Wordle Poems

Are you playing Wordle, the game flavor of the month?

Over the last couple of weeks, as my Facebook page blossomed with shared grids documenting others’ Wordle game outcomes, I had to investigate. I mean, I’m always up for a good word game. So, I went to the site, tried it and was immediately hooked. I love the simple concept, but also the fact that there’s no way it can become a time suck. (With only one new game per day, you can’t go wrong!) Also, since everyone is trying to guess the same word, you can get a competition going with family and friends.

Then, the brilliant Buffy Silverman suggested using Wordle word guesses to create a poem. Count me in! She didn’t impose any other parameters (though she suggested that it should be “vaguely coherent”), but for some reason I decided I needed to use my words in the order I guessed them. I am now having way too much fun doing this and it’s brought a whole new level to my Wordle enjoyment. Here are a few of my efforts:

Word guesses: mouse, stare, spire, shire

Winter in the Night Garden or Whose garden is this anyway?

As I watch through the window
a wee mouse
scales hummocks of snow
stops to stare at me
with unblinking eyes
then turns to wend its way
through the tangled spires
of faded stalks and blossoms
foraging for seed
within its garden shire.

©Molly Hogan

Word guesses: windy, harpy, prosy, proxy

Beware

On these windy days
the air spirals
into harpy mode
keening, crying
clawing at my skin.
No prosy commentary
on the value
of rest and winter retreat,
this is a full-on assault.
Wind as Mother Nature’s proxy.

©Molly Hogan

Word guesses: pared, plums, pinch, point

After the Argument

With one eye on me
she pared down the mound of fruit 
ruthlessly discarding dented apples
rejecting dusky plums
giving the lone kiwi
a sharp-fingered pinch
tossing each
with a decisive thud
into the heaping compost bin

I got the point

©Molly Hogan

Here’s a recent round of guesses. Is there a poem lurking within them? Feel free to get inspired!

This week’s Poetry Friday Roundup is hosted by Tabatha Yeatts at her blog, The Opposite of Indifference.

Think Before You Speak

I’ve been in a bit of a funk lately, sort of slogging around through a toxic sludge of negativity, not super pleased with being in my own headspace. (Probably not thrilling those around me either, for that matter.) Overall, I’ve just felt primed to go dark. Here’s a small example: On the Teacher’s Room bulletin board, someone wrote, “What are you looking forward to in 2022?” Others had already responded, writing things like, “To thrive, not just survive” or “My son’s wedding” etc. My immediate knee-jerk response (internal thankfully, since the filter held this time and I didn’t say or write it) was “June 15th”. That just happens to be the last day of school. So, you get the picture.

Anyway, last week, I was walking down the hallway at school, stewing in my own negativity, when I happened to look up and see this bulletin board.

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I’ve seen it before, but this time, I stopped and read through it, line by line.

As I read, I thought about the things that have been coming out of my mouth lately: Complaints. Snarky comments. Pessimism. (Just to be clear, the audience to all of this is primarily adults–friends, family and colleagues (sorry, everyone!)– not students. But still.)

So I stood in front of the bulletin board and considered.

Think Before You Speak

is it True? Well, yes, what I say is generally true (though perhaps I’ve been catastrophizing a bit.)

is it Helpful? Um…maybe not so much

is it Inspiring? Oh. No question there. Definitely not.

is it Necessary? Probably not.

is it Kind? Well, it’s not un-kind …

Oh.

Hmmm….

I bumped into two colleagues a little while later and mentioned thinking about the sign.

“Oh, that’s a great bulletin board,” one of them said.

“Yeah,” I said, “I used to have it in my classroom. After reading and thinking about it today, I realized I find the poster and put it back up. I also realized that, in the meantime, I mostly just need to stop talking.”

They laughed.

But I wasn’t totally joking.

The next day, out of the blue, a text arrived with a photo from a distant friend (who courtesy of that distance honestly hasn’t been forced to listen to my negativity).

Clearly the universe is sending me a message.

I’ll look for the poster tomorrow.

Beginnings and Endings

Last week, Ruth Ayres invited others to write along to the prompt “Beginnings.” There was a time when I would have kept what I’ve written in my notebook. Safe from other’s eyes. Private.

Times have changed.

With my father’s death fresh in my mind, I’ve noticed that every beginning is marked by an ending. Or is it that the endings herald beginnings? Or do beginnings presage endings?

All I know is that right now, my father’s absence colors each threshold. This new year marks the first time in my life that a year won’t have him in it. On my upcoming birthday, there won’t be a card. Or a call. Updates and daily news shrivel unspoken on my lips.

I’ve always hated crying, but I’ve gotten used to it now. I’ve stopped fighting the prickling onset of tears. The slight wobble in my chin. The quiver in my lips. I accept them as part of each day. Not something to lean into. Not something to lean away from. Just something that is.

Tears will flow. Sometimes they brim and overflow, sometimes they pool and tremble, then recede. Sadness reabsorbed. Perhaps they are a beginning of sorts. First steps on a journey?

Some beginnings are haunted by endings.

PF: Between the Pages

This month Heidi posted our Inkling challenge. She invited us to “use the form” of the poem, The Lost Lagoon, by Emily Pauline Johnson (d. 1913) to build a “poem FOR CHILDREN about a treasured place that you return to again and again (geographical or metaphorical).”

There’s a lot to dig into in the mentor poem, and between my original draft and this final one, I seem to have drifted away from some of it (like the correct number of beats in my lines–oops!). Writing this poem has been a messy process and at this point it feels like it needs some time to simmer before I revisit it. I’ll put it on the back burner for a while, but here it is for now.

Between the Pages

I open the cover to look 
flip through the first pages inside
tantalized by the scents that arise
settle in, feel my worries subside.
Oh, the joy of a newfound book!

Halfway through I can’t stop to look
though someone’s been calling my name.
Printed words burst to life in my brain 
and I’m drawn like a moth to the flame
fully lost in the world of the book.

I turn the last page, then must look.
In the mirror my face seems the same
yet I feel fundamentally changed
my perceptions and world rearranged.
Lost and found in the world of a book.

©Molly Hogan, draft

If you’d like to read some other responses to this challenge, check out the links:
Catherine Flynn at Reading to the Core
Linda Mitchell at A Word Edgewise
Heidi Mordhorst at My Juicy Little Universe
Margaret Simon at Reflections on the Teche
Mary Lee Hahn at A(nother) Year of Reading

The Poetry Friday Roundup is hosted this week by Carol Varsalona at her blog Beyond Literacy Link.

SOL: A New Superstition

Birding Without Borders: An Obsession, a Quest, and the Biggest Year in the World by [Noah K. Strycker, Kenn Kaufman]

This year for Christmas I was given a book called, “Birding without Borders: An Obsession, a Quest and the Biggest Year in the World.” Intrigued, I immediately flipped it open to read the first sentence. “On New Year’s Day, superstitious birdwatchers like to say, the very first bird you see is an omen for the future.”

Ooooooh.

As someone who tries to say “Rabbit, Rabbit, Rabbit” each month and wishes on stars and pie corners and loves birds, I loved this idea. However, I was slightly wary. The future has been unrolling some mighty unpleasant things these days. I’ve also never dared go to a fortune teller or palm reader. The idea of doing so sends shivers down my spine. I’m not sure exactly what I think will happen, but I’m pretty convinced I’ll walk in, they’ll look into the ball, or into my hand, and either scream, faint, or back away in terror. So, did I really want a sneak peek? Even through a bird intermediary?

New Year’s Day 2022 dawned.

I had an odd start to the day–first I woke at 1:30 am (at which time I whispered “Rabbit Rabbit Rabbit” and nudged my husband to tell him to do the same, since you can never have too much luck), then I fell back asleep only to wake up fully at 3 am. I got up, putzed around til about 5:30, fell asleep on the couch for another hour, then woke again. Later, I was settled in, writing, when I suddenly realized I hadn’t noticed the daylight steadily increasing outside. No doubt the birds were already in full swing at the feeders. I couldn’t really avoid seeing birds all day long, so I guess my decision was made. I was going to look.

What kind of bird would I see when I looked? What kind of year would I have?

Our typical feathered visitors are chickadees, goldfinch, tufted titmice, nuthatches, blue jays, cardinals and a variety of woodpeckers. Most of those seemed like they’d have a positive interpretation, so I felt like the odds must be in my favor.

Deliberately, I raised my eyes from my notebook. The first thing I noticed were three mourning doves perched in the birch tree. Not one. Not two. But three of them. (I guess that was in case I didn’t notice the first one. Or the second one.) So, we do have mourning doves around sometimes, but they definitely aren’t daily visitors. The symbolism felt obvious even without a google search and even though I knew this wasn’t a real omen, more of a fun game, I felt my spirits sink. 2021 had plenty of mourning in it and the thought of a year marked by more of it was discouraging, to say the least.

I half-heartedly googled “mourning dove symbolism” and found that a mourning dove is “a symbol of sorrow and mourning”. No surprise there. Then I read further: “The mourning dove is, above all other symbolism, a spiritual messenger of peace, love, and faith.” Peace. Love. Faith. A year marked with those would surely be a positive one, right?

Here’s hoping.

Fowl Play

At some point in the past few weeks, Heidi Mordhorst referenced Mary Amato’s poetry prompt videos for the 12 Days of Christmas. In search of playful writing waters, I decided to check them out. Each day Mary Amato posted a short video prompt highlighting a literary technique based on that day’s line of the famous holiday song. I didn’t manage to complete all of them, but here are two I especially enjoyed.


“Form: In Paris you spy three French hens doing something unusual… Write a 3-line haiku about the hens. “

Three French hens
with innate feathered flair
catwalk down Paris’s streets

©Molly Hogan


“Alliteration: Write a song about swans. Sneak in as many s-words as possible.”

Swans*

Autumn winds are shifting
breathing winter’s sigh 
Swans are winging southward
with low and mournful cries

Silhouettes at sunrise
soaring through the sky
slicing clouds asunder
warning winter’s nigh

©Molly Hogan

*For what it’s worth, the tune for “sing a song of sixpence” was in my mind as I wrote this.

This week’s Poetry Friday Roundup is hosted by Jone MacCulloch at her blog.

Kindness

Last week I wrote about the kindness of a stranger at Target (here). This past Friday I received in the mail a note from friends who also follow my blog. They wrote because they were moved by that post about the woman who had bought a game for my classroom. They wanted me to know that, and they also enclosed a check to use “the next time you go to Target for games” for your students. Again, I was deeply touched. I realized how easy it can be to forget how many kind people there are in this world–people who actively try to spread kindness in small but oh-so-meaningful ways.

Then, on Saturday a bulky envelope arrived in my mailbox. Within was a beautifully hand-crafted book created by my writing group, the Inklings. They had filled the pages with bookmarks, stationary, and poems to comfort me as I grieve the loss of my father. I was left teary-eyed and speechless by their creativity and thoughtfulness. As I wrote them in thanks, “…just when life sends you reeling with a blow, hands reach out to hold you up.” Again, such kindness.

In her poem, Kindness, Naomi Shihab Nye writes,
“Before you know kindness as the deepest thing inside,
you must know sorrow as the other deepest thing.”

In these days as I traverse a raw grief, I feel all my prior losses reverberating in tune with this newest sadness. It can be easy to listen only to those somber notes, to sink into sorrow.

Nye’s poem goes on to say,

“Then it is only kindness that makes sense anymore,
only kindness that ties your shoes
and sends you out into the day to gaze at bread,
only kindness that raises its head
from the crowd of the world to say
It is I you have been looking for,
and then goes with you everywhere
like a shadow or a friend.”

Kindness matters. From the examples above, to the outpouring of thoughtful words and gestures from oh-so-many. Though some of my days are filtered darkly through a screen of grief, kindness has clearly raised its head. I feel its presence beside me and it comforts me, alters the shape of my grief, lightens its load. Ultimately, it allows me to feel blessed as well as bereft.

Thank you, my friends.

Thankful for Trouble

Early Saturday morning, I strolled listlessly through the aisles of Target, carefully checking my written list as I went. In the back of the store, there was a display overflowing with games, many of them familiar from my childhood. I glanced over as I passed. Sorry. Yahtzee. Chutes and Ladders. Wait…Trouble!? Oh. I’d loved Trouble! I picked up the box and looked fondly at that curved plastic center dome peeking through the center of the cardboard. I could still remember the feel of pushing it down and the click-popping sound it made as it rolled the die within. That would be a great game for indoor recess, I thought. I looked around in vain for a price tag. Well, I’ll just ask when I check out, I decided. If it’s less than $10, I’ll buy it.

When I got up front, there was only one cashier working. I settled into line with my few items, already beginning to feel the sharp stress nibbles of unfinished grading and incomplete report cards. Soon, a woman, masked as I was, got into line behind me.

“Wow, only one line open,” she commented, “but at least it’s not too busy.

We commiserated and chatted about this and that–the weird state of the world, how many people weren’t masked, Covid, etc.

“I have cancer,” she commented, “but I really wear my mask to protect others. I do love our governor, but I wish she’d mandate masks.”

I noted the dark circles under her eyes, her pallor and her thin frame. My heart squeezed a bit. Trying to manage a grave illness and navigate this Covid-altered world must be incredibly stressful.

The line moved forward and I started to unload my cart onto the belt.

“Oh, that’s a fun game!” she said, pointing at Trouble.

“I know!” I replied. “I remember loving this game as a kid. I’m a teacher and I thought my students would, too. I’m not sure how much it is though, so I haven’t decided if I’m getting it or not.”

We talked a bit about schools and how they’ve been managing these days, until finally, it was my turn at the register.

“How much is this?” I asked the cashier, holding up the game.

She scanned it. “Thirteen forty-nine.”

I hesitated, remembering my $10 mental limit, designed to stop me from overspending on my classroom.

“Never mind,” I said firmly. “I’m not going to get it.”

She tucked the rejected game under the counter and began to ring up my other purchases. A few minutes later, I paid and gathered up my bags. As I turned to leave, I heard the woman behind me say, “Oh, I’ll take that,” and saw her point to the Trouble game.

Then she turned to me, “Could you wait just a minute?” She quickly slid her card through the machine, then grabbed the game from the cashier and handed it to me.

“I’d like you to have it,” she said, “For your classroom. For the children.”

“Oh,” I stammered, “Wait. What? Oh. You don’t need to do that.”

“I want to,” she smiled, pushing the game into my hands.

I held onto it tightly, stumbling over my words. “But that’s so kind of you! Wow! The kids will love it. Thank you so much! “

“No,” she replied, “Thank you for all you’re doing.”

I thanked her again, and tears burning in my eyes, turned away, deeply touched by the kindess of a stranger.

PF: Jane Kenyon

I stumbled upon this poem recently, and I have come back to it again and again. Jane Kenyon sure knew how to say it.

In the Nursing Home
by Jane Kenyon

“She is like a horse grazing
a hill pasture that someone makes
smaller by coming every night
to pull the fences in and in.
 
She has stopped running wide loops,
stopped even the tight circles.”
click here for the rest of the poem.

The Poetry Friday Roundup is hosted this week by Carol Varsalona at her blog . She’s unveiling her most recent autumn gallery, an extravaganza of fall-inspired poetry and imagery. Be sure to stop by and check it out.

Fleeting

I heard the geese before I saw them, and the sound drew me across the room to the french doors. I looked into the sky over the pond and spotted them immediately. They flew low, a disorganized cluster, their calls loud and mournful. My mind reached for lines from a favorite poem, pulling up only a few of them.

“Something told the wild geese
it was time to fly.
Summer sun was on their wings,
Winter in their cry.”

As I watched, to my delight, the geese wheeled and turned, and then headed back toward the pond. Feet first, wings spread wide, they touched down in the water with great splashes. About a dozen of them paddled to shore and clambered up onto the snow-covered grass. I leaned against the cool glass, watching them. Every so often one of them would rise up and flap its wings, then settle back down. They ambled about socially. I wondered if they were cold. How long had they been traveling? Where were they bound? I thought idly that I could simply watch them all day long. Their presence soothed me.

I thought about my visit here three or four weeks ago. Then temperatures had been in the high 70s and low 80s and I’d been picking late-blooming flowers in my father’s garden. The geese had visited during that time as well, only a few, but still I’d enjoyed watching them until they flew away, their calls so evocative– Time is passing. Winter is coming.

So much had changed since then.

As I watched from the window, a neighbor from across the pond strode down the lawn, newspaper in hand, gesticulating at the birds.

Oh, no.

I straightened at the door, aware there really wasn’t anything I could do. I was a visitor in this neighborhood and her message was loud and clear. She flapped her arms vigorously and the geese heeded the warning. In a flutter of feathers and scrambling feet, they scrabbled into the pond. Within moments they had taken flight and moved out of sight. So quickly were they all gone, leaving only ripples of disturbance which quickly ebbed as the pond settled back into stillness.

I watched the neighbor trudge back up to her house, wondering what she felt she had accomplished. Sometimes I really don’t understand people. Geese are easier.

I remained by the window for a while, hoping the geese might return. Of course, they didn’t, but soon enough the sun shone through low clouds and lit the remaining foliage, dazzling my eyes. Within moments clouds prevailed again.

But oh, how beautiful the moment was while it lasted.

Something Told the Wild Geese
by Rachel Field

Something told the wild geese
It was time to go.
Though the fields lay golden
Something whispered,—‘Snow.’
Leaves were green and stirring,
Berries, luster-glossed,
But beneath warm feathers
Something cautioned,—‘Frost.’
All the sagging orchards
Steamed with amber spice,
But each wild breast stiffened
At remembered ice.
Something told the wild geese
It was time to fly,—
Summer sun was on their wings,
Winter in their cry.