Saturday, December 30, 2006

Countdown - or - Drink a Toast to Life

Contemplation of a New Year
Fill in the blanks.

Five Significant Memories: Look back

Four predictable events to come: Look forward

Three Highlights of the Year that's Ending: Reminisce

Two Good Habits to Continue and Enjoy: Look ahead while looking back.

One -- just one!
One Goal for the year to come

Think it over.
Declare the goal real. Relevant. Possible.
Now drink a toast,
Whether champagne or grape juice
Promise yourself it'll happen.
Then make it so.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

The New Alert System

Dear, please replenish the woodpile
For the fireplace
While I shop for
Bottled water, analgesics, thermometers,
Batteries for the flashlights and radios,
And emergency rations, enough to last six weeks or more.

Viruses are everywhere, and
Quarantine is inevitable.

Wait. Stop.
What’s this knee-jerk reaction?
Tuition money spent on freeze-dried whatnots?
Closets packed with canned food,
Over-the-counter meds,
And cases of bottled water?

Shop, yes. And replenish the woodpile, too.
But I’ll buy a bottle of wine
A sweet CD
Cheese and crackers.
Not stockpiles of panic.
We’ll cozy up by the fireplace,
In our favorite blankets and quilts,
To enjoy each other,
And take care of our family.

We’ll continue living our lives,
Resisting the propaganda.
Common sense, love and caring,
And family
Make survival

Friday, October 06, 2006

Homecoming Haiku

After the football game
Hot cocoa feels so cozy
And tastes so good, too.

Saturday, September 30, 2006

Stealing Headlines

In attempt to make sense out of the recent shocking news, I "borrowed" headlines from articles covering the two school shootings this week. The two events are interspersed in pantoume form so that some headlines could apply to either one.
I'm not satisfied with this poem at all; maybe these incidents aren't supposed to make sense.

Principal targeted
In second school shooting this week
Innocence lost
Small town unaccustomed to tragedy.

In second school shooting this week
Details of attack emerge
Small town unaccustomed to tragedy
Mourns victim killed in siege.

Details of attack emerge
Another campus shooting
Mourns victim killed in siege
Teen charged in school shooting.

Another campus shooting
Hostage sent love to her family
Teen charged in school shooting
Hero prevented more deaths.

Hostage sent love to her family
Vigil held to mourn
Hero prevented more deaths
Died after shooting.

Vigil held to mourn
A victim used as a shield
Died after shooting
Critical condition.

A victim used as a shield
Principal targeted
Critical condition
Innocence lost.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

A Teacher's Lament in Haiku

Labor Day has passed.
Back to school we go again.
Where did summer go?

Monday, August 28, 2006


Patience is
Breathing slowly
Or Holding my breath
Biting my tongue
Thinking before I speak.
Tongue bleeding,
The words simmering inside
Slowly come to a boil.
Pressure rises
Steam escapes
And the lid

Saturday, August 19, 2006

How I Write

Personal reflection on writing poetry

I write what I think.
I write what I feel.
I write with a pen on loose leaf paper
or in the tiny spiral notebook pulled from my purse.
I write on my laptop computer
-outside on the deck
-on the couch in the den
-at the kitchen table
-in the backseat of the family van on the highway
I write to organize and clarify my thoughts
I write down the bones, the beginnings
then I revise with Xs and arrows and notes
written vertically in the margins
I write best with a structure
or goal in mind.
Random doesn’t work for me.
Leaving rhyme behind was hard; its structure was comforting, familiar
So I challenged myself with other structures
that let me grow
My angle is more literal than metaphoric -- often more prosaic than poetic.
Reality checks in more often than fantasy.
I write from my heart, but not too much,
Because if I write about those closest to me
It can hurt,
So I don’t look inward as often as I could.
I write for me.
Though others might enjoy the pieces on occasion.
I don’t write for the masses.
I write what I think.
I write what I feel.
I write for me.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Why we were late after lunch

--A poetic apology for arriving in class late after an interminable wait for our food to arrive

What did we order that they had to kill?
Are they plucking the chicken for my soup?
Milking the cow to make the cheese for Donna’s burger?
Growing the lettuce for the salad?
Heading south of the border for the tortillas in Julia’s soup?
How long does it take for Jim Beam to cure?
Never mind……
Check please! I’ll take mine to go.

-Oh, the memories! My lunchmates and I wrote this on our way back to a graduate class to apologize for our lateness. The stress of the long wait rather diminished our enjoyment of the food, but the poem convinced the professor that it was out of our control. The Jim Beam, by the way, was in a sauce, not a glass. :)

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Snow White's Response

Really, stepmother, I understand.
In this youth-centered culture,
Just like Hollywood, younger is better
Regardless of talent.

I'll get the same reaction
In twenty years
When a new, lovelier princess
Emerges from puberty
and charms the masses with her
innocence and fresh beauty.

Let's leave together.
There must be a society
That values women more than this one.
Leave that apple -- and that blasted mirror! -- behind.

Friday, August 04, 2006

In my pocket

One nickel, two pennies.
Seven cents.
Nearly worthless
Not enough to buy anything in these days when penny candy costs a quarter.
They jingle in my pocket
Spread their unique metallic taste to my fingers.
How did they get there?
What did I buy that netted me exactly seven cents in change?
I must have been in a terrible hurry to drop these coppery coins into my pocket instead of my wallet.
In a life so rushed, paced so fast, this seven cents
Reminds me to slow down.
Open my purse, take time.
When viewed from this perspective,
Even this meager seven cents
Has value.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Attack of the clones

They didn't come silently.
Bulldozers, cranes, cement trucks, and other big machinery
Brought them in and put them up.
And now they stand
Looming over the landscape once crowded with cornstalks.

Exactly three stories tall.
Light gray with darker gray trim.
Identical porches.
Identical attached garages.
Identical satellite dishes, mounted at the exact same angle.

Blocks and blocks -- no,
Mile upon miles
of brand new cloned condominiums
On shining new asphalt roads
with bright new yellow stripes painted down their centers.
Within minutes of the new strip malls!
Buy now! They're new! Good terms available!

But don't expect any character,
Individual style,
Color, variety,
Or even trees.
This is not a neighborhood; it is a barracks.

These buildings are exactly,

And more are on the way....

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Straight Talk from Kids

...actual statements and questions from children, ages 11 through 16, in the days immediately preceding and immediately after the start of Operation Iraqi Freedom. The poem is a few years old: the feelings expressed are not.

What if war breaks out
While we're at school?
Kids should know
What's going on.
While we're in school
Watch the TV in the commons
What's going on?
Try CNN.
Watch TV in the commons
You'll stay informed.
Every channel's exactly the same.
You'll stay informed.
Did you hear about the war?
Every channel's exactly the same
What's the latest?
Did you hear about the war?
Kids should know
What's the latest.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Garden Earth

Deep, rich hues in so many shades of brown
Awaiting my shovel and hoe.
I dig into it and find
All kind of living things.
Long pale worms, small black beetles.
Things with lots of legs skittering away from the sudden exposure to the sunlight.

Compost, made naturally from last summer's waste in the big black bin that housed and protected it all winter
Mixes yet another shade into the layers
And enriches the growing ability
By returning to the soil that which came from it in the beginning.

Its fertile ground lies dormant, waiting,
Ready to nurture the seeds placed there by design
Along with the strays that fly in on the wind
Or get dropped by visiting birds and bees.

How simple, yet how vital, in its ordinary brown clothing
Soil. Ground. Dirt. Sand. Clay. Mud.
Earth provides the place for our food to grow.
It cleanses our groundwater, filtering it naturally as rainfall soaks in and travels on its way to the aquifer.

Our society treats earth so cavalierly.
Planting non-native grasses for lawns, then over fertilizing these unnatural breeds, sending chemicals into the earth that do not belong there.
Building subdivisions on farmland: huge streets and huge houses for the new owners of the land
While the rich brown soil languishes underneath the finished basements.
Waiting to nurture, provide, grow, produce.

And so I keep digging into my garden, in my small backyard, near the old downtown in the middle of our little city.
And grow a few tomatoes, some zucchini, a few herbs
Then recycle the plants in the fall as compost
To add again to the cycle
That re-uses and regenerates my little parcel of this lovely brown earth.

--written summer 2003

Monday, July 17, 2006

Naming the Daughter

Naming the daughter
In the Ugandan tradition, children are named not just at birth, but throughout their lives according to their characteristics and significant events. This poem was written four years ago, and very little has changed.

My firstborn
She of deep, thoughtful eyes and a full head of thick dark hair.
She of the contagious giggle.
The one who climbed before she could walk.
The toddler who cried when she fell, but remained calm for the stitches, and
She who years later handled a fractured wrist without tears.
Ruffle socks and buckle shoes daughter
Wear a dress no matter what the weather daughter.
The child who listened to Beethoven and Raffi.
The child who learned to ride a bike in the Lambeau Field parking lot.
The young genius with crayons, markers, scissors, and glue.
So painfully shy at 6 she rarely spoke --
So social at 16 she rarely stopped.

The eldest. The big sister.
She of expressive eyes and long, thick hair.
The master of irony and sardonic humor.
She who doesn't do morning.
A rainbow of Converse tennis shoes daughter.
Blue jeans, capris, and tank-tops daughter.
The teen who listens to Pachelbel, Frank Sinatra, and Queen.
The one who left the bike behind in favor of Dad's silver Saturn.
The young genius with pencil and charcoal.
The young genius with a camera and Adobe Photo Shop.
Creator of a multitude of unique and colorful scrapbooks.

The one whose presence can brighten a room
Truly the joy of my life.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Where am I?

This poem was written a few years ago. I'm bringing it back because of an inspirational phone call from my vagabond husband and traveler son. They called me from a large airport during a layover, and one of the sites they saw was 6 -- count'em, SIX -- Starbucks during the 20 minutes (!) since their first plane landed. I love coffee, and Starbucks makes it very well. But come on, folks, there are limits. The poem is written in a modified pantoume form, which utilizes repetition and order.

Where am I?

Chinese take-out chain
Krispy Kreme Doughnuts

Barnes and Noble
Krispy Kreme doughnuts
Another Starbucks.

Barnes and Noble
Or is it Borders Books?
Yet another Starbucks
Menard's or Home Depot?

Borders Bookstore (I think)
Dry Cleaning Chain
Home Depot (or is it Lowe's)
Opening soon -- Starbucks!

Dry Cleaning and Shoe Repair
Grocery superstore
Starbucks -- grand opening!
Walgreens Pharmacy

Superstore with grocery
Baskin Robbins ice cream
Walgreens Pharmacy and Gifts
Is anything locally owned?

Baskin robbins and Dunkin' Doughnuts?
Chinese take-out chain
Locally owned? I think not.
At last -- McDonald's.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

What does Green Really Mean?

Green is alive.

  • new shoots in springtime
  • leaves emerging from their buds
  • light growth over a freshly dug grave
  • a view of the forest from a nearby hillside

Green is relaxing.

  • a hike in the forest
  • time to watch birds in the park
  • rabbits nibbling on the backyard clover
  • dabbling your feet in the lake waters

Green is aesthetically pleasing.

  • trees that shade an urban street
  • a country drive in autumn
  • the endless expanse of a cornfield
  • flocks of whooping cranes migrating once again

Green is active, not passive.

  • Write a letter to support green legislation.
  • Put up a gypsy moth trap.
  • Weed that garden!
  • Turn the compost -- again.

Green means dollars.

  • Buy a fishing pole!
  • Come to the new mega-sports supply store!
  • Purchase your hiking supplies here!
  • You need a new tent this year! Really!

Green is a state of mind.

  • Reduce, re-use, recycle.
  • Save the manatee!
  • Don't touch that rainforest!
  • I speak for the truffula trees!

Green is beautiful, bright and fancy.

Green is deep, rich, and glowing.

Green is ever present

In all living things.

Friday, July 07, 2006

Home (land) Security

(written in spring, 2003)

Dear, please replenish the woodpile
for the fireplace
while I shop for
canned food
duct tape
and sheets of plastic.

Who am I kidding?
Survival at what cost?
Heart-stopping anxiety?
Paralyzing fear?
Floating in a dark sea of isolation?

We'll live our lives
The best weapons we have
Against hatred and fear
Are love, laughter, and caring
Not plastic and Duct tape.

So replenish the woodpile
for the fireplace, dear
While I shop instead for
Wine and cheese,
Popcorn and lemonade.

We'll snuggle up by the fireplace
In the quilt grandma made
and enjoy being a family.
Love and caring, not plastic and duct tape,
Reduce the anxiety
Lessen the fear
Make survival

Thursday, July 06, 2006

I like to read

I like to read –
Short books and long,
Books full of stories,
And poems, and songs
They’re big and they’re small
And I love them all
Yes, I like to read every day.

I like to read –
About children like me,
Who play in a sandbox
And climb up a tree.
We play and we run
We have lots of fun;
Yes, I like to read every day.

I like to read –
Books about bugs
Books about holidays,
Books about hugs.
About queens and kings
About most anything
Yes, I like to read every day.

I like to read –
About fantasy, too,
Books of adventures
For me and for you;
From people who’ve told
Stories brave, stories bold
Oh, I like to read every day.

I like to read –
Special books I can touch
With words made in Braille
I like them so much:
To touch and to feel
The pictures so read;
Yes, I like to read every day.

I like to read –
With my teachers at school
Books from the library,
Awesome and cool,
Or books of my own
That I keep right at home
Yes, I like to read every day.