April Poem #16: Wood Songs

I live at the edge of a woods and often hike the fields, hills, and woodlands of my surrounding countryside.  One would think I live in a rural, bucolic place but I live in bustling New Jersey, not know for its pastoral qualities even though it’s called  “The Garden State.” It seems a sort of joke, but New Jersey has varied beauty from its Atlantic coastline to its western hills and farmland. Most of my inspiration comes from this terrain that I know so well.  And even though I know the woods, the hills, the coastline, the land often surprises me.  There is always a gift to uncover.  The woodland is where I find solitude, where my thoughts keep cadence with my footsteps, where I can go to unpuzzle the world and find peace.

My inspiration for “Every Bend” came from  Verse-Love, Ethical ELA, which was created by Sarah J. Donovan. Today’s prompt was from Cara Fortey, who suggested to write in a modern Tanka-style as modeled by poet and UCLA professor, Harryette Mullen.

I also received inspiration  for “The Only Proof” from NaPoWriMo, or National Poetry Writing Month: 30 Poems in 30 Days, which was created by Maureen Thorson. Their 16th writing prompt was inspired by the curtal sonnet – “Pied Beauty” by  Gerard Manley Hopkins.  I did not write in the curtal sonnet form, but I endeavored to create the same tone in my poem as in Hopkins’.  The ever-changing nature of the woods is something that comforts, astounds, and leads me towards acceptance.

© Joanne L. Emery, 2022

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. 

April Poem #14 – Ready to Dance

I didn’t know I was going to write about shoes today when I woke up this morning.  I didn’t know that thinking about a pair of unforgettable shoes would trigger such vivid memories.  I surprised myself as the memories of my favorite shoes came flooding in.  The ones that stuck out in my mind the most were brilliant aqua suede boots.  They were my alter-ego and I cherished them.  When I finally parted with them, I put them in the dress-up corner at the Nursery School where I taught.  I loved seeing them be re-purposed by little ones who would clomp around in them playing firefighters.  Now, that would be something to see – firefighters in aqua suede, high-heeled boots! Sometimes, writing surprises us.  What a nice surprise!

My inspiration for “Ready to Dance” comes from Sarah J. Donovan’s site, Verse-Love, Ethical ELA. Today’s prompt is by Andy Schoenborn, an award-winning author and high school English teacher in Michigan at Clare Public Schools. He suggested that we write in prose about a pair of unforgettable shoes, and then play with the structure and form as a poem tumbles down the page. I also received inspiration from NaPoWriMo, or National Poetry Writing Month: 30 Poems in 30 Days, which was created by Maureen Thorson. NaPoWriMo. Today, they suggested writing a poem describing an opening scene from your life.

Ready to Dance

            From the beginning, I was attracted to bright, shiny shoes.  I might have been influenced by Dorothy and her sparkling ruby slippers.  Scratch that!  I was definitely in awe of Dorothy’s ruby slippers. Imagine clicking your heels and being able to return home again. Just like that! Those ruby shoes set me off on a life searching for magic, discovery, and possibility. I am always vigilant, always seeking surprise. Shoes were a ways to transport myself into a new life: the glossy cowboy boots, the soft pink ballet slippers, the black Converse high tops. They were magic keys to new kingdoms, new ways to express myself, new adventures.  I kept them for years after I outgrew them know that someday I would return.

            The pair that I’ll never forget were aqua suede, high-heeled lace-up ankle boots.  They had sharp pointy toes and black lacquered heels.  I found them in a small shop in New York City.  They were fancy and bold, not me at all. I fell in love with them immediately. This was in the 80’s when Flashdance was a box office hit. I saw those boots and I knew I had to own them.  Then I put on black leggings, a long loose sweatshirt, and those blue boots, I became another person, a confident person, a person comfortable in her body ready to move, ready to take on the world, ready to dance.

April Poem #13: Memory of Spring

Spring is for the birds! I am so grateful I live just on the edge of a large woods.  A wild assortment of fox, deer, raccoons, possum, groundhogs, even the occasional coyote, have frequented the woods and fields that are my backyard.  However, it is the birds to whom I have developed a deep and lasting bond.  The songbirds, waterfowl, and raptors all living under one glorious roof. 

Observing the small birds like the juncos, chickadees, and sparrows, I wonder at their tenacity.  Such small and fragile things, yet they weather winter snows, spring rainstorms, summer heat, and fierce fall winds.  Where do they find their strength?  Are they indeed angels with beaks and feathers? I witnessed one young sparrow, who could easily fit in the palm of my hand, sit under my azaleas waiting for a spring torrent to dissipate. She was patient and mindful.  She didn’t seem to fret and took her situation in stride.  As I watched her, I was conscious of the lesson I could learn from her: slow down, find strength from within, liberate myself from worry, and fly free.

My inspiration for “Memory of Spring” comes from NaPoWriMo, or National Poetry Writing Month: 30 Poems in 30 Days, which was created by Maureen Thorson. Today,  the writing prompt was to write about good fortune and possibility. And I also received inspiration from  Verse-Love, Ethical ELA, which was created by Sarah J. Donovan. Stacey L. Joy, a poet and National Board-Certified Teacher, suggested we write about joy and liberation.

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April Poem #12: Good News & Brighter Days

I am in the need of good news.  I am thirsty for happy possibility. So much information now is negative: COVID, a multitude of possible diseases, racial unrest, economic downturns, and violent crimes.  Oh, and did I mention war? Our beautiful world is marred by war.  Humans are committing atrocities towards each other. Unspeakable tragedies happen every day. It is enough to make one weep uncontrollably. To keep myself afloat, I have made a conscious effort to turn towards hope.

I have been listening “Brighter Days” by Blessing Offor, who is an amazing singer.  His personal story is truly inspiring.  I am in awe of how he was able to take his tragedy and transform it into a life of faith and hope. I find myself singing his song while doing the dishes, while walking, and I turn it on just before bedtime.  We all need brighter days, healing words, and good news.

My inspiration for “Good News” comes from NaPoWriMo, or National Poetry Writing Month: 30 Poems in 30 Days, which was created by Maureen Thorson. Today,  the writing prompt was to write about something small. And I also received inspiration from  Verse-Love, Ethical ELA, which was created by Sarah J. Donovan. Susie Morice, an English language literacy, gifted education, and leadership specialist, suggested we turn to the news for poetic inspiration.

© Joanne L. Emery, 2022

April Poem # 11: A Place for Everything

I am not an incredibly neat person.  I like to make messes, and I am not afraid to get dirty.  I’m the one with paint on her shirt and broccoli in her hair.  I rejoice in the mess.  I always thought my messes were my imagination and creativity flowing out.  However, there is another side of me.  The side that needs my bed made first thing after I wake up.  The side that does the dishes right after dinner.  The one who organizes her socks Marie Kondo style, folded and arranged just-so in her drawer.  I need my art materials set up just the right way too.  Brushes and pencils are organized in beautiful containers.  A certain amount of calm wafts over me when my belongings are in the right order, ready to use.  When all my things are organized, I feel confident and ready to move ahead.

Several decades ago, when I was caring for a three-year-old boy, we would often go grocery shopping together.  The boy’s mother had recently died in a car accident, and I was his primary caregiver.  One day, while I was pushing Henry in the grocery cart, we were picking out fruit in the produce aisle.  All of a sudden, he shouted for me to stop and reached out his chubby arms.  I looked to where he was pointing and saw a lone cantaloupe sitting among piles of shiny green watermelons.  Henry looked up at me and said, “We have to put him back with his family.  He’ll be lonely if we don’t.  So, I picked up the cantaloupe, placed it in Henry’s arms, and went off to find the cantaloupe’s family.  From that time on, anytime there are things out of place while I am out shopping, I put the item back where it belongs.  I think of Henry and  feel like I am setting the world right again, that I have just a little control over my existence.

My inspiration for “A Place for Everything” comes from NaPoWriMo, or National Poetry Writing Month: 30 Poems in 30 Days, which was created by Maureen Thorson. NaPoWriMo. Today, they suggested writing a poem about something large. I also received inspiration from Sarah J. Donovan’s site, Verse-Love, Ethical ELA. Today’s prompt comes from Kim Johnson, Literacy Specialist from Georgia who suggested to write a poem about something quirky.

 A Place for Everything

A place for everything,
Everything in its place.
The world organized:
Make the bed,
Brush your teeth,
Ash your face,
Moisturize, moisturize
Brush your hair,
Look into the mirror,
Tell yourself to smile.
Start the day neatly –
Completely in control.

Greet the students
Every morning at the same time,
Repeat the same instructions:
Good morning, let’s begin,
Sharpen pencils, turn in homework,
Tun and talk to your partner,
Take out your writers’ notebook,
1,2,3, eyes on me.
Look out into the sea of faces,
Tell yourself to smile.
End the school day neatly-
Completely in control.

Later, at the grocery store,
Grab one of the shopping carts,
The one with the boogety-woogety wheel.
Race around the perimeter,
Where all the healthy foods live.
Get extra steps in -
Walk around twice before shopping.
Start at the produce section,
All the bins stacked neatly,
Arranged in a rainbow:
Apples, onions, melons,
Strawberries, blueberries, pears,
Mushrooms, avocados, celery.
Everything in its place
Except for the lone cantaloupe.
Someone sat the cantaloupe
Among the squat watermelons.
One beige ball among green striped strangers.
I gently cradle the cantaloupe in my hands,
Search through the aisle for his melon tribe.
There they sit solemnly.
I place him with his brethren,
Back where he belongs,
Completely in control.

Back home, lights turned on
Brightening the darkness
Dinner made; dishes done.
The news turned on and off again,
Turn to my book – a good one,
The one about gardening in France.
See the flowers blooming
In my mind’s eye:
Tulips, asters, marigolds.
Breath in their fragrance
Take it all in and smile.
Everything in its place
Completely in control.

April Poem #10: Love is Love

Today, my sixty-sixth birthday, I have been tasked to write about love. It is a good and solid subject. I know a thing or two about love. Or at least I think I do. I have poured out cups and cups of love to both the deserving and underserving. When love was new, I jumped in head-over-heels, mesmerized and awe-struck. My heart knew no bounds. I look back at that time in wonder. I was so completely trusting, so completely willing to take a chance. That is the beauty of young love.

It took me decades to learn self-love. I am still learning to care for myself, to cherish who I have been, who I am, and am becoming. This way of thinking is new to me and expansive. I don’t have to be one singular, solitary being. I am ever-changing, and in my metamorphoses, I am becoming beautiful. At sixty-six, this is no small feat. So I celebrate this day with a love poem. The tenth day of April – spring love is in the air; it abounds and abides.

My inspiration for “Love is Love” comes from NaPoWriMo, or National Poetry Writing Month: 30 Poems in 30 Days, which was created by Maureen Thorson. NaPoWriMo. Today, they suggested writing a love poem. I also received inspiration from Sarah J. Donovan’s site, Verse-Love, Ethical ELA. Today’s prompt comes from Margaret Simon, teacher and poet from New Iberia, Louisiana, who suggested writing a definito, a definition-based poem. I was struck by Nikki Grime’s poems and structured my poem about love in a similar way.

© Joanne L. Emery, 2022
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April Poem #9: The Souls of Birds

I believe in birds. Maybe that’s because I was born in the spring. I fervently believe that “hope is a thing with feathers.” For me, no more poetic lines have rung true than those of Emily Dickinson. Throughout my life, I have often found solace in birds. One of the first books I read had bird characters with whom I empathized. And one of my favorite bird characters is Jeremy the crow from Robert C. O’Brien’s book, Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH. Jeremy is curious and kind, and I love his natural humor. I am lucky to live in a place filled with birds. I wake up to noisy battles between wild turkeys and resident Canada geese. This morning, the geese won, but that is not always so.

I wonder while watching an active bird feeder, “Why are they not fighting?” They seem to take turns: jays and cardinals, then doves, then chickadees and dark-eyed juncos. When they are finished, the squirrels dart in quickly, and then are replaced by the geese or turkey, whoever is in the neighborhood and gets there first. I’ve seen a daring jay dive and swoop at a hungry hawk, all the while sounding a harsh alarm for the smaller bird citizens. I wish the human world could learn a thing or two from the birds.

Every winter, I am awed by the tenacity of little birds. The bitter winds and ice-covered branches don’t seem to deter them. I’ve learned a lot about determination and strength from birds. And when winter has me in its icy grip, and I feel like I can’t go a moment longer without some green, spring comes shaking her frilly little head. The birds return with their hope-filled songs. I think of them as angels returning to earth to share delight, to show us that one day soon we too will have wings.

My inspiration for “Nine Song Birds” comes from NaPoWriMo, or National Poetry Writing Month: 30 Poems in 30 Days, which was created by Maureen Thorson. NaPoWriMo. Today, they suggest writing a poem in the form of a nonet, which is a form I became familiar with last year. I enjoy playing with words within parameters. It stretches my mind and imagination.

My inspiration for “Common Warbler” comes from Verse-Love, Ethical ELA, which was created by Sarah J. Donovan.supplied the inspiration for writing a poem as a song. Dixie Keyes’ poems reminded me of a poem I wrote called “Common Warbler.” Dixie the Director of the Arkansas Delta Writing Project at A-State, a National Writing Project site. 

Common Warbler
A bird – dusty drown
Barred wings, 
Bright yellow breast,
A perfect display of colors.
She’s lying dead near the garage door.
I stand over her staring at her lifeless beauty.
Goldfinch?  Oriole?
No, just a common warbler,
I find some garden gloves and a trowel,
Gently pick up the golden warbler,
And walk across the street down the hill
To the woods at the bank of the river.
I dig a deep hole underneath a magnolia tree,
Place the bird in and cover her with dirt,
I find stones to place over her grave,
Flat gray ones, piled in a circular pattern,
A testament that she was here,
Flew free for a while,
As I return up the hill, 
I begin to sing.

April Poem #7: Puddle-Wonderful

Every path hath a puddle.

-George Herbert

Rainy days are puddle days for me. Days to stop and ponder my imagination. Wouldn’t it be grand to jump in and slide into another world like Alice through the looking glass? I would so love for that to be possible. Just to stare down into its spring reflection and float away into a peaceful dream. When I think of rainy play days, I think of e.e.cummings and his poem [in just-]. I especially love the line: “when the world is puddle-wonderful; the queer old balloonman whistles far and wee; and betty and isbel come dancing.” I have always admired cummings’s poetic playfulness, his ability to break the rules and jump into a creative space. I endeavor to play with poetry this month and free my hand and mind so that the words will form into something new and curious.

My inspiration for Puddle-Wonderful comes from NaPoWriMo, or National Poetry Writing Month: 30 Poems in 30 Days, which was created by Maureen Thorson. NaPoWriMo. Today, they suggest writing a poem contradicting a chosen saying or proverb. I chose a quote by George Herbert.

My inspiration for There’s a Puddle in my Shoe comes from Verse-Love, Ethical ELA, which was created by Sarah J. Donovan.Chris Goering supplied the inspiration for writing a poem as a song. There’s a Puddle in my Shoe came into my head as a children’s rhyme.


There it is -
Up ahead.
Not an obstacle,
Not a problem.
Just a small pool
Reflecting golden forsythia
and pink azalea.
A puddle so cordial
It invites you in.
Jump, Stomp, Splash!
Explore its water-filled wonder.
Slickers and boots are water-proof,
Skin and hair are not.
Immerse yourself its wet world,
Listen to the laughter,
Return to childhood again,
All is puddle-wonderful.

There are Puddles in my Shoes

There is rain upon the rooftops,
Lightning strikes out from the blue,
I hear thunder all around me,
There are puddles in my shoes!

Pitter-patter on the sidewalk,
Slish-slosh and splashing too!
It feels like I am floating,
There are puddles in my shoes!

My hair is wet, my jeans are drenched,
I am soggy through and through,
Dripping-dropping off my elbows,
There are puddles in my shoes!

The water’s rising rapidly,
My skin is soaked; it’s true.
Someone get me an umbrella,
There are puddles in my shoes!

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