Thursday, June 30, 2022


Good heavens, is it my turn again?!


Greetings, Poetry Folk. It's the first of the month already and the Inklings are taking on another challenge--mine this time. I wrote: "I'm looking out at my yard, my garden, and no matter what’s happening outside or in, THE PLANTS KEEP GROWING. They rarely give up. There are so many ways in which we’ve all (but especially as women, as educators) had to be persistent, despite our weariness. Write a poem (for kids or adults) about PERSISTENCE.  If you write for kids, maybe try a definito!"



Then I offered 2 poems that might inspire:

I attempted a definito, yes, but it quickly became overgrown by an adult invasive.



End of June and we who teach so hard 

right up until the frenetic final goodbyes

are weary. 

At home

our eyelids droop  our muscles melt

our cells give in to weakling bacteria

We eat cereal for dinner or maybe

just a glass of rosé out back

And out there

the wild grape

the volunteer tomato

the trumpet vine  oh the trumpet vine


are not weary!

It’s dry for days on end  hot and dry 

and blue so blue  but nevertheless 

their greens  garnished with 

insidious tendrils  delicate fur 

yellow starlets  hollering vermilion hallelujah

They persist persist  stand steadfast.

What are they drinking?

(we’ll have what they’re having)

No, not standing still. They sprawl  they reach  they wrap.

What is nearby to support their creep and climb?

Tomato cage of course, and trampoline net 

innocent bystanding butterfly bush   deer fence

bottle tree  patio chaise pressed to share its longeur 

passenger door handle if we leave the car parked

for long enough--- 

They don't just subsist 

They don’t just persist 

They insist

on thriving 

They resist 

our inexpert ripping  lopping  setting of limits.

They drink from somewhere deep and dirt-pure

They freely twirl their tender fingers 

They freely rest their renegade limbs

They freely lean their stems

on others. 

            draft ©HM 2022


You know what's weary-making?  Doing it alone. You can have grade-level teams and staff meetings all you want, but being in that room by yourself with all those little shoots and sprouts and seedlings springing up and needing sun and soil and water and talking to--that's exhausting, even demoralizing.  I know because for the last 3 years I didn't have to do it alone.  Shout out to Elizabeth Cabrera, my paraeducator.  I miss her!

I think my poem was pretty heavily influenced by the one below, which I heard on my bike on Tuesday, riding to my therapy appointment and catching up with Poetry Unbound.  Here's the episode, and here's the poem.


My Therapist Wants to Know about My Relationship to Work | by Tiana Clark

I hustle
I grasp.
I grind.
I control & panic. Poke
balloons in my chest,
always popping there,
always my thoughts thump,
thump. I snooze — wake & go
boom. All day, like this I short
my breath. I scroll & scroll.
I see what you wrote — I like.
I heart. My thumb, so tired.
My head bent down, but not
in prayer, heavy from the looking.
I see your face, your phone-lit
faces. I tap your food, two times
for more hearts. I retweet.
I email: yes & yes & yes.
Then I cry & need to say: no-no-no.
Why does it take so long to reply?
I FOMO & shout. I read. I never
enough. New book. New post.
New ping. A new tab, then another.
Papers on the floor, scattered & stacked.
So many journals, unbroken white spines,
waiting. Did you hear that new new?
I start to text back. Ellipsis, then I forget.
I balk. I lazy the bed. I wallow when I write.
I truth when I lie. I throw a book
when a poem undoes me. I underline
Clifton: today we are possible. I start
from image. I begin with Phillis Wheatley.
I begin with Phillis Wheatley. I begin
with Phillis Wheatley reaching for coal.
I start with a napkin, receipt, or my hand.
I muscle memory. I stutter the page. I fail.
Hit delete — scratch out one more line. I sonnet,
then break form. I make tea, use two bags.
Rooibos again. I bathe now. Epsom salt.
No books or phone. Just water & the sound
of water filling, glory — be my buoyant body,
bowl of me. Yes, lavender, more bubbles
& bath bomb, of course some candles too.
All alone with Coltrane. My favorite, ‘Naima,’
for his wife, now for me, inside my own womb.
Again, I child back. I float. I sing. I simple
& humble. Eyes close. I low my voice,
was it a psalm? Don’t know. But I stopped. 


Maybe sometimes persistence is overrated.

Here's where to find the persistence poems of my fellow Inklings.  Thanks to Janice at Salt City Verse for hosting us all today. I'm traveling tomorrow, so catch-up commenting will take place from Lille, France on Sunday, if all goes to plan!

Catherine Flynn@ Reading to the Core

Mary Lee Hahn @ A(nother) Year of Reading
Molly Hogan @ Nix the Comfort Zone
Linda Mitchell @ A Word Edgewise
Margaret Simon @ Reflections on the Teche


Friday, June 24, 2022

well hello, precarious

Greetings, Poetry Friday friends. As you may have read elsewhere, it is done: my long career as a classroom teacher is satisfyingly concluded, although not without second thoughts and longing backward glances...and, as my new career(s) are not yet begun, it is a time of uncertainty.  

On the one hand, it's a summer break much as I've always been privileged enough to enjoy, where I can choose or not to work with kids in organized programs. On the other, knowing that it will take time, hard work and (this is always the tough one for me) patience to bring my vision into being, it's a moment unlike any other since, perhaps, 1984, when I made the decision to train as a teacher. 

Except this time I'm creating the path, not Bank Street College of Education. Ambiguity will need not only to be tolerated but cultivated (another area of challenge for an Activator like me). Doubt will have to be entertained. 

Or maybe something will happen suddenly & serendipitously--who knows?

So here's my first poem in 3 weeks, which is a long enough pause to make me wonder "How the heck did I ever write a poem every day for weeks on end, and will I ever be able to do that again?"  It's a definito.



In other news, 105 copies of Tabatha Yeatts's anthology IMPERFECT II--in which many of us find our poems of perspective--have been placed in the hands of every 5th grader at my school.  Here they are, ribboned and tagged and boxed and ready to go to the Promotion Ceremony.  You can read my speech here if you're interested, and know that the kids listened, got carried away during the choral "reading" and randomly thanked me in the hallways during the following days. I unrandomly thank all of you who helped make this project happen, and thanks to my family, too, who joined me in the manual labor!






Finally, thanks to Catherine at Reading to the Core for hosting us today, with an alphabetical summary of all that we teachers did all year (and I hope, in my case, for 34 years) and a wish for our summer!

Friday, June 3, 2022

an announcement of sweeping gratitude

With three days in a row above 90* this week (reminding us that yep, global warming is a thing) it feels well past spring here in the DC area. But a heroic amount of cull and clean-out has been happening both at my house (chimney rebuild, interior & exterior painting) and in my classroom as I excavate (like ripping off my actual skin) 34 years of classroom contents.

And later today, I will share in a retirement celebration with Ms. Alice Hall, who has been a Building Services Worker--cleaning classrooms including mine--for every one of those same 34 years. I bow in awe and thanks for her service to children and teachers.

It is in this context that I tackled Molly's challenge to the Inklings this month.  She says, "Year after year, I turn my back on spring cleaning, so I thought it might be fun to write a poem about some sort of domestic task. (Writing a poem = way more fun than cleaning!)"

Please meet our cleaner and friend, Monica.


   Ode to Monica

Her clockwork regularity,

her infinite flexibility!

The way, most weeks, 

I do not even see her

and yet her magic aka hard work

abides in our abode. 


or should I say HarMonica, for

the multiple notes you play in

one breath upon each room, for

your steady alternating rhythm

upstairs, downstairs and in my lady’s

chamber? I am no lady, I am no

Tidy Clean Heidi Jean, until you

bring your harmony of Clean to my

slapdash melody of Tidy. You have

spared our family 20 years of buzzing

infrasonic disharmony.


I can cook, I can garden, I can 

accomplish multiple volunteerisms; 

I can plan the heck out of a week 

of school–but that one year in France 

I spent way more time planning how 

to clean our apartment than I spent

actually cleaning it.


I cannot descale my own teeth, 

I cannot scope my own colon, 

and I can. not. clean. my own house,

no matter the model of respectable

Puritan godliness I grew up with.

My guilt still buzzes, but the work you do 

with deftness and fortitude, with 

thoroughness but not perfection, 

keeps me humble, hopeful, brings

me psychic safety every day. 


our needs and gifts stand in sweeping

complementarity; we pay money, of course,

but service as well. When there has been ill

to contend with we have asked and 

received of each other, cared for each 

other's children, time and health, and 

due to you we've been calmer, stronger,

cleaner, for you are our Cleaner, 


draft ©HM 2022


Can't wait to see how my fellow Inklings addressed the challenge--usually we've seen some versions of some poems before, but this time we haven't met recently enough for that.

Margaret @ Reflections on the Teche 

Catherine @ Reading to the Core 

Linda @ A Word Edgewise 

Mary Lee @ Another Year of Reading


It is not a joke, not an exaggeration, to say that this blog exists thanks to Monica. I wish you all whatever assistance brings you the psychic safety you need to carry on writing, to do the work of your heart.