Friday, December 8, 2017

SPARK 35: yellows

Wedged in among the efforts of my December PoPerDayMo, I participated in SPARK once again.  If you're not familiar with this event, here's a brief description:  Amy Souza matches artists and writers who register into pairs.  Each sends the other an "inspiration piece" to work from.  Each has 10 days to create a "response piece."  All are shared on the SPARK website.

I now have explicit permission to share the painting I received from Brigitte Nowers from Weston-super-Mare in England, and I had a good time wallowing in her forms and colors!  Here's the poem it inspired.  By chance it does connect to our host's lemony prompt...

In return I sent Brigitte an old poem that has already had three moments so far: its origin in 1986 and then a review when I used it with 8th graders after a New York trip in 2012, followed by a companion poem from 2015 after a middle-aged trip to the city with my family.  Brigitte was inspire thusly, and WOW.

The round-up today is with Lisa at her Tumblr, Steps and Staircases. 
Step on over and climb up to the challenge of Poetry Fridaying in a new space!

Monday, December 4, 2017

the art of losing: MyPoPerDayMo 6

Let's lighten things up a little here...
and at this point I think I will move my therapy-through-poetry to a slightly more private place.  Please visit if you want to continue wallowing in grief with me.

Dec. 4
Spelling Bee, 1975

My worst year ever, holed up in the central library hoping for a safe place in the new "open school."
The one thing I knew would go well was the spelling bee, held in one of the "classrooms" of
"Delta House."  (Of course all my friends from 5th grade were in Alpha House.)
I easily won the school competition, nonstop reader with a photographic
memory for orthography, and moved on to the city level contest.
So excited: my forte, my moment, my time to shine past
buck teeth & lank hair. The word was POTABLE, and
even if I had asked for the meaning I would have
spelled it PODIBLE, because what kind of a
word is POTABLE? and clearly the
announcer had pronounced
it with the laziness of yer
typical American.
was the word
they used.

was the heat
I felt.

draft HM 12.17

Yep, that really lightened things up.

Sunday, December 3, 2017

the art of losing: MyPoPerDayMo 5

Dec. 3
L.A.S.  1982-1991

Before you were my bridesmaid, my housemate, my fratority sister, my best friend (was I ever yours?), we stood freshman year in line for a romantic comedy and you informed me that 
at 18 we weren't supposed to be falling in love with  our future husbands; we were 
supposed to be practicing that.  I didn’t know; despite ample evidence, I still
thought I was supposed to marry the first guy I fell in love with. I was always 
a bit unsubtle, a black-and-white kind of thinker, really enjoyed that high-
contrast Keith Haring look of the 80’s.   Later, when you fell in love
with someone I didn’t approve of, you called me judgmental and
I deserved it. I hadn’t yet been crushed into compassion by
my own wrong marriage, hadn’t yet learned that what
happened to my parents freshman year was wildly
unlikely, that love would take me to a place that I
thought was imaginary, like the New York City
of Claudia and Harriet, which was real daily     
childhood for you, my friend.  So love took
me (practice losing farther, losing faster);
I left you and now when I look back
you are still wearing that unwise
black-&-white polka-dot dress,
because I could not see what
suited anyone but me,
and really not even
myself, either.

I'd like
to tell you
I was wrong
about the dress,
and about so much else. 

draft (c) HM 12.17

Saturday, December 2, 2017

the art of losing: MyPoPerDayMo 4

Dec. 2

Planetary Pajamas, 2008-2018?

anticipation of loss.  the beginning of the end.   lightweight long-sleeved long-legged 
soft periwinkle planetary pajamas leaving me slowly, having come unexpectedly, 
bought for someone else for more money than I would spend on myself. 
are you not wearing these? can I have them then?  thinning, sagging, 
drawstring replaced with knotted elastic, seams coming loose--
seems like sleeping is hard work all night six months
a year for nine years, dreaming alongside every
new hi-tech brainwave in Jetson-print jersey,
fading, wearing thinner and thinner,
hems dragging. how long can
they withstand the labor
of my space-age
still I
keep on 
wearing them, with grieving

draft (c) HM 12.17

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

the art of losing: MyPoPerDayMo

One Art | Elizabeth Bishop

The art of losing isn’t hard to master;
so many things seem filled with the intent
to be lost that their loss is no disaster.

Lose something every day. Accept the fluster
of lost door keys, the hour badly spent.
The art of losing isn’t hard to master.

Then practice losing farther, losing faster:
places, and names, and where it was you meant
to travel. None of these will bring disaster.

I lost my mother’s watch. And look! my last, or
next-to-last, of three loved houses went.
The art of losing isn’t hard to master.

I lost two cities, lovely ones. And, vaster,
some realms I owned, two rivers, a continent.
I miss them, but it wasn’t a disaster.

—Even losing you (the joking voice, a gesture
I love) I shan’t have lied. It’s evident
the art of losing’s not too hard to master
though it may look like (Write it!) like disaster.


For good reason this is one of the poems we know best, often used as a model for the villanelle form, but this month I set it as the backdrop of MyPoPerDay project.  I'm going to practice being a loser this month and write (not in villanelles!) about losses small and large. It's not an area of mastery for me.

Nov. 29
That White Jacket, 1984-1987
definitely not me

Not until we were in the airport already--warm day, air conditioning--
did I realize I had left the essential layer
for cool East German summers
draped over the exercise bike
in my bedroom:
I lost it for real
in the NYC subway.
Somehow that hurt less.
At least maybe someone was using it.

Nov. 30
"Engagement" Bracelet, c. 1994-2014

I miss the heavy, quiet clank of your hollow links, your easy toggle
on and off, the way your sterling silver polished itself
against my wrist, the way you steadfastly balanced
the weight, on my other arm, of any watch
in my parade of big plastic Swatches.
I miss your daily reminder of our
not the same at all
weighty commitment to love.
I took you off to swim
with the family
and you dis-
in the

I am
not over
you; I don't
feel like myself
without you; no number
of trendy silver bangles can begin to
replace you. Who cries
over an old
I do.

Dec. 1
Uterus, 1964-2002

We had only just gotten to know each other, really.  Companionably
silent for years, you came into your own, did what you were
designed to do and did it well.  Then complications
arose, and I'm sorry that the rest of me wasn't
up to the task, sorry that you took the
blame on that night of blood
not my uterus, either
and panic.

It was 
strange to
wake up and
find you gone.
We had unfinished 
business,  a contract 
to dissolve, 
a farewell 
to feel. 

drafts (c) HM 12.17

The round-up on this first day of December is at A Year of Reading with Mary Lee, who is healing herself and the world with daily haiku this month.

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!

Friday, November 10, 2017

all the shades of pride

We're pretty stubborn

 All hail the Democrats of Virginia and New Jersey!

Carl Sandburg has a sage comment that seems apropos to the moment, and which also includes boots--which regular readers may remember hold a special charm for me.  I especially must heed Granddad Carl's advice, as must Republicans.

Primer Lesson | Carl Sandburg  1922

Look out how you use proud words.
When you let proud words go, it is
        not easy to call them back.
They wear long boots, hard boots; they
        walk off proud; they can't hear you
Look out how you use proud words.

The round-up today is with Jama at Jama's Alphabet Soup, always a delicious dive into culiterary treats.  Yes, I just made that word up, and I think Carl will enjoy today's offering of coffee and donuts.

I'm attending next week!  Are you?  Let's get together!

Friday, October 27, 2017


click to enlarge for a laugh

 Things feel a little dis-integrated in the world right now; perhaps this has always been true, but you know how sometimes you feel unhinged from your usual stance, kind of off-the-hook and floating? This poem is part of a collection I've been working on now and then for almost 20 years.  It considers perspective, and maybe patience.


Every now and then you see a thing—
what is that?—
that you can’t take in,
that you can’t read right.
You look and look, but you don’t see
what you’re looking at.

And then all at once
the parts of it are moving,
moving in small ways
into new places,

as if a hand were 
moving those parts around,
as if a hand were putting you 
in the right place to see.

And then all at once
you can see it, you find that
a new thing has come together
with all its parts in the right places,
and you have to ask
why you couldn’t see it before.

(C) HM c.2005

The round-up today is with Brenda at Friendly Fairy Tales.  I hope a hand puts you in the right place to see...