A Poem on the Passing of RBG

Upon the Passing of RBG

Stunned, but not
surprised, and the first
thing I thought of upon news
of Ruth Bader Ginsberg’s passing
was my own mother, long gone,
the first feminist activist I knew,
and loved, loudly forcefully
arguing demanding articulating
for recognition of the rights
of all women to the cluster
of us in our small space

We listened
We heard
We changed
but did this country?

Will we still?

Peace (before it gets worse),

Pandemic Poem Published: Words/Matter

Poem at Straw Dog

A few months ago, in the midst of this still growing Pandemic, I submitted a poem about my students and classroom to a writing guild called Straw Dog, which has been curating poetry about the times we live in.

Yesterday, my poem –entitled Words/Matter — was published. The Straw Dog Writing Guild is a regional writing organization that supports and celebrates writers.

Peace (in poems and more),

OpenWrite Poem: Don’t Stop With the Bebop

Musicien de rue - Santa Cruz de Tenerife
Musicien de rue – Santa Cruz de Tenerife flickr photo by Laurent Simon shared under a Creative Commons (BY-NC-SA) license

I’ve been writing poems over at Ethical ELA for an August OpenWrite. This one is inspired by the form of a pantoum, which has a mathematical element to lines moving through stanzas.

Don’t Stop With the BeBop

Grease the cork; wet the reed –
– don’t stop with the bebop –
as your fingers touch the keys
forget it all for the sake of the tune

Don’t ever stop with the bebop
Go on and let the needle drop
forgetting it all for the muse
as the flatted fifths hop

Go ahead as the needle’s dropping
on the old vinyl grooves,
the flatted fifth keeps hopping
with the corner street blues

The old vinyl, in its groove,
with static of skipping time
and old corner street blues,
syncopated rhythm and rhyme

The static of skipped time
white noise shouting out
syncopated rhythmic rhyme:
Don’t stop with the bebop

Peace (dancing it),

Poem: Reading the Morning Newspaper

Advice From An Old School News Reader

Read the paper backwards,
from the funnies
first to front page
last so as to begin
the ink with a laugh
and end the reading with rage

Note: My eyes go to the front page of our delivered morning newspaper (yep, we still get the local newspaper during the week and the Sunday Boston Globe on Sundays) but I often begin my time with the comics and funnies, and then wind my way back to the hard news.


Peace (keeping it light),

PS — this poem reminded me of a remix activity from a few years ago

Sunday comix remix

Poetry: Chewing on Words

Words, like nature, half reveal and half conceal the soul within.... Alfred Lord Tennyson
Words, like nature, half reveal and half conceal the soul within…. Alfred Lord Tennyson flickr photo by Nick Kenrick.. shared under a Creative Commons (BY-NC-SA) license

I wrote this poem for the #ds106 Daily Create, which asked about unusual food combinations, and I went with words instead …

Chewing on words

a poem’s rough edges
cuts the tongue, barbed
irony abounds, jagged with
reminders to go slow or
pay the price

the script informs
how one must speak the words
dense, disturbed, distant,
a mixed emotional concoction
of removal

this prose tastes abandoned,
a story from one age eaten
more than morsel, if one cuts
the edges off to find the center
often hidden

Swallowing these lines

Peace (and poems),

Five Poems Walk Into a Blog

I’ve been enjoying the monthly poetry writing at Ethical ELA’s 5-Day Open Write project — mainly because it comes in five-day bursts, only once a month. A morning email update reminds me to write there. But I also appreciate it because the site is a lively writing community. There’s a lot of writing posted but also a lot of feedback and discussion threads, all spurred on by poetry.

This month of July, the five days of prompts were built around specific forms of poetry. I am a free-verse poet, for the most part, so it was a challenge. But again, it was interesting and fun, and forced me to slow down with my writing (and break the rules when I needed).

Here are my five poems:

Day One: Rondeau

Someone wrapped me up in Rondeau
Told me the rules, then let me go
But I’m not a poet like that
I see a rule; I break it, for laughs
Add a syllable or a line to the old weathered crow
and return to the rhyme when I want, like so

But now I think maybe I know
the path these words of poem must flow
I start at the top and end, last;
Words in motion

For what is a poem but a show
walker on wire; fallen domino;
or a rabbit pulled from a hat
form and function and all of that
I push myself in, take it slow,
consider constraints, let go;
Words in motion

Day Two: Ode

Ode to an Empty School Hallway

Hallway, I still remember you
as you left me, as I left you,
all bustle and chatter, and
dropped books and erasers,
my door opening into shared space
on the lost Friday afternoon

Oh, Hallway, how much silence
you have swallowed, since
then, since March, when the last of
the metal doors slammed shut;
there’s something close to sound
still reverberating

They tell me they’ve adorned you
with arrows, directions, paths,
signs for our feet to follow,
movement we must take,
and in my mind, at times,
we’re all masked wanderers now,
anxious passengers
on a train with walls barren of art

Hallway, someday, you will shout
again, and I promise to stand
at the end, like a fly on the telescope,
yelling one thing but holding the other;
my heart remembers

Day Three: Ghazal


Power switch conductor brings me ’round,
I’m awake again, midnight listening in surround sound

to music from the window fan, such noise
in the soft signal of deep summer, around sound

like faint music, and if this were the wire,
the Net, the stream, the dream, what found sound

would you be, in the night, with me
as my mind’s making melody, unbound sound

Day Four: Monotetra

It’s not too much, unions demand,
to review options in the plan,
even if we don’t understand
the twist turns of this fragile land

I am ready/ I’m not ready

of masking up, of space between,
of anxious teachers, broken dreams,
of quiet fret; we’re not machines;
the unknown becoming routine

I am ready/ I’m not ready

Day Five: Praise

All praise
to the shortened pencil,
the powerless point
with which to write,
scratching small poems and
stories, essays and plays,
sticking words on white

All praise
to the worn eraser,
telling time of thoughts,
such lost angles and false
prophets of ideas, shifting
compass of directions;
reconvene, writer, when lost

All praise
to the empty page,
playground of the possible,
and pause before its wonder,
for where nothing was
now something is,
move the rock to find what’s under

Peace (flows through poems),


Poetry: In The Time of Lethargy

Duke and Rayna

It’s not unusual for me to have a period of time at the end of the school year to feel a little listless, a bit lethargic, a little bit tired. It’s usually a recharge time after the mad dash to the end of the school year.

I feel that this year, but it’s different. The mad dash was so different, with all the traditions either gone or changed, and the usual winding down energy seems to have gone out of the sails with the distance learning element. I bet many of my students feel the same way.

This morning, as part of the June Five-Day Open Write with Ethical ELA, the facilitator’s prompt was about tapping an emotion for a poem. I went with Lethargy as my emotion, and end with the hope that energy will spring us all forward.

I do have projects yet to be planned (an online youth writing program in July around Interactive Fiction, planning for the Fall, tapping back into thinking about the Write Out project, etc.) and I still have poems to write, and other things, including family getaways and a new puppy with lots of energy. I’ll soon be doing my traditional summer pull-back from blogging.

It’ll be OK.


to the point
of exhaustion

near the edge
of consciousness

on the border
of liquid

by the boundary
of activity

with the prospect
of rejuvenation

Peace (sometimes a poem),

Poetry: In the Time of Troubadours

I listened to the new Dylan album (Rough and Rowdy Ways) and it’s pretty good, with him in more control of his voice and some lush production at times, as well as some old-school blues. To think he’s been doing this — releasing music (some great, some not so great) — for nearly 60 years is pretty amazing, even if you are not a fan of Dylan.

This morning’s poem is about Dylan and listening to him in my earbuds:

Gravel-voiced troubadour,
my ears are ringing
with your singing,
the way you’re always
bringing characters
into song;

A lyric
is a poem
is a story
is a commentary,
exposing shadowed light
with a turn of phrase
forgotten in the night

We’re all still lifting
so many songs of self,
sixty years of music
sleeves, yet you belong
to somewhere else

Peace (singing it),

Poetry: Sometimes Jazz Inspires Words

The last live concert I went to was for jazz saxophonist Kamasi Washington, and it was such a great show, as his compositions weave funk, jazz, Afro-beat and more into complex pieces of art. I created a Pandora station based on Kamasi Washington and was listening intently to his music again, and I found this poem in the back of my mind this morning.

I’m listening,
I’m listening

I’m here in this space
of song with your horn,
reveling in the something
beyond echoes of Shepp,
Shorter, Bird, Cannonball,
Kirk, Sanders, Trane;

This exquisite, complicated
melody brushing up against
rhythm, heartbeat, rhythm
as you’re singing your history,
with your saxophone,

and I’m listening,
I’m listening

Peace (augment those chords),

Poetry: Whose Name Goes Here

Daisy Remembered

Daisy Remembered by Kinglear55

The recent controversy over the names of military bases after Confederate Generals is part of a larger discussion about race and symbols and American ideals. I was reading through a piece about the ten bases named after Civil War generals from the defeated South (Seriously, how was Bragg even considered? The guy was a military failure), and I remembered my own time as a soldier training for five months at Fort Gordon in Georgia, when the name of the place meant nothing to me.

But names are important. They remind us. And the naming of public institutions, like military bases, should reflect the common good, not the push by a few to hold on to a defeated past.

This poem came as I was thinking on all of this, and I definitely advocate the changing of the names of the ten bases under review right now by military leaders and Congress (but apparently, not the president).

Beauregard / Benning / Bragg
Gordon / Hill / Hood / Lee
Pickett / Polk / Rucker

Soldiers / Rebels / Bases
Icons / Symbols / Racists
Past / Present / Faces

Hurt / Anger / Pain
Loss / History / Story
Forget / Remember / Again

Peace (don’t forget),