Friday, December 31, 2021

with bells on

Santorini -photo by Yuri Lev

Greetings to all who land here as we ring out the old year and ring in the new.  The Seven+One Poetry Sisters aka Poetry Pals have invited us to feature bells today.  In the spirit of collabellation, here's my blitz:



if a clod be washed away by the sea


coral bells

coral reef

reef or island

reef or atoll

toll the bells

toll the road

road to ruin

road to nowhere

nowhere else

nowhere man

man no island

woman be

be the bell

be the ring

ring me up

ring a rosie

rosy glasses

rosy future

futures stocks

future shock

shocking data

shocking news

Alexander Graham Bell

calling on the Batphone

phone me up

phone it in

in a minute

just a second

second thoughts

second chances

chance encounter

chance of rain

rain of ashes

rain of fire

fire alarm

fire fall

all fall down

all wrung out

out of luck

just in time

time's a-wastin'

time’s a ship

a sinking ship

a sinking feeling

a feel for it

it takes a toll

atoll an island

rings it tolls



draft ©HM 2021

Many will notice that I'm leaning heavily on John Donne here, his famous you-can-call-it-a-sonnet-but-really-I-wrote-it-just-the-way-I-wanted "No man is an island." Like John, I had a hard time following the rules of the blitz this time and finally I've just had to give in and ring this bell my own way. Thanks to the sisters, among them Tanita Davis, for the opening the challenge.

In other news, Tanita was my Winter Poem Swap partner, and in the spirit of pacing myself and making that holiday feeling last as long as possible, I'll be posting all about the lovely gifts she sent next time, when also the Inklings will be posting our first challenge of *gulp* 2022. I'm glad to leave 2021 behind, yes, but also not expecting too much better of 2022.  

Apparently that's a way to go, according to this deeply radical and honest blessing that passed to me on Facebook, by Nadia Bolz-Weber:

A blessing for the new year:

As you enter this new year, as you pack away the Christmas decorations and get out your stretchy pants

as you face the onslaught of false promises offered you through new disciplines and elimination diets

as you grasp for control of yourself and your life and this chaotic world

May you remember that there is no resolution that, if kept, will make you more worthy of love.

There is no resolution that, if kept, will make life less uncertain and allow you to control a pandemic and your children and the way other people act.  

So this year,

May you just skip the part where you resolve to be better do better and look better this time.

May you give yourself the gift of really, really low expectations.

May you expect so little of yourself that you can be super proud of the smallest of accomplishments.

May you expect so little of the people in your life that you actually notice and cherish every small lovely thing about them.

May you expect so little of the supply chain and the service industry that you notice more of what you do get and less of what you don't and then just tip really well anyhow.

May you expect to get so little out of 2022 that you can celebrate every single thing it offers you, however small.

Because you deserve joy and not disappointment

So, I wish you a Happy as possible New Year.

As do I, and especially to our host today, Carol at Carol's Corner, who is gamely rounding us up with the antidote, which is always poetry, to the sudden fiery devastation of very nearby territory in Boulder, CO.  May you all feel just a little bit safer by being here.

Friday, December 17, 2021

climate friday: mastering methane

Greetings, Poetry Friday friends! It's the 3rd Friday of the month, when I try to focus my post on important issues of climate rescue.  We all have our own meaningful and motivating causes, and when I found myself overwhelmed by the many, many needs and crises in the world, I picked ONE that feels foundational to me.  

Yes, racism and economic justice are towering challenges, but by working towards preserving the planet, I believe I'm also addressing those, because preserving the planet is saving the homes of its people, especially those who live where climate warming is most pronounced and dangerous.  The New York Times has an extensive interactive piece called POSTCARDS FROM A WORLD ON FIRE, if that tornado system here in middle America seems like a fluke. Spoiler alert: it ain't.

So let's talk about methane.  From the EPA: 

Methane is the second most abundant anthropogenic GHG after carbon dioxide (CO2), accounting for about 20 percent of global emissions. Methane is more than 25 times as potent as carbon dioxide at trapping heat in the atmosphere. Over the last two centuries, methane concentrations in the atmosphere have more than doubled, largely due to human-related activities. Because methane is both a powerful greenhouse gas and short-lived compared to carbon dioxide, achieving significant reductions would have a rapid and significant effect on atmospheric warming potential.

In other words, making the effort to reduce methane emissions is extra powerful, because we could take out a much more damaging greenhouse gas effect within the 12 years it would otherwise last. 

LOTS of that methane comes from food waste that is dumped into landfills where it rots anaerobically,  producing methane.  Here's a handy graphic to show how one state's overall waste is more than 50% organic matter that could be composted aerobically instead of dumped.

This jibes with what I learned in a Zoom call yesterday with 5 high school students who have received a WWF grant to initiate food composting in my district's schools.  In an average school, food and other organic, compostable waste equals 50% of our overall trash, but it goes straight to our county landfills or incinerators.  The grant program would provide our school with tools to collect food waste from the cafeteria and have it picked up and composted by a commercial composting contractor, reducing school methane contributions by close to 100%.  I'm so excited about this possibility I can hardly stand it!  After all, I watch about 75% of 2 PreK lunches per day go straight into our trash can.

Composting all those limp french fries, nuggets, banana peels and half-eaten pears (because if it's not an apple many kids won't eat it) means those hundreds of pounds of school food waste per week is returned to arable soil, not gassed into the atmosphere.  Here's a vid from MIT that shows why this is an easy solution to our dumbest problem.

And now, because this IS a poetry blog, I give you a poem from my collection PUMPKIN BUTTERFLY (Wordsong 2009). 

Folks, I fear that's a little hard to read (click it to get a better view), but I don't have time this morning to make it better!  Enjoy digging into the rich organic matter of Poetry Friday, ringingly hosted for us this week by Jone at her blog.  Wishing you all a merry and bright Solstice before we meet again next week!


Friday, December 10, 2021

the tree in me

last Dec. 21; my grown-up son
Greetings, Poetry Friday folk!  If you are new,  go here to learn more about this weekly poetry smorgasbord, and welcome.  Poetry Friday originated in 2006 in an online children's literature bloggers' location called The Kidlitosphere, and how surprised am I to find that Susan Thomsen of Chicken Spaghetti is not "new" to Poetry Friday as I've been believing, but a returned early adopter who wrote about it for the Poetry Foundation!

I mention this because I think it might be fair to say that Poetry Friday, since I've known it (my first intentional Poetry Friday post was on 3/27/09) has gradually admitted more and more poetry posts of original work for adults and focused less often on others' published work for kids.  Certainly as my own children have grown up my writing has become more and more adult, a fact which I didn't embrace until around 2018.  

Now, as a challenge to myself this December, I'm deliberately writing for a young audience, and a series of poems related to the season (both natural and festive) is developing. Yesterday I wrote about watering the tree (a Yule tree in our house rather than a Christmas tree; if you're curious ask me about our family's 12 Days of Yuletide), which reminded me to share another's published work for kids!

I read about 200 submissions for the NCTE Poetry Notables list this year, and one of our standouts was THE TREE IN ME by author-illustrator Corinna Luyken. As it happens I had an opportunity to provide a reading of this book for a service at my UU congregation, which I presented as a member of our Earth Ministry to go with my minister's theme of "Old Growth."  Here's what I was working with when I made a selection to present; as you can see poetry and literature are holy texts in our denomination!

Old Growth

Walt Whitman mused that it is the trees which “know the amplitude of time.”  At the end of this month when our congregations reflect on what it means to hold history, we’ll follow the old growth trees into deeper time than our own short lives, paying homage to what Ursula K. Le Guin has called the “tall fraternal fire of life as strong now as in the seedling two centuries ago.” 


And here's what I sent for our service that is currently both "limited in-person" and streamed on YouTube. I recorded it early on the morning before Thanksgiving, not yet washed or dressed, so I went for an "invisible" format that made quite a few people comment on the way I used my hands. Early childhood folks out there will recognize that this is just regular PreK technique! 

                       There was something funny with the sound on my computer, sadly, but the amazing AV folks at church made it better for the recorded service.

  So there you have it:  a classic Kidlitosphere Poetry Friday post to brighten and warm this season of cold and dark.  The round-up today is with Cathy at Merely Day by Day, where--serendipitously--she honors this tradition of Poetry Friday in the Kidlitosphere!

Friday, December 3, 2021

taking on a new form - inklings challenge

Greetings, Poetry Friday people.  Some other day when I have more energy I'll share my essay on how no early years teacher (and probably no teacher, period) should ever be expected to work alone. I've gotten used to having a paraeducator here in PreK, and when she was away for 3 days this week I got all flustered and anxious and, although I pulled it off, deeply exhausted.  (There was no sub, of course, although folks pitched in where they could.)  How did I teach K, 1, 2 all those years in all those places with the barest minimum of support from an extra pair of hands, an extra caring heart?

All of this is by way of pardoning--nay, accepting--that my address of our dear friend Molly's INKLINGS challenge is a touch less than magical.

Here was her assignment: 


The Magic 9 sounded good and somehow seasonal, and not too complicated: wide open except for the line count and the rhyme scheme, a play on the word abracadabra: abacadaba. I felt the pressure, but I played.



May my words magically bring into being the next poem in my December series (short poems for children, for a change)--or else a full-time assistant for every K-2 teacher.

Our host today is Michelle Kogan at her artful blog, where you can find gorgeous watercolors and good news as well as poetry for the holidaze.  Wishing a happy and safe Hanukkah to all our friends who are mid-menorah this week!

Friday, November 26, 2021

ode to the small things of autumn

Greetings, Poetry Friday folk, and if you are Emeka Barclay, you are especially welcome! Emeka's one of the many new and interesting poetry people that I met online at the #NCTE21 National Convention last weekend, and I do hope some of them will join us here on Poetry Fridays to bring us new, diverse voices in the children's poetry community.

I attended the virtual NCTE this year largely because of my participation on the NCTE Committee for Excellence in Poetry for Children.  I don't think I would have done another virtual convention again otherwise.  I found it REALLY hard to commit and be present in the way you can do intensely where you're there in person, with the group energy carrying you along.  Still, I'm glad for what sessions I did attend, and the one our committee did was presenting our list of Notable Poetry Books for Children.  Please do check it out by clicking the link below!

During the same event, NCTE unveiled its 2022 list of Notable Poetry Books and Verse Novels, selected by the NCTE Award for Excellence in Children’s Poetry Committee. The list can be downloaded here.

“We are the only committee in the country that focuses on selecting notable books of poetry and verse novels for children, ages three to thirteen. We are proud of the wide range of themes in this year’s notable poetry books, including new anthologies, advocacy, social and emotional well-being, history, nature, social justice, and science. Our verse novel selections include themes of fitting in, dystopian adventure, refugees, coming of age, and language extinction,” said Ted Kesler, chair of the NCTE Children’s Poetry Awards Committee.

And of course we celebrated the 2021 Awardee for Excellence in Poetry for Children, JANET WONG! Read more here and here.

I had also promised to do my monthly Climate Friday post on the results of  COP26 last week, but I don't know what I was thinking...especially since now my school district schedules parent conferences on the Monday and Tuesday of Thanksgiving Week!  For the moment I'll just link to this explainer of the main takeways.  I hope it gives both hope and a reality check. 

Now for the poetry!  This month the Seven Poetry Sisters invited us all to play along with their "Ode to Autumn"  challenge. Two weeks ago I was kind of mad at autumn and I posted this no/de. This one, however, I bashed out yesterday morning once the stuffing was made and the turkey in the oven (and about a hundred other things done, in concert with the rest of the family).


thanks & gratitude

too many mornings we wake to 

how did I get here?


no matter how hard I try

knowing that the day will be

strained, slippery, sloppy

& we

get up anyway.  who are we to

resist the riot of minor miracles (this pecan)


tiny blessings (this parsley) orbiting us like

iridescent insects, mithering us with

their background buzz?  if they bite

us, if they sting, it’s just to

demand our attention, to denounce our

ennui.  get up.  get up & bare your skin.

draft ©HM 2021


Did you notice it's an acrostic? I definitely used to think that falling back on an acrostic was a cheater-pants 2nd-grader move, but no more:  it really does always lead to something real for me.  Well, it feels real to me, and I hope to you too! I also can't help but link to a lot of songs that bubbled up as I was writing.

Our host today is our dear Ruth at There Is No Such Thing As a Godforsaken Town. We are sending all our love, compassion and hope to Haiti and Ruth is sending us back months and years worth of gratitude, which is a feat on her part.  I am #grateful for her and all of you here in the Poetry Friday community!


Friday, November 12, 2021

a no/de to autumn

Greetings, Poetry Friday friends and strangers--all are welcome to partake of the weekly party!  

It has been 6 days since the clocks fell back and, as every year, I feel like they all fell on me. I can still ride my bike* to school leaving at 7:30, but I have to scoot outta there by 4:15 to get home comfortably before it gets too gloamy, and today is the first day I have not awakened substantially before my alarm at 5am.  I have some hope that I will stay awake tonight past 8pm!

I am a Summer in every way, shape and form.  I'm like those trees that have strategies to protect their seeds through fire regimes, which you can read about here:  I REQUIRE the blazing heat and sun of summer to make it through the winter, when I go dormant.  There have been years (notably the one we spent in France) where I didn't get enough summer, which made the winter very bleak indeed.  And, as I type this, I am looking directly into the light of a full-spectrum lamp.

So here's a no/de to autumn, inspired by the ode which the Seven Poetry Sisters are working on for later in November.  I'll try, really I will, but I dunno--some days the gorgeous leaves just feel like an insultingly meager compensation for the loss of a loved one. In fact, this poem comes from a series I wrote back in 2017-18 called The Art of Losing. My form is an invented one that maybe I'll call the diminuendo.


Thanks to Matt at Radio, Rhythm & Rhyme for rounding us up this week with a wash of ocean poems from FRIENDS AND ANEMONES.  I hope y'all who love fall are getting a good dose of what you need--sweaters? pumpkin spice? candles?--and I'll see you around the Kidlitosphere.


 (the song is better than the videography)

 *Until next week, when I'll review the news from COP26 for Climate Poetry Friday, here's my wonder of an electric (battery-assist) bike I call HummingBee, which allows my middle-aged bod to delight in cycling to school 2-4 days a week as though I were 11 again.  Please ask me if you have questions about e-bikes!

Here is HummingBee all kitted out for the summer bike adventure. We travel much lighter on the way to school!

Thursday, November 4, 2021

let's get physicsal

Greetings, Poetry Friday People!  All are welcome at this table, even those like me who believed (may still believe) that they are not math people. 

But if poets and scientists are kindred spirits, then so are poets and mathematicians, for is not math at the heart of nature and science, and is not math just another language for language lovers to embrace?

Our INKLINGS challenge for the first Friday of November is set by Linda Mitchell, who as a librarian loves 512 and 539 as much as she loves 811 (right, Linda?): "For November, write a poem that includes the idea of percentage/ percent. Percentages are all around us in recipes, prices, assessments, statistics. Include the idea of percentage in your poem in some way."

Well, alrighty then.  Roll with it, folks!


Superposed PercentAge

with reference to theoretical physics, Mary Oliver and Schrodinger’s Cat

The commencement speaker told my daughter she’d

easily live to 100 and beyond, "maybe on Mars!” he said,

with a note of thrill in his quantum entrepreneur’s voice.  

My chance of living to 100 is, according to the internet 

calculator, 0%.  At 57, I am instead likely to make it 92% 

of the creaky, forgetful way to my own personal century.

Doing the math, I find that these ≈57 years I have so far lived

are 0.619 of my predicted total out of 100, or about 62%,  

which despite counting as an F on most grade scales feels

satisfactory to me. Yet according to the RealAge assessment  

on my health insurance site, I am not only 57 but also exist

in a quantum state of 51.4 due to clean living and privilege. 

Like everything, I’ll die at last, and too soon--unless I spend

that 5.6 years simultaneously, like that cat, alive and dead.

Now I’ll tell you what it is I plan to do with the remaining

35 years or 38 percent of my 100% wild and precious life:








this box.


draft HM 2021


 This one is wiiiiiide open, so it will be fun to see what others have come up with.  Check out their creations!

-Catherine at Reading to the Core
-Linda at A Word Edgewise  -Margaret at Reflections on the Teche

Mary Lee is also our host today, so wave on over in the manner of quantum particles, as if going in two directions at the same time, and I'll hope to see you there!

Friday, October 29, 2021

word; play; travel

Hola Halloween! and greetings to you Poetry Friday haunters! It's a big Friday for those of us in full-time classrooms or schools, so my participation in the Poetry Pals' monthly challenge will be InstaDraft-flavored and will begin with this paragraph snagged from Mary Lee's very organized blog.  Thanks, ML!

"The Poetry Sisters’ challenge for this month was to write Word Play poems, introduced to the Poetry Friday community in 2015 by Nikki Grimes as one of Michelle H. Barnes’ (Today’s Little Ditty) Ditty of the Month challenges. Laura Purdie Salas showed how the form might work in a classroom."

The essence is to explore a word "from top to bottom, and inside out, considering every aspect," which for me means not just exploring the thing the word names but the word itself: sound, texture, appearance on the page, literal and figurative meanings, related words.

My spouse, my son, my daughter have all been having adventures this fall: a trip to visit family in England after two full years apart; a gap semester in Costa Rica, a move to Brooklyn.  I've been sat right here at home except for that bike trek through New Jersey, and I'm craving TRAVEL.

Travel is a raveling word,
a labor of undoing. Try.
Take the loose end of your
tightly woven life and tug:
untangle, untie, untwist the
intricate knits, slip your stitches.

Cast off, cast away, fray.

Leap, frogging your way

unwound across mossed terrain

and tributary, untroubled

by the travail it takes. Needle

points to diamond and pearl.

It's hard to gauge the journey
from here. Adjust tension.
Reverse. The farther you go 
the deeper the unveiling.
Travel is an unraveling word.
InstaDraftTM ©HM 2021

Thanks to our host this week, Linda at TeacherDance. My costume will be a freshly knitted sweater dress and stockinettes. See you there!

[Disclaimer: I am not a knitter. I am, however, an interknetter.]

Friday, October 22, 2021

the holy grail of poetry friday x climate action


Greetings, Poetry Friday folk!  It's Climate Action Friday @my juicy little universe today, and I will spare you the rehearsal of bad news, since I'm sure you know perfectly well what we're up against, and too much rehashing of doom is bad for our psyches.  Instead I'll share 3 hunks of good news and then reveal that Holy Grail I mentioned.

1) It is itself good news that most of us can no longer get through a day without being reminded of the monumental existential challenge we are facing.  We can't begin to address it as a species unless we're aware of it, and by golly, whether through personal experience or increased media coverage, WE ARE AWARE.  Here's a fascinating podcast episode that tracks the role of your friendly local TV weathercaster in educating Americans about climate change.

2) Since 1995, leaders from around the world have met annually to hash out how to collectively tackle climate change. This fall marks the 26th gathering of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework on Climate Change. Or because that’s a mouthful, COP26 for short. Get up to speed on this chance for the world's nations to take real action here, and then read the Conference Declaration of MockCOP26, a virtual youth conference held in December 2020.

From: Mock COP26 Delegates
To: The Heads of State of all countries, Secretary General of the UN
Re: Our treaty for urgent climate action this side of COP26

Dear Leaders,

We are writing to inform you that we, the young people of 140 countries, ran our own inclusive online climate conference, Mock COP26, which we concluded today. In light of the Covid-19 pandemic, many of you presumably thought it was a lesser priority to take climate action through the UNFCCC COP this year, and hence the UN postponed it. We remind you that we are still in a climate emergency as well as an ecological crisis and every moment of inaction makes things worse for our generation. We felt strongly that you should not further delay action, so we decided to run our own youth-led COP this year. We are tired of empty climate promises and are purely motivated by a desire to see real action.

With just three months of planning, we delivered a full two-week global conference, from 19 November to 01 December 2020, comprising 330 delegates, ages 11 to 30, representing 140 countries. We set out to improve upon the structures of the real COP to reflect the mandate of young people to build inclusive, equitable and fair systems. We made the following improvements...


3) Faith leaders around the country and the world are gathering together to join the call for education and action on climate change. From the Pope to GreenFaith to Interfaith Power & Light, people of all faiths are recognizing that they have a particular responsibility to model stewardship of this planet's resources for the love of all people. You can join a UN/UUA webinar relating to COP26 at this link.

Part 2: "Preparing for the COP: Your Actions and the UN Climate Summit"  Thursday, October 28, 2021, 7:00 PM - 9:00 PM EDT

Join for this engaging climate action session in the style of Model UN. Continuing to examine the impact of the recent report from the IPCC, we'll explore more about countries' commitments and priorities for climate action, how Unitarian Universalist can plug in, and what to watch out for during COP26.

 And now...introducing the Holy Grail of Poetry Friday X Climate Action!!!

This new podcast, which began in September and is produced by Grace Lynch, describes itself this way: 

"As She Rises is a new podcast that connects the power to poetry with the work of local activists to create an intimate portrait of climate change. We're taking you all around the United States and regional poets will give us a snapshot of the changes they've witnessed in their community and we'll hear from those out on the front lines of preserving their homes."

And as the title implies the focus is on the impacts of climate change on women. See more on that here. Each episode has notes offering you opportunities to take action--always click on SEE MORE at the bottom of the show notes! Here's a poem from one of the poets featured in the podcast so far, Joan Naviyuk Kane.


This poem is also part of The Poetry Foundation's feature on Poetry and the Environment, found here.  Our host today is Jama at Jama's Alphabet Soup, where you can feast on all the goodies our community has to offer.