April Poem #15: Being Present to Poetry

Today, I was tasked to write poem number 15.  It could be an acrostic about a day of the week, or I could write about something in which I have absolutely have no interest.  Really?  Those are my choices?  When I’ve taught poetry to children, acrostics, are my fallback, my dependable old idea that children adore.  But I want to write a grown-up, serious poem.  Can acrostics be serious?  How much depth can a poem have with its subject scrawled down its left side like a banner? And the other idea?  Write a poem about something I have no interest in? Why would I do that?  Who cares?  Whatever!

These poetry prompts have really gotten me to thinking – thinking early in the morning ,and they stay with me all day long.  I am getting a mental workout, and it feels so good.  I cannot thank Ethical ELA or National Writing Poetry Month enough for their inspiration each and every day in April. 

These exercise have taught me persistence.  Every morning, I show up.  I read.  I think.  I write.  I have opened myself up to possibility.  Where once there was a blank page, there now is purpose, creation. 

I recently heard a sermon in which the preacher talked about God being an artist, a sculptor, a grand creator.  I really never thought of God as an artist making everything from scratch. He was the first maker, and Earth was his grand makerspace, an amazing canvas on which to create.  I love the image this idea creates in my mind.

Today, I played with these two poetry prompts.  I arranged words,  painted images, and brushed them gently across my paper. 

Signs of Fall – Listen, Look

This has been a stressful week to put it mildly: a heated election cycle, COVID rising in New Jersey and across many parts of the U.S., pending lock-downs, the seventh anniversary of my mother’s death.  I try to put things in perspective.  I concentrate on my work, my art, my friends, my family, and my faith. I try, in small places, to cultivate hope.  

I relish my time teaching immersing myself in reading and writing with young children.  I marvel at students who seek me out for help.  I do not have to convince them; they come eagerly with fresh ideas.  We develop stories together, we organize desks and homework, we think about spelling like it is an art instead of a chore, and we read together. Indeed, one of the most rewarding times in my day is reading A Bear Called Paddington by Michael Bond with a gifted first grader.  The naughty bear appeals to her and the British vocabulary intrigues her.  We talk about queues, lifts, lorries, mackintoshes, and marmalade.  She is all ears listening for new words that she does not yet know.  She gasps as Paddington stumbles into one predicament after another, and she enthusiastically anticipates outcomes. This time with her is pure joy.  I cannot clearly say whether I’m teaching her or she’s teaching me.  Our conversation, this exchange of ideas, is reading in its purest form, and I am grateful.

I turn to nature for solace, observing the season’s steady change: her flamboyant turn from green to scarlet to amber to tangerine, and the final turn to gray and rusted brown. I seek beauty in the decay.  I watch for patterns: geese and wild turkeys combing the fields for seeds, squirrels and chipmunks storing seeds and acorns, the deer’s coats turning from golden to tawny brown. The earth is preparing herself for after the harvest; she is ready for a long meditative sleep. This past week, I took some photographs and wrote a poem as I contemplated this change.  I tried to listen and look carefully to all that was around me.  I took notice, reflected, and attempted to capture the feel of this season.

 Early November
 The early November wind arrives
 Sounding a symphony of
 Rushes, whooshes, and shushes,
 Rustling leaves, rattle seed pods,
 Whispering softly in the grass.
 Black wings tattooed against blue sky,
 A cadre of crows circle
 Above the old golden oak,
 Caw-calling, caw-calling,
 Lamenting winter’s return.
 Damp earth and leaves – 
 Mottled brown, orange, yellow,
 Cover the bare garden ground,
 A protective patchwork
 Waiting for next year’s harvest.
 A lone crow lands on an old post,
 Surveys the garden no longer green.
 The wind rustles his black feathers,
 He cries of fall’s ending
 And then takes flight.