April Poem #27: Forgiveness

My inspiration for “Forgiveness” comes from  Verse-Love, Ethical ELA. Shaun Ingalls, a high school English teacher pursuing a Ph.D. in Instructional Design, suggested a prompt inspired by the poem, “Drift,” by Alicia Mountain.  Shaun asked us to relook at something from a new perspective, try to re-encounter something we had experienced.

There are so many things in my life I want to re-encounter. There are so many mistakes I’ve made, so much time I’ve wasted on trivial things.  I spent years and years busy worrying, often forgetting that things are in God’s hands. I learned to be present, to find pleasure and beauty in small things, and to appreciate and recognize the people who love me. 

It was hard to choose just one thing to re-encounter. However, this memory of my Grandpa Antonio is so vivid to me.  It was about forty years ago, but it feels like yesterday. I wish I could go back and change every little thing.

Forgiveness

As I turn to leave, you stop me.
A minute, you say –
Opening the refrigerator door,
Taking coins from the butter dish,
Pressing silver dollars in my hand.
For you, you say –
Fold my fingers around the cold coins,
I kiss you on the cheek and leave.

I return an hour later,
Call out your name,
You’re not listening,
Your raspy breath comes as a warning,
I do not enter the room
Where you are lying.
I know what is happening,
But cannot face it.
I pace around and around
Minutes like hours fall away
Until my father, your son, arrives
To rescue you.

“Didn’t you notice your grandfather?
Call 911,” he says.
I stand frozen before the phone,
He pushes me out of the way.
Moments later, the ambulance comes,
Takes you away silently,
Red lights flashing – too late.

At your funeral
I tuck a poem – rough words
An apology
Into the pocket of your suit.
You’re wearing a gray suit,
Starched white shirt, a dark tie.
Had I ever seen you in a suit before?
I look down on your weatherworn face
For some sign of forgiveness.

Three days later, I’m in the den reading,
Suddenly, I look up –
Glimpse your blue bathrobe
Trailing around the corner,
I rise and follow to see you 
Standing at the stove making tea,
Your eyes meet mine and you smile,
I turn away and look again,
But you are already gone.

April Poem #26: Woven Words

My inspiration for “Woven Words” comes from  Verse-Love, Ethical ELA, which was created by Sarah J. Donovan. Dr. Amy Vetter is an associate professor in English education in the School of Education at the University of North Carolina – Greensboro. For today’s prompt, Dr. Vetter suggested that we scour novels and other texts to construct found poetry.  This is one of my favorite ways to invent poetry.  It takes some of the pressure off and allows me to play with words.

A couple of days ago, I wrote a found poem in response to the Verse-Love annotation prompt – here. Many years ago, I came upon teaching annotation through the Annotated Charlotte’s Web. Today, I took an old, worn copy of Charlotte’s Web and found this poem lying within. Thank you, E.B. White, Wilbur, and Charlotte!

April Poem #25: Everything has a Purpose

My inspiration for “Everything has a Purpose” comes from  Verse-Love, Ethical ELA, which was created by Sarah J. Donovan. Today’s prompt was from Linda Mitchell, a Middle School librarian, and her cat, Ira Gershwin.  The prompt had nothing to do with music, but I do love that name for a cat.  Maybe he purrs in harmony.  Linda’s prompt involved writing a poem using the scientific method for inspiration: make an observation, ask a question, form a hypothesis, make a prediction, test a prediction, use the results to form another hypothesis.  Easy-peasy, right?  Well, no.  This prompt took some thinking and some reading of sample poems.

I have been facing mortality lately.  It actually is slapping me in the face, but I refuse to succumb to pessimism and negativity. I spend my of my day, earnestly pondering my purpose.  I know my purpose has to do with children and writing. That might be purpose enough, but is it?  Is it really? I feel very mortal lately, and I want to organize my days with purpose and delight. Purpose may be easier for me to imitate by doing lots of things on my “To Do” list.  But is checking off boxes the way to a meaningful life?  The more I think about it, the more I know cultivating delight should be my life’s work.  So here I go playing with letting go and holding on.

Everything has a Purpose

Everything has a purpose.
What is my purpose here?
If only I work hard enough,
I will find my purpose.
If I follow all the rules,
Write the poem,
Hold the hand,
Paint the picture,
Teach the lesson,
Snap the photo,
Make the dinner,
Fold the laundry,
Read the book,
Listen and listen and listen,
I will find my purpose.
I will be so busy
That I can’t help
But find my purpose.


Consider the data.
What have I learned?
All this busy striving
Did not bring purpose.
Purpose lies deep within,
Something in the distance,
Something curious and resolute –
Between dreaming and waking.


Hold on tight
And let it slip
Through your fingers.
You will find it
Out there one day,
For sure, for certain.
This is absolutely true.

April Poem #24: My Garden of Eden

My inspiration for “My Garden of Eden” comes from  Verse-Love, Ethical ELA, which was created by Sarah J. Donovan. Today’s prompt was from Jessica Shernburn, a high school English teach who lives in Chicago, Illinois.  Jessica suggested that we look at text annotations for inspiration.  Could there be beauty and poetry in annotations?

I fell in love with annotation when I taught Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White.  I poured over its book of annotations – like secrets held only for me.  I loved sharing tidbits I had learned with my students, and they began seeing annotation as a treasure hunt. Annotation is, indeed, the key to reading deeply and mindfully.

I am currently reading, French Dirt by Richard Goodman and I have been marveling at his turn of phrase, the words he chooses to describe his year as a gardener in France – how he wrangles and wrestles the earth to create something beautiful.  I have re-arranged some of his words that I had underlined, wanting to hold them in my mind and heart.

© Joanne L. Emery, 2022

April Poem #23: My Heart is an Unspoken Thunderstorm

My inspiration for “My Heart is an Unspoken Thunderstorm” came from  Verse-Love, Ethical ELA, which was created by Sarah J. Donovan. Today’s prompt was from Stefani Boutelier, who is an Associate Professor of Education at Aquinas College in Michigan. @stefboutelier 

Stefani’s prompt was to use metaphor dice to spark at poem.  I used this online metaphor dice roll and came up with this choice:

I concentrated on the rhythms of my heart and thought about the sounds of my heart and the sounds of a thunderstorm. This is where my mind took me.  I found this prompt idea very imaginative.  It got me out of the hum-drum and made me take risks.  I think I will use the metaphor dice roll more often now as a tool to constructing and deconstructing my ideas.

April Poem #22: Brie Love

My inspiration for “Brie Love” came from  Verse-Love, Ethical ELA, which was created by Sarah J. Donovan. Today’s prompt was from Tammi Belko, who is an ELA teacher and Gifted Intervention Specialist from Ohio. She is also the author of the YA verse novel, Perchance to Dream. Tammi invited participants to think and write about CHEESE.

This was a difficult subject for me because cheese is my favorite food.  I think I would wither away physically, emotionally and spiritually if I did not consume cheese.  It brings such comfort and memories. When my husband and I were first dating, baked Brie was very popular.  We would order it as a first course when we dined out, and I learned to bake it to perfection when we were dining at home.  I love all cheese, but Brie brings with it a certain romance.

April Poem #21: April Remembers

There is something bittersweet about April. Maybe it is because it is my birthday month that I feel this way. My birthday comes at the beginning of the month, and then towards the end of the month, I feel a deep longing. I don’t want April to depart. I want to keep its spring-freshness and cleansing showers. Then I remember that May is coming and with it, the respite of summer. And May means flowers, and that makes all the difference!

My inspiration for “April Remembers” came from  Verse-Love, Ethical ELA, which was created by Sarah J. Donovan. Today’s prompt was from Leilya Pitre, who teaches at Southeastern Louisiana University and coordinates the English Education Program. Leilya invited participants to go for a walk to our place of comfort and write a poem about our experiences. She used “A Late Walk” by Robert Frost as inspiration. These Frost lines stood out to me:

 By picking the faded blue

Of the last remaining aster flower

     To carry again to you.

© Joanne L. Emery, 2022
April Remembers

The flower does not forget
How to blossom.
One green moment
Small and slow.

The moon remembers
To rise above the mountain.
A long, lone breath
Spinning in the silence.

April unfolds to May,
My hand opens to yours,
Your hand embraces mine.
Together we walk towards
Interminable spring.

April Poem #20: Something’s Burning

My inspiration for “Something’s Burning” came from  Verse-Love, Ethical ELA, which was created by Sarah J. Donovan. Today’s prompt was from Tammy Breitwiester, who is a literacy coach in Wisconsin. She suggested to take inspiration from Naomi Shihab Nye’s poem Burning the Old Year. After reading the poem, what stuck most in my head were the lines:

So much of any year is flammable,

lists of vegetables, partial poems.

I skimmed an old journal looking for some inspiration, and I found a partial poem, which I revived and reconstructed. It was buried deep down inside me. I thought it might be time it give it some oxygen and let it burn.

Something’s Burning

You were the adult.
I loved you so much
With a complete trusting heart.
You were my hero, 
My poet-father.

For years, I searched for the answers:
How could you hurt someone 
Who is part of you?
Did you hate yourself that much?
Do you understand the pain
You caused me?

Then, I burnt away all my feelings
Leaving them red, raw, blistering.
I burnt the whole of me away
Until there was just bone,
Hard white bone.

In a strange way,
You made me strong.
And out of the ashes
I rose like smoke
And filled the air. 

April Poem #19: How to be a Sand Dollar

During my recent March Spring Break, I journeyed to South Carolina. On that visit, I made the acquaintance of a purse of sand dollars. I had never seen them as living creatures enjoying a day in the ocean surf. I was totally mesmerized by them, and I wrote about the experience here.

That was such a wondrous day. Their Christian symbolism captured my attention, and I found myself often returning to the moment I happened upon them at the beach. I knew they weren’t done with me, and I was not done with them. What amazing creatures!

When I turned to Verse-Love, Ethical ELA today, I found the perfect prompt for a poem about sand dollars. Sheri Vasinda, who teaches literacy education at Oklahoma State University, suggested a prompt inspired by Barry Lane. It is from his book, Reviser’s Toolbox. That book was like a Bible to me when I taught 3rd grade. I’m not sure how this prompt escaped my attention until now. Barry suggests writing a “How to be” poem. This topic caught my imagination. I had to think for quite a while. Then I remembered the sand dollars, and I was on that beach in South Carolina once again!

Books By Barry Lane

  • 51 Wacky We-Search Reports
  • After the End: Teaching and Learning Creative Revision
  • But How Do You Teach Writing?
  • Discovering the Writer Within
  • Reviser’s Toolbox
  • The Healing Pen
  • Why We Must Run with Scissors
  • Writing as a Road to Self-Discovery

April Poem #18: Poetry is a Way

My inspiration for “Poetry is a Way” came from  Verse-Love, Ethical ELA, which was created by Sarah J. Donovan. Today’s prompt was from Maureen Young Ingram, who suggested we use Lucile Clifton as a poet-mentor and write a short poem about a difficult subject from the first person point of view using a lower-case “i.”  Maureen includes a link to a short video of Lucille Clifton talking about what poetry is. I was familiar with Ms. Clifton’s poetry for children but had never read her poetry for adults or heard her speak about poetry making.  I was inspired by her definition of poetry and wrote “Poetry is a Way” to discover my own definition of poetry and how I am evolving as a poet living in this unique time on Earth.

I have been writing poetry since I was a child, and I am a firm believer that poetry is a great catalyst for self-discovery.  It is my go-to emotional support object.  I rely on poetry to gain insight and to solve problems.  Poetry has never failed me.  It is a steadfast friend.  When I state that “poetry is a way,” I mean that it is a way of life to be consistently practiced – always moving and improving oneself and increasing one’s knowledge.

Poetry is a Way
(For Lucille Clifton)

i am a poet
i don’t have all the answers.
Lucille was right:
Poetry is a way
Of living in the world,
Of expressing
Something difficult.
i don’t have all the answers
i am a poet
With so many questions.
It’s not what i know,
It’s what i wonder…
Will there be another pandemic?
Who taught frogs know how to sing?
Will the people of Ukraine remain free?
What is the name of those blue flowers
that wildly bloom along the highway?
Will there ever be a cure for cancer,
A remedy for old age?
i am a poet
i don’t have all the answers
i am full of wonder
i am seeking peace
In this one world.


Children’s Books by Lucille Clifton

All of us Come Across the Water

Amifika

Dear Creator: A Week of Poems for Young People and Their Teachers

Don’t You Remember?

Everett Anderson’s 1-2-3

Everett Anderson’s Christmas Coming

Everett Anderson’s Friend

Everett Anderson’s Goodbye

My Friend Jacob

One of the Problems of Everett Anderson

Some of the Days of Everett Anderson

The Boy Who Didn’t Believe in Spring

The Lucky Stone

The Palm of my Heart

The Times They Used to Be