanta
2017 St. Louis

November Comes, Town Emerges

Next week--Thanksgiving--
the whole country travels,
travels home for our
"American holiday."
Even the least blessed among us
have something to be thankful for,

But before that travel
some of the more blessed
travel home to English Town,
to Reading Town, to Writing Town,
wherever it may be this year,
and some of us most blessed

come home to Poetry Town.
We meet at the foot of
something large and shiny:
lowly LOVE, a faceted globe,
a bell tower domed in gold,
a gateway arch that leads into
a lofty cloud which opens

onto a village green.
We are surrounded by little cottages
built of books, filled with windows
and mirrors made of words.
We greet each other,
sighing with relief.

In back are the chickens,
which we feed every day
unless something gets in the way,
but we know that our neighbors
will take care if we are distracted.

And there is so much to distract:
the world outside seems made of guns,
made of floods and flame and hate.
We take a knee,

crushed up like velvet
under the weight of statues;
we poets fire back with delicate,
plush, lustrous words, risking
everything with an air of expectancy.

We poets put on our boots
with the transparent, permeable
soles that let in the grass, the puddle,
the crackling leaf, the sand, the snow,
the road less traveled, the mile
in another one's shoes

and we march back out of Poetry Town
towards thanks-giving
leaving the gate on the latch
for any passerby who needs
to come into the house of our poem.

draft HM 2017

The round-up today is with Jane the Rain City Librarian.  Put on your poetry boots and march on over for a visit to Poetry Town!