PF: Why?

I’ve barely participated in Poetry Friday over the past few months, but happily I happened to stumble upon Amy Ludwig VanDerwater’s recent post, “Answer an Unasked Question“. I was utterly enchanted by her poem called “Answer”, a whimsical imagining of taking tea with the moon. Amy invited readers to “Think of something someone might wonder, real or pretend…and then write a poem answering this question.” I passed her invitation along to the Inklings for our monthly challenge.

Here’s my response to that challenge, along with a big nod of thanks to Mary Lee for sharing the mentor poem “Because of a Redwood” (which heavily influenced my poem’s structure) and to Joe Cottonwood for writing it. I also think a bit of influence seeped in from a little book I found long ago called “The Tiniest Sound” by Mel Evans.

Why?

Because when I step outside
and close my eyes
I can hear the sun 
rising above the horizon
inch by slow inch,
probing its warm, gentle rays
into piles of fallen leaves

Because there’s the faintest rustle
as frost loosens its grip
from limned leaves
of maple, aspen or oak,
shifts from glitter to flow,
then lets go
to drip
drop
onto crisply tousled grass
then slowly seep into waiting earth
where drowsy roots shift and murmur
in greeting and gratitude

Because I can feel the air
tremble and hum
in anticipation of the coming day
in all its fragile vulnerable wonderful newness

And because every single day
the birds waken, eager to sing
first a note or two
then a burgeoning chorus
that pierces the morning hush
like a beam of light striking a crystal,
splintering silence 
into a dazzling crescendo
of glorious, vibrant waves
that wash over me
again and again
So that anything
and everything
seems possible

©Molly Hogan, draft

If you’d like to read what the other Inklings did with this challenge, click on the links:

Linda Mitchell
Margaret Simon
Heidi Mordhorst
MaryLee Hahn

and be sure to visit Catherine Flynn who is hosting Poetry Friday today and will also be sharing her response.

The potential of gathering charges

Driving to school, I feel the stress accumulating. It’s like there are free-floating electrons of anxiety in the atmosphere, and I’m greedily scooping them all up. A big stress hoover.

As I drive along, thinking of electrons, a memory tugs at me: childhood shock wars. I haven’t thought of this in years, but suddenly I remember it all so clearly. How, once upon a time, my brother and sisters and I would put on our thickest socks and scoot our feet across the rug in large swooping steps, skating across the carpet. How we’d dodge and chase each other, not lifting our feet, still scooting, hoping to pick up more and more and more charge. Finally we’d stretch out, connect, and a bolt of shock would release from one to the other.

Zap!

“Ouch!” we’d yell. Or, “That was a good one!”

And then we’d laugh and laugh, and start scooting again.

I’ve been lingering in childhood memories lately and bracing for the next shock, whatever it might be. Missing my dad. Missing my friend. Grieving my newly lost stepmother. Mourning my relationship with my brother who’s chosen to remove me from his life. Trying to come to terms with this odd place and time called middle age.

On this particular November morning, as I reminisce, the day is brightening around me. Sunrise is imminent. I notice the dark grey clouds gathering above the horizon. I try to remember what I once learned about clouds. Aren’t there electrons hanging out there, too? I’m pretty sure there are electrons in the clouds, and that when enough of them accumulate, they stream downward. Then protons surge upward, and …

Boom! Zap! Lightning! Thunder! Power unleashed.

As I watch, that potential is gathering on the horizon. It could mean a devastating storm is brewing, or even a minor one, but for right now, the clouds merely seem intent on enhancing the sunrise, sending fractured rays of lights to shimmer through layers of pink, gold, and blue. Without them, the sunset would not be nearly as spectacular. That’s something to remember.

PF: Folktale Week Challenge

Linda had our Inklings challenge this month and she responded with an invitation to “find or write a poem in any form of any length for Folktale Week November 14-20, 2022.” The folks at Folktale Week describe the prompts as an opportunity to “search for your favorite folktales, discover new ones, work on your own amazing art, or even write your own tales.” Here is the prompt list with their accompanying lush illustration:

Unfortunately, October truly threw me for a loop this year, and I’m still struggling to regain my equilibrium. Very little writing happened. Then, although I recognized the richness and flexibility of the prompt, I had a hard time finding my way in. I pondered using fool, or potion, or star. I stopped and started. My thoughts turned time and again to tree and I remembered something about the Norse sacred tree, Yggdrasil (though I did not remember the name without a Google search). I don’t know much about Norse mythology or this tree, but remembered it was central to the universe. I was drawn to that idea–a tree uniting worlds, central to all. There’s some sort of infinite healing potential about a tree.

This poem doesn’t really feel ready for the light of day, and it surely doesn’t offer a tale, but I didn’t want to forgo participating in Linda’s challenge. I apologize in advance for the maudlin bent, but it seems to be what’s emerging from my pen these days.

Hand pressed to tree
I stand
alone
soul barked and bruised
yearning to be
rooted to earth
while soaring upward
bridging worlds

yearning to cleave
to now and then
to here and there

Hand pressed to tree
I stand
still
whilst splintering
in all directions

©Molly Hogan, draft

If you’re interested in how the other Inklings responded to the challenge, check out the links below:

Linda Mitchell
Margaret Simon
Catherine Flynn
MaryLee Hahn

Also, this week the Poetry Friday Roundup is hosted by Heidi Mordhorst who’s sharing her response to the Inkling challenge. Be sure to stop by My Juicy Little Universe and check out what she has on offer!

PF: Poemtober

This year I’ve been trying again to write poems in response to the Inktober drawing prompts. I’ve only written to about half of the prompts so far, but hope to play more this weekend. Some of the prompts are quite challenging at first glance, and it can be interesting to see where they lead. Here are a few from the past two weeks:

Day #2: Scurry

Why the constant scurry?
Trying to outpace worry?
So fast. Too fast.
Life gets blurry.
Slow down. Take time.
Less rush. Less flurry.

©Molly Hogan

Day # 4 :scallop

October Wondering

How does the moon
with such precision
carve opalescent scallop
from the inky fabric
of an autumn night?

©Molly Hogan

Day #6 Bouquet

Within the chrysalis
caterpillar transforms
from many-legged thing
to a bouquet
of petalled wings

©Molly Hogan

Day #14 empty

Some Days Are Just Like That…

Everything
feels empty
What’s missing
pulls and tugs
at the heart

©Molly Hogan

If you’re interested in trying out these prompts, here’s the list:

This week’s Poetry Friday Roundup is hosted by Matt Forrest Esenwine at his blog, Radio, Rhythm & Rhyme. He’s sharing exciting news about his newest book and an original poem as well.

Autumn Exuberance

I’ve been out and about a lot lately, enjoying the spectacular fall foliage. Autumn really doesn’t know how to tone things down, does she? She’s the queen of gaud and exuberance and exults in every moment of it. I’m a delighted spectator. These days, no matter how late I’m running, I keep taking the long way home. Somehow the wheel turns and I’m heading along yet another detour, prolonging my immersion in the glorious parade of color. From country lane to marsh to river to harvested field, there’s a constant sense of anticipation, of wondering what technicolor marvels might be just around the next corner. Flames of crimson and gold leap about in the landscape, blazing into brilliant blue skies, reflecting off the water, and lighting up overcast days. It’s a non-stop autumnal extravaganza and I’m thankful for every moment of it.

PF: Wordy 30s!

Ok, first off, I need to apologize. The brevity of this form definitely did not inspire a corresponding brevity in my post. I got a little carried away with Mary Lee’s prompt and decided to share the whole dang process!

So, let’s be clear– I am a total Wordle nerd and was utterly delighted when Mary Lee challenged us this month with the Wordy 30 form. Here is her explanation of the form: “A Wordy 30 is a poem using exactly 30 letters. Each line should have the same number of letters. Each line should use one word. You might have 6 lines with 5 letters in each line (like Wordle), or 5 x 6, 3 x 10, 10 x 3, 15 x 2, 2 x 15, 30 x 1, or (most unlikely) 1 x 30. Have…fun???”

I dove in with great enthusiasm, and found myself gravitating toward the 6×5 structure.

Guess
whose
terse
verse
stuck
quick?

©Molly Hogan

Hmmmm…. the one word per line limit was…well…limiting! I kept fiddling away at it.

Every
terse
verse
first
began
worse.

©Molly Hogan

That one made me laugh, but I realized that what I wanted to do was somehow tell a story within the tight framework of the challenge. I thought about this a lot, often while driving to work.

Rainy
drive
Final
nerve
frays
snaps

©Molly Hogan

Meh. I still wasn’t satisfied. Maybe I should get a bit more philosophical. Or I could play around with 6x5s. Or, inspired by Margaret and Linda, I could create add some image poems.

Nature
offers
tender
solace…
Linger

©Molly Hogan

Leaves
shiver…
Winter
admits
ghosts

©Molly Hogan

Finally, (because, why not?!) I decided to try a 3×10.

Time Scythes

everything
meticulous
disappears

©Molly Hogan

If you have any more appetite for Wordy 30s, check out what the other Inklings did on their sites. Here are the links:

Linda Mitchell
Margaret Simon
Catherine Flynn
Heidi Mordhorst
MaryLee Hahn

This week’s Poetry Friday Roundup is hosted by Sarah Grace Tuttle at her blog. Be sure to stop by and enjoy some poetry!

Release Day

(I’ve been sharing our butterfly adventures from week to week. You can see earlier installments here and here. You should know that we named all of our caterpillars and the favorite was named Bob Weezer.)

The day had finally arrived! Three of our four monarch caterpillars had transformed into butterflies and although we weren’t able to witness their emergence, we were still enchanted by their presence in the classroom. After giving them a day to strengthen up, and after a lot of oohing and aahing over their beauty, and a lot of calling out with excitement whenever they flapped their wings or decided to fly from one side of the enclosure to the other, I we decided it was time to send them on their way. There was some last minute concern expressed that the late-to-pupate Bob Weezer, who still remained tucked into his tidy chrysalis, would be lonely without the others. After some debate, we all agreed that the other butterflies needed all the time they could get to begin their migration. Bob Weezer was going to have to tough it out.

I gathered up the butterfly tent and my students got in line. As we walked outside, I heard a student whisper under her breath, “I’m going to miss those little bundles of love.” We wandered over to one of the school’s flower gardens, chattering the whole way. Then, lo and behold! What did we see there?

The kids cheered! This monarch was already happily gathering nectar in the garden. We all interpreted this as a positive sign.

I set down the butterfly tent in a nearby grassy spot.

“Shhhhh!” whispered all the kids as they huddled around.

“Ready?” I asked.

“Ready!” they whispered back.

I unzipped the tent and immediately one butterfly flew out and soared into the blue skies. The kids jumped up and waved frantically. Within moments it was out of sight, but their cries lingered.

“Goodbye! Goodbye!” they called.

“Adios!”

Mere moments later the second butterfly had joined its comrade, escaping the confines of the tent and flying briskly away to the cheers of our class.

We turned back to the tent. The final butterfly wasn’t as eager to leave. We watched and waited.

And waited.

“Come on! Come on!” the kids coaxed.

Some of them grew tired after a few minutes waiting and wandered off to examine the gardens, but quite a few still gathered around. They whispered to the butterfly.

“Come on, little guy. It’s okay!”

“You can do it!”

“It’s okay to be scared, but you’ll be okay. Just try.”

My heart melted just a bit. They were so earnest and concerned.

Finally, with their encouragement, the third butterfly stepped closer and closer to the opening and then leapt into flight with a dazzling flutter of wings. It soared up up up! The kids cheered again and jumped and hooted and hollered, waving furiously the whole time. After a moment or two of wild celebration, I zipped up the tent, rounded them up, and we headed back inside.

We walked back into the classroom with our tent, which seemed sadly depleted now.

One lone pupa hung from the top.

“Well,” said a student, “At least we still have Bob Weezer.”

Emerge- A Definito

Having a great fondness for Heidi Mordhorst’s definito form, last month I tucked away a mental note to write one for the Poetry Pal’s shared challenge for today. In Heidi’s words, “the definito is a free verse poem of 8-12 lines (aimed at readers 8-12 years old) that highlights wordplay as it demonstrates the meaning of a less common word, which always ends the poem. I’ve written definitos before (here), but it had been quite a while since I’d played with the form. As usual, I wish I’d had more time!

Half the fun of writing a definito is choosing the word you want to highlight. With butterflies on the mind in my classroom this week, emerge was an easy win.

Emerge

A scuba diver bubbles up
from turbulent seas.
A skyline materializes
as coastal fog fades.
From a too-tight chrysalis
a butterfly steps and spreads
its crumpled wings.
To move out or away from
To come into view
To emerge.

©Molly Hogan, draft

Make sure to visit The Opposite of Indifference where Tabatha Yeatts is hosting this week’s Poetry Friday Roundup. There are sure to be other definitos for you to enjoy, along with an assortment of other poetry.

Transformation

In the past, most of my students have known all about the monarch life cycle. They got excited when they see the J form, knowing it wouldn’t be long til there was a dangling chrysalis in its place. This year, like every year, the kids have been utterly entranced watching the caterpillars roam around in their butterfly tent. I’ve already written about some of our caterpillar adventures (here), but what’s really struck me is that my students seem much more unaware of the process of metamorphosis than in the past. Instead of confident comments and shared knowledge, there have been a slew of questions: What’s it doing? Why’s it doing that?

With this in mind, the other day I read to them all about the caterpillar lifecycle. We spent a long time examining a series of pictures of the final skin shed, when the dark striped skin splits down the back of the caterpillar and the green skin below emerges.

We wondered at the idea that this final skin would actually harden into the pupa. Minds blown! We had a grand time talking about the process and about having green skin in general. Finally, I glanced up at the clock. Oops.

“Ok, everyone, we’ve got to get going. It’s time to head to Specials.”

The kids got up off the carpet and moved toward the doorway. L, who was ahead of us all, suddenly cried out, “Hey, it’s doing it right now!”

We all briefly froze in our tracks, then raced across the room to converge around the butterfly tent. Sixteen pairs of eyes focused on the caterpillar dangling from the top. Sixteen mouths dropped open. Sixteen people started talking simultaneously.

What had been a striped monarch caterpillar before we began our read aloud was now undergoing a transformation. Green skin was visible over about half of it. The kids burst into excited chatter, hopping up and down and pointing.

“Look at that!”

“Wait! What’s it doing?”

“It’s pupating!”

“Ew!”

We watched as the caterpillar squirmed and wiggled and more and more green skin emerged.

“Look how much it’s moving!”

After the shed skin was finally gathered at one end, the caterpillar continued to wriggle dramatically until…

Plop!

The discarded skin dropped to the floor of the tent.

“Ah!” shrieked K, stepping back. “Did its head just fall off!?!”

We reassured K. and kept our eyes glued on the caterpillar. What was it going to do next? Finally, its intense wiggling ceased and it slowly stopped moving altogether.

The caterpillar may have been still, but the energy in the room remained electric. Kids chattered, their voices and comments tumbling over each other.

At this point it was definitely past time to head to Specials. The kids got into line, wriggling with excitement, transformed by this experience. Eyes wide. Faces aglow. More than once I heard one of them whisper again, with a big grin on their face, “That was amazing!”

It truly was.

Watching Caterpillars

The monarch caterpillars are the first and last things the kids look at every day. It’s been a long time since I’ve had caterpillars in the classroom, and I’d forgotten that they are a continual source of wonder and conversation. They are a total distraction, yet totally delightful.

It hasn’t all been smooth sailing though, as we’ve already had some high drama. One afternoon, we thought for sure one of them was a goner. It hadn’t moved or eaten for quite a while. All afternoon it stayed in one spot, far away from tempting milkweed. Never moving. The kids snuck over occasionally to peek. Nothing changed. It didn’t move. At all. Then a dark substance appeared behind it. It still wasn’t moving. Uh oh.

“Is it dead?” several kids asked later, as we passed the tent on our way to the buses.

“I don’t know,” I replied. “It doesn’t look good. We’ll see what’s happening in the morning.”

Silently, I was already contemplating how we could tuck a caterpillar funeral into our schedule.

We left school with heavy hearts.

The next morning, as I greeted kids at the door, two boys approached me.

Is it…?”

“Did he make it?”

“It did!” I enthused. ” Go see!”

The boys ran over to check things out. “Bob Weezer’s alive!” they called out in delight, high fiving each other. And so, in the midst of our collective relief, we all learned his name. (Later, we also learned that he was just chilling while he was shedding.)

Soon, the kids had christened two more of the visiting caterpillars: Chrysalissy and Butter. Debate raged about what to name the last one. It was down to two names: Tomato Tomahto and Hugo. C. asked me if he could poll the class during Quiet Time.

“Sure, ” I said. “Just make sure to whisper.”

He grabbed a piece of paper and created a tally chart with the two name options. Then, he quietly approached each classmate, asking them to vote.

At the end of Quiet Time, we were all on the edge of our seats. C stood up and made the announcement: It was a close contest, but…

Hugo won the day!

And now, we watch and wait.

Be sure to stay tuned for the next installment of Adventures with Bob Weezer, Hugo, Butter and Chrysalissy.