#Poemtober

I’ve been dabbling in #Poemtober this month. It’s a challenge to use the daily word prompts from “Inktober” to inspire poems. Much to my dismay, many, if not most, of my efforts have been invaded by the political climate and my disgust for our current president. I feel like I need a brain rinse. Sigh…

Day 3: Bulky

Growing weight of worries
a bulky woolen sweater
itching at my skin

©Molly Hogan

Day 6: Rodent

King Rodent
hosts scores of feasting fleas.
Nourished by his dark blood,
they scuttle off
to spread his plague
throughout the land.

©Molly Hogan

Day 7: Fancy

With his fancy resorts
and fancy casinos,
he fancies he can have
whatever he wants,
do whatever he wants,
say whatever he wants.

He’s grounded in greed
mucked deep in the mire
of his own malignancy
with his fancy sycophants
dancing attendance.

I do not fancy him.

©Molly Hogan

Day 9: Throw (inspired by Linda Mitchell’s “Untitled Duplex” and the line, “Poets throw lines to clear the wreck”)

Throw me a line
a perfect image
or refrain
a lifeline of verse
to pull me
from the treacherous waters
of this new reality

©Molly Hogan
(inspired by Linda Mitchell’s “Untitled Duplex” and the line, “Poets throw lines to clear the wreck”)

This week’s Poetry Friday Roundup is hosted by Janice Scully at her blog, Salt City Verse. She’s sharing a wonderful quote from Thomas Carlyle, autumnal celebrations, and a heartfelt poem about stopping time and holding on to a lovely moment.

Here’s a recent lovely moment of my own–its own form of brain rinse:

Yesterday at the River

Yesterday at the river, there was no drama. No brilliant splash of red or purplepainted clouds. I stood on the bridge as the river below glided silently by, tugging steadily at a green buoy.

Tethered securely, it bobbed and swirled. I looked down on it, watching as it twisted and turned. Wondered what held it fast deep below the water’s surface. Watched, mesmerized, as it ruffled the placid silk of the river’s flow into whirling pools and eddies.

Few birds called yesterday. Far off a crow or two and later a few geese, sounding their echoing farewells. Once the rippling call of a kingfisher crazylaughed across the water, like a skipped stone. Mostly, though, it was a quiet time. A grey time. An in-between time.

Yesterday the fish sought flight. Again and again they flung their bodies, bursting from the river, quivering curls of gleaming scales, then splashed back from air to water. Silvered concentric circles rippled out to intersect, overlap, then bump invisibly against the shore. A gentle nudge from fish to air to water to land.

The river flowed. The buoy held. The fish jumped.

I stood still. I watched. I listened.

Eventually, the sun rose, cresting the horizon with no great fanfare, just a gentle, gradual lightening.

A new day began.

Night Sounds

Night Sounds

Sometimes
in the deep-dark-between hours,
when curdling worries
and prickling fears
pinch and poke me
from sleeping to sleepless,
I find comfort in the night sounds.

Sometimes I hear
the distant hoots
of a barred owl calling,
“Whooo cooks for you?”
threading through the trees,
the merest whisper of a sound.

Sometimes two owls
swoop in closer,
engage in a spirited duet,
a raucous whirlwind
of cascading calls, 
grumbles and hoots.

Sometimes I hear
the far-off yipping cries
of a pack of wandering coyotes.
Or only the crickets
chirping in the night,
setting the air abuzz.

Then sometimes,
there are nights when I wake 
to silent darkness
beyond our windows, and
the soft rhythm
of you,
breathing beside me.

I turn and nestle
into your warmth
and slowly,
my inhale mingled with yours,
our exhales twined,
I drift back to sleep.

©Molly Hogan, 2020 (draft)

This week’s Poetry Friday Roundup is hosted by Bridget Magee of wee word fame at her blog, wee words for wee ones. She’s sharing a delightful post filled with all things orange.

The Tectonics of Grief

The first time I encountered a duplex was in an Ethical ELA challenge back in May. They linked to a Poetry Foundation post that described the process of writing a duplex as: “Write a ghazal that is also a sonnet that is also a blues poem of 14 lines.” What?! I immediately cried “Uncle.”

Then, this month Margaret Simon suggested that for our monthly challenge we should write duplex poems. I maybe groaned out loud. I was decidedly daunted. But now, I had to at least try.

So, I puzzled out the basics. Seven couplets, each with 9-11 syllables was doable. I could also echo my initial line in my final line. But then there’s an expectation that the meaning or impression shifts from certain lines to others. (If you’re interested in the specifics of that, you can go here.) I’ll admit that that was the part I was still fiddling with when the deadline arrived.

The Tectonics of Grief

Grief–a seismic change, colossal shift
familiar landscape ever altered.

Altered landscape becomes familiar.
Under my feet, fractured terrain settles. 

I settle for this fractured terrain with
slivers of  beauty ‘midst ravaged crevasses.

Ravaged crevasses etched in my reflection–
a puzzle of tracks and foundational cracks. 

I puzzle over cracks and artifacts,
looking for edges, connecting jagged pieces.

Pieces connect unexpectedly. I edge
forward, stumble with aftershocks,

recreating my past, stumbling forward until…
grief–a seismic change, colossal shift.

©Molly Hogan

This week’s Poetry Friday Roundup is hosted by Tabatha Yeatts at her blog, The Opposite of Indifference. She’s sharing a wonderful interview with Carole Boston Weatherford about her new YA novel in verse about Marilyn Monroe, entitled “Beauty Mark.” What an enticing sneak peek!

To see what the other Swaggers did with this duplex challenge, check out their sites:
Heidi Mordhorst at My Juicy Little Universe
Margaret Simon at Reflections on the Teche
Linda Mitchell at A Word Edgewise
Catherine Flynn at Reading to the Core

(Note:I’m unable to figure out to how to format the duplex with the new wordpress editor–Please use your imagination and pretend the 2nd, 4th, and 6th stanzas are indented!)

I guess it was bound to happen.

Socially distanced, masked and with freshly sanitized hands, the kids were playing a math game, “Spin and Round”, along the periphery of the room. I’d just checked in with the last group and headed past my desk where my phone was lying out. It’s become an integral part of the day since we spend lots of time outside and I have no time to access my computer after about 11:00 am. I’ve gotten used to glancing at it to check for important e-mails, and did this as I walked by, noticing a notification of an incoming district e-mail.

“Positive Case of Covid-19….”

I stopped in my tracks.

What!?

I grabbed my phone, quickly clicked on the notification, and read.

The details were deliberately vague, but someone with contact at our district’s middle school had tested positive for Covid. My heart sank.

About fifteen minutes later, at recess, the kids played and the adults huddled, checking in with each other.

“Did you see the e-mail?”

“Do you know anything?”

“You know our kids practice sports at the middle school, right?”

We reassured ourselves that this was bound to happen. It wasn’t unexpected. And it was just one case. Hopefully our precautions would serve us well and this could be contained.

We headed back into school, slightly uneasy. But at least there weren’t any cases at our school.

About an hour and a half later, as the kids packed up, I quickly checked e-mails.

Oh, no.

Sure enough, there was another district e-mail.

“Three More Probable Cases of Covid-19.”

My head spun. I hadn’t expected this notice so quickly after the first one. I skimmed the text. Three cases. One more at the middle school, one at the high school and one at a 3-5 school. None at our school. At least not yet.

Still. This is beginning to feel like a runaway train heading down the tracks.

Limericks to the Rescue!

It was a long week. Hybrid Model. Group A. Group B. Daily Agendas. NWEA Testing. F&P Testing.

I barely squeaked out this limerick.

The Tale of the Fashionable Carrot

There once was a carrot by chance,
whose roots grew to look like orange pants.
He capered, cavorted,
his root legs contorted,
creating his own harvest dance.

©Molly Hogan

And since writing limericks is such fun, I was inspired to try another in response to Jone’s invitation to write a math-related poem today.

Standardized Testing and Vocabulary Enrichment

When math testing wouldn’t resume
I started to fret and to fume.
Technological glitches
unfiltered my lipses.
The F-bomb went off in my room.

©Molly Hogan

Ok, the f-bomb was dropped. But actually only after students had departed for the day and I couldn’t get the next day’s test session set up. Talk about aggravating! It was one tech testing snafu after another all day long. Ugh.

This week’s Poetry Friday Roundup is hosted by Jone McCullough at her new blog site. She’s invited participants to share math-inspired poems and is highlighting a few from a soon-to-be-released anthology by Janet Wong and Sylva Vardell.

In Sync

It was a lazy Saturday afternoon. After working in the yard all morning, I sat on the chair in the living room, alternatively reading and playing an occasional word game on my phone. An e-mail notification silently popped up. I clicked on it and read.

“Oh my God, Kurt! Guess what just happened!” I announced dramatically. I waited for him to answer, expecting him to ask what newly outrageous post a relative had written, or what lies a certain politician was now spewing, or what new national disaster threatened.

He looked up from the sofa, where he was reading his book. He paused, then said, “You found out that your favorite gelato flavor is in?”

I looked at his hands–book only, no phone, no computer. I looked at my phone again, and reread the e-mail message:

“How could you possibly know that?” I finally asked, astonished.

“I don’t know,” he shrugged. “It’s just the first thing that came into my head.”

“Whoa! That is so strange! We haven’t even been talking about getting gelato lately.” I looked again at my phone, dumbfounded, and then back at him.

“I can’t believe you knew that!”

A moment later, still flummoxed, I commented, “That is just so weird! Clearly, we have been married too long.”

Then a few days later, we simultaneously reached out to affectionately pat the other as we walked past each other–kind of like you pet your old faithful dog. We both laughed.

“Pretty soon we aren’t even going to need to talk at all,” Kurt joked.

Threshold Choir

I came across a poem recently and it, and its backstory, moved me deeply. I’ve reread it several times and have thought about it often. The poet, David Sloan, said that he wrote this poem after hearing a friend describe his experiences as a member of a group that sings people who are close to dying “over the threshold.”

This morning a friend wrote to tell of a relative’s death, a beautiful passing accompanied by love, laughter and tears. It struck me that she and her family were essentially “singing” their loved one over the threshold. I’m hoping that she reads this poem today.

Threshold Choir
by David Sloan

Everyone’s eyes are closed—
the singers, the granddaughter 
asleep in a chair pulled close 
to the bed, and what’s left
of a woman breathing raggedly, 
straining to escape a husk. 

Despite the angularity 
of the room, circles appear 
everywhere; a ring of family 
photographs, singers surrounding 
the bed, the tag around the dying 
woman’s flower-stem wrist, the O 
made by the dozing girl’s mouth.

The tubes have been pulled out, 
machines have stopped humming.   
They sing adagio, softly, 

I will be your standing stone

To read the entire poem, click here.

This week’s Poetry Friday Roundup is hosted by Kiesha Shephard at her blog, Whispers from the Ridge. She’s shining a spotlight on one of her favorite poets, Paul Laurence Dunbar. I know I’ll be returning to her site again to reread the poem, “Sympathy,” that she is sharing there.

Not Quite Ready

Saturday was an odd day. Sometimes I felt content, finishing up a chore, pulling a few weeds, wiling away some time reading on the porch. At other times, I was unsure what to do. I moved from task to task, not getting much done, feeling uneasy–sort of nebulously stressed. I couldn’t put my finger on the pulse of that stress, but was pretty sure it was spelled s-c-h-o-o-l. I was aware of so much poised to begin, so much ending and felt unable, or perhaps unwilling, to address either. At least not yet.

The weather mirrored some of my confusion. The air was cool, but the sun was quite warm. As my daughter put it, “These days it’s fall in the morning and summer by afternoon.” Or fall in the shade and summer in the sun.

At one point, I lingered on the porch, slightly chilled when the breeze picked up or the clouds shadowed me. Too warm when the sun blazed. I read and read, escaping into the twists and turns of my latest mystery. Ultimately, lulled by a stretch of warm and sunny, and dulled by a few restless nights weighted with worries, I dozed, upright in the Adirondack chair.

When I woke, I was confused.

What was that?

A loud whirring, buzzing filled my ears.

Huh? What?

I turned toward the sound, opening my eyes groggily. Then more quickly.

Whoa!

Right next to me, right by my head, was a hummingbird!

Her feathers glistened green and her delicate feet dangled below her. She was so close that I could feel the air from her wings brush against my cheek. I watched her, not daring to move. She hovered about my head, darting forward and back, from one side to the other a few times. Then suddenly, with no warning, she swiftly flew off, disappearing behind the house.

What was that about?

I looked around. I wasn’t near the feeder. I wasn’t wearing red. There were no flowering plants next to me. In front of me, the garden blooms shone in the bright light, primarily white and yellow tones with touches of fading pink. Fruit hung red and heavy on the bending branches of the apple tree. The sky was a brilliant blue, with a few pillowy clouds. Birds flew in to the feeder, chattering, and then flew away again. The sun still warmed my skin, but fall nipped at the edges, waiting in the shadows.

I felt a surge of deep appreciation for the beauty that surrounded me but found no explanation for the hummingbird’s visit.

I sat still for quite some time. Waiting. But she did not return. Perhaps she was merely passing through. Perhaps she had already begun her lengthy migration to warmer climes. Perhaps she too was unsettled by the coming changes.

Slowly I reopened my book and retreated again. Both part of the world and separate from it. In a sort of voluntary stasis. Not quite ready, yet, to fully launch into the next stage of the coming adventure.

“In One Word” Poems

Late in May I read a post from April Halprin Wayland describing a new form of poems she’d been writing. She called them “In One Word” poems. There was a puzzle-y aspect to the form (think Word Scramble) that immediately appealed to me. April’s linked post outlines her step-by-step description of the process, but essentially, to write an “In One Word” poem, you

  • choose a word
  • list words that you find within that word
  • choose words from that list
  • write a poem in which each line ends with one of those words

Easy, right?

Not quite. I immediately began fiddling around with the form in my notebook. Initially, I got stuck on step one: Choose a word. It was hard! I wanted to choose the perfect word. But what was that? Did I want a word that annoyed me or one that was personally meaningful or one that held surprising words within it? Then, though I can word scramble with the best of them, constructing a meaningful poem from the resulting words added yet another layer of difficulty. Eventually, I put the form to the side for a while.

When I was faced with writing a Summer Poetry Swap poem in August for the mighty Tabatha Yeatts, I turned to this form again. This time the one word choice was easy: Imperfect

Within Imperfect

If you forever seek perfect,
you may instead discover a recipe
for dissatisfaction–a price
too high to remit.

But within imperfect is a permit
to take risks, light a fire
of creativity, to be bold and fierce.

When you embrace imperfect,
you set yourself free.

©Molly Hogan

Then, this month Catherine Flynn suggested writing an “In One Word” poem for our challenge. Sharing the poem I wrote for Tabatha felt a bit like cheating, so I fiddled a bit more. Ultimately I decided to work with the word “gardens”, as mine have been such a source of comfort for me this summer.

Within my garden

A spider darns,
repairs its web, an intricate snare
for unwitting victims who dare
to cross the sea
of leaves and blossoms, to rend
those delicate threads, drag
them with feet and wings, and end
web-caught amidst the fragrant sage
bordering the garden.

©Molly Hogan

Hmmmm…..Sometimes a poem moves in a different direction than you anticipate. So much for solace in the garden!

To see other “In One Word” poems, check out these blogs:
Linda Mitchell
Catherine Flynn
Margaret Simon
Heidi Mordhorst

This week Carol Varsalona is hosting the Roundup at her blog, Beyond Literacy Link. Carol is a tireless poetry ambassador and nature enthusiast who, among other things, creates fabulous virtual seasonal galleries of photographs and poetry to share. She’s unveiling her Embraceable Summer Gallery with a few sensational highlights in her post and a link to the full gallery. Make sure to stop by and check it out!