Friday, January 27, 2017

wielding words

This week...

I did not write a poem
(my haiku hasn't healed)
Instead I wrote a letter
I marched onto the field

I gathered fellow marchers
in my neighborhood and school
We the people write together
to defend the moral rule

My action is my poem
It doesn't feel strong
but joined with all your poems 
it will #resist wrong 

(c) HM 2017

In keeping with the message, this is a pretty terrible poem, but the most I can muster this morning.  Power to--and from--the people.   Thanks for giving energy to my action, fellow poets.

Friday, January 20, 2017

inaugural 3LW


[Warning:  Today it's all about me.  If you can't stand any more narcissism, skip this post, although I hope that I'm a little more reflective than You-Know-Who.]

There's a reason I feel permanently uncomfortable at the moment.  It lives right there in that sentence, in the pull between "permanently" and "at the moment."  Since November 9, I have been trying to do something unnatural to me, which is to live equally attentively to This Moment Right Here and to The Looming, Broken Future of Uncertainty.

As a poet, I specialize in This Moment Right Here--it's part of what makes me good with the youngest children.  I can easily shut out the Big Picture and focus on the minute details of the concrete environment.  At the same time, I can see the Big Picture (sometimes called "the curriculum"), the Exciting, Dependable Future, and I happily reach out to control it through planning--which is part of what makes me a good teacher. 

Now, we all know intellectually that the future is actually not very dependable, but look at the decades in which I have lived: I was too little to be aware of the zeitgeist of the 60's, too young to do more than gather information about the world of the 70's; too absorbed in the music of my fresh new adult life to fully respond to the troughs and peaks of the 80's; and perhaps forgivably complacent about the positive direction of the 90's.  With the arrival of children and the turn of the century, my focus turned resolutely to the small daily monuments of parenting and poetry, even as towers fell and bubbles burst. All my life, it has been thoroughly comfortable for me to look out at the Big Picture and see possibility, positivity, the "arc of the moral universe...bending toward justice," rainbows, rhyme and rhythm.

But this decade, this one with its high hopes (deep gratitude to all the Obamas) and harsh realities (the demise of the charter school project, the necessity to tolerate overlapping full-time commitments--is my privilege showing? I'm mortified) has already proved taxing to my optimism.  Now, as I prepare to send my first-born out into a future governed by an ignorant megalomaniac surrounded by venal underlings--a giant baby with his fists full of toys--my modus operandi is failing.

On the one hand, I can still go in to school and get down on the floor with 7-year-olds to hear their personal sharing:  "Today I'm sad and a little worried because my dog Salty had to go back to the vet.  She had surgery and now she has an infection."  "I feel excited today because after school I'm going to the movie theater with my cousin."  The here-and-now of long vowel patterns and two-digit addition happens within the context of the outside world past, present and future--how did the Wampanoags survive in winter?  what are the threats to the coral reef?  should President Obama be on a coin?--but they're manageably small. And of course I can get down on the floor with my own children--yes, you can have the car to go bake cookies with your friends today; look at you getting your 3rd black stripe at tae kwon do; what should we have on our Tuesday pasta?"

But on the other hand, my certainty about the Exciting, Dependable Future has evaporated.  It looks a lot more Looming and Broken right now (probably always was for most people of the world, but I didn't have perspective to see that) and thanks to my dependable but unpredictable hormonal fluctuations, my reactions are all over the place in any given week.  This is my permanent discomfort: sometimes tolerable, not even noticeable in the middle of writing poetry with 2nd graders or cooking that weekly pasta, and sometimes more of an anguish, such as today when I feel completely powerless to stop what looks like a truly disastrous moment for our country--not the greatest country on earth, but the one with the greatest, most deliberate founding ideals.

So, my Three Little Words, because one doesn't seem to be enough this year, expressed with the deliberation of periods:

READY.     Be prepared, Heidi, because the world is not as you thought it was, is not as it's always
                   been, and your responses are sometimes scarily intensely NOT optimistic ("those we love
                    and those we do not love" -- shout out to my minister).
STEADY.   Take a breath, keep perspective; remember it's always been more of a roller coaster than 
                    you realized; there are arcs and waves and lurches in the march of history; you serve the 
                    world better if you position your own oxygen mask first.
GO.            Resist despair and paralysis, keep on keeping on; act, speak, model, love in all the small 
                   ways, while keeping an eye on your opportunities in the Big Picture, even when your 
                   influence feels weak.  And less philosophically, or perhaps entirely at the heart of 
                   wisdom: moving your body makes a difference.  Dance.   Ready Steady Go.

Check out this interesting initiative...

There's a poem percolating here but I won't have time to work on it today...preparing for a visit from Carol-Ann Hoyte and friends, staying with us tonight and marching in DC with us tomorrow!

Round-up today with Violet Nesdoly, another Canadian participating in our American fit of democracy.  March along with us!

Friday, January 13, 2017

under the sea

In 2nd grade we have been working on a group of related projects with "a special place" at the center.  The class voted to study coral reefs way back in November, and in addition to writing information brochures about this ecosystem, we are now writing a version of Stone Soup set on a coral reef ("Seashell Soup") and we'll make a display for Multicultural/International Night about a country where the people's culture depends on the their reef.

After all the research, I like to offer an opportunity to express understandings in another form--poetry.  As I Tweeted last Friday, part of our inspiration came from Kate Coombs's book Water Sings Blue, and you'll see echoes of her "Coral," "Shark" (what a poem!) and "Nudibranch."  And it must be said that some students did not know the factual information as well as they felt the wonder of the reef--a helpful check-up!

So here are the Diamond Miners' coral reef poems, their first "assigned" poetry writing of the year, after months of steeping in excellent models.  As always, I consider it a success when the great majority of kids blast off on their own, knowing that they are the boss of their poem, its concept, its language, its mood.  This year my young writers needed most support in bossing their poems' form--most started at the left margin and wrote straight across their chosen paper, so our revision conferences focused on arrangement.


by Angel O.

I’m a new world, maybe a galaxy
I’m beautiful like stars
I’m like a new world to millions
I was born to shine
    “I want to meet you.”
        by Ollie S-F.

People call me pretty.
Thank you for the compliment.
I don’t like that much attention.
I don’t move from this spot
for my whole life.
My species is endangered
but you can help.
My name is Coral.
What is yours?

Coral Reef
     by Erick P. F. 

The polyp is big
the polyp is long
the polyp is bleaching
all day long

by Kayla B.

I am round
I have no end
I just want
to be your friend
to the end


                    Colorful Coral Reef Hotels
                            by Angelina H.

    Purple,                   green,
               orange,                       blue,
yellow,     red,        magenta  too
       Hold your breath until you fall
We’re like a town of underwater colorful hotels
  or even a world
Hold your breath until                        you see like a
       you rise                                            galaxy
We are corals, we are hotels, we are a world of colorful hotels

                      by James A.

              A squid is fast
but always last.      A squid is
like a tube that shoots smoke.
A squid is fast and past other
sea animals.  It is big    it is red   it is like
a big coral reef.  Some day
 it will be bright, gold, happy, and
an escaper.  If a squid was in
jail it would just flush down
the toilet, down down down into the blue
big wavy ocean and get fast again!!!!
Are you like a squid?

Who am I?
by Jacob L-M.

I am squishy
and wet
I have no shell
I live under water
who am I? ……

               a sea slug!

Sea Cucumber
by Kelly M.

organic orange
sea cucumber
I’m rough
I don’t move
I suck up the sand with my mouth
like a vacuum

The Coral Friends
by Roselyn H.

we are busy   we
are growing   we
don’t care what
you are doing    we are
growing and our friends
are too   when we

grow up we will play too.

Coral Shark    
     by Andy M.

I swim fast and slow...
I hide in the shadows...
waiting to attack!

Clown Fish
by Nathan Z.

A clown fish is a wish
When you catch
it, it shakes you
Such a glory
such a fish
When you smell it
it smells deelish
remember when
you caught that

     Sea Slug
        by Watal F.

I am a sea slug
   that is blue
that has no shell
I live in a cave
      in the

Sea Turtle
      by Joey F.

I am
a sea turtle with a shell
I swim calmly
with others
and what I see
is bright colors
and we are
different shapes
like different

The Coral Flower
    by Angela S.

a bright flower
that shines
across the water

to catch the sunlight

Sea Cucumber
      by Madelinne A.

keeps sand clean
and it is orange
and oval
wet and squishy
smooth and bumpy
skin has circles

The Reef
by Joseph S.

He lived in a shell,
breaking out to swim.
Deep-down ocean water blue.
Salty sun light.
Star-coral loved to swim in
the reef with his colorful

Don't you feel all warm and watery now?  The Round-Up today is hosted by Keri at Keri Recommends--drift on over to the colorful reef of posts!

Friday, January 6, 2017


farewell, tree
farewell, lights
farewell, candles
farewell, bright
windows of my darkened house.

snow this morning would have been
a way to let new brightness in,
but not to be--there's only frost,
and no delay.  all is lost.
today I start to say goodbye
to years of certain going high,
to neighbors I could trust to be,
however different, just like me.
this morning optimism fails
and easy hope goes off the rails.
I sign, I share, I think of writing,
I think of fires I should be lighting--
the wall is tall.
I don't feel Tillie.
my soul is small
and willy nilly
looking for a place to hide
from come what may.
I can't decide.

fair weather friend is what I am.

farewell, sir. farewell, ma'am.
you led with grace. you led with art.
hello, winter of my heart.

(c) HM 2017

Saturday Morning Addenda:
Thank you, friends, for your compassionate responses.  Friday morning improved with the addition of some optimistic-sounding music played loud in my empty classroom, followed by Poetry Friday (when Angel's coral reef poem began with "its a whole new world it looks like galaxys" all came right with the future).  I also have reason to believe that these moments of despair and depression mean I am staying "woke."

Here are a couple of articles that speak to what I'm feeling (and if the state of your own soul is fragile, consider waiting to read until you're feeling stronger).
A Society Too Complex for Its People
We Are All Stepping Into a Broken Future

Sunday, January 1, 2017

haiku finale: fondue in the fog

new year cheese fondue
look how many different forks fit
into the melting pot

deep fog all day
can't see the end of the street
much less the year