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!

PF: A Poem of Farewell

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Many months ago, fellow Swagger, Heidi Mordhorst,  suggested writing a poem of farewell for our monthly challenge. At that time, none of us had any idea that it wouldn’t be a run-of-the-mill end to the school year. I remember idly thinking I’d maybe write a farewell to my alarm clock or to some aspect of my classroom.

When I finally turned my  attention to this month’s challenge again, maybe a week or two ago, my initial knee-jerk poetic response was:

Every atom
of my being
revolts
at the thought
of saying
one
more
goodbye.

There have been so many unexpected endings lately. Sigh.
In other words, I struggled with finding a way into this challenge.  After numerous false starts, I toyed with the idea of not participating, but I felt guilty, especially since another Swagger, Margaret Simon, was hosting the Roundup this week at her blog, Reflections on the Teche. (Be sure to check out her beautiful golden shovel, written to her students.)

Finally, I was bemoaning the pending deadline and my lack of progress on the prompt to my daughter. We were talking about all the accumulating, worrying farewells (school, employment opportunities, truth, common decency, environmental protections, etc.) and she started riffing off the ending of “Goodnight Moon”. Inspiration struck! With apologies to Margaret Wise Brown, I used her classic book as a starting point. Like so many things, it turned political.

Goodnight Trump

In the great white house
there is an inept man
with a sickening band
of sycophants
who
rally round his toxic rants.

With this bigoted liar in the oval room,
lie truth in tatters and a whiff of doom,
tax returns hidden, but no books in sight
a hunger for power—not justice, but might,
mocking tweets, outrageous lies,
a need to diminish and patronize.

Goodbye dignity
Goodbye truth
Goodbye clean water and skies for our youth
Goodbye unity and national pride
and a country with citizens deeply united
Goodbye decency
Goodbye class.
Pray God, come November,
Goodbye to this Ass.

©Molly Hogan, 2020, draft (revised again after posting)

To see how my fellow Swaggers’ respond to this challenge, click below:

Today’s host, Margaret Simon: Reflections on the Teche
Linda Mitchell: A Word Edgewise
Catherine Flynn: Reading to the Core
Heidi Mordhorst: My Juicy Little Universe

 

PF: Another Week of Poems Of Presence

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This week it’s mostly been #PoemsofPresence again. I think I missed some days and wrote two on others (who can keep track of the days anymore!?!), but here are a few of this week’s entries: 

May 23

cardinal two

Bird song spills
into golden afternoon.
A slim candle
of cardinal
illuminates the shade.

©Molly Hogan, 2020

May 25th

Busy with chores,
our orbits crossed
in the living room
where the music played
loud and bouncy.
We met,
danced a few steps
together,
then twirled off,
accelerating back
onto our individual
trajectories.

©Molly Hogan, 2020

May 26

Illicit Goods

Somehow
a persistent yen
for a sticky roll
with pecans
transformed into
a surreptitious
curbside pick-up
with money exchanged
for a suspiciously bulky
brown paper bag.

©Molly Hogan, 2020

May 27

ajuga

ajuga’s bugle blossoms
rouse the drowsy bees
morning reveille

©Molly Hogan, 2020

This week’s Poetry Friday Roundup is hosted by Mary Lee Hahn at her blog, “A Year of Reading.” Mary Lee is sharing poems by Marilyn Chin along with a nudge to stretch oneself and read “without walls”. Thanks, Mary Lee, I needed that!

Water Memory

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Amy Ludwig VanDerwater, today’s Poetry Friday hostess extraordinaire, recently posted a daily prompt for Laura Shovan’s Water Poem Project. She suggested writing about a water memory. I haven’t had much opportunity to respond to prompts lately, but this one caught my fancy.

Once

Once
I stood
beneath a lacery
of leaves
woven
by towering trees
bedecked
in dappled sunlight.
A brook
threaded its way
down the hill
around and over
moss-covered rocks,
its crystalline waters
burbling,
spilling,
running free,
their song
as refreshing
as a cool breeze—
A gift
from the forest
to me.

© Molly Hogan , 2020, draft

Make sure to visit the PF Roundup at Amy’s amazing blog, The Poem Farm. You can also check out Amy’s National Poetry Projects, both current and past. Set aside some time and prepare to enjoy yourself!

(Please forgive the formatting—we’re going on 24 hours without power and I’ve never used my phone to post before! I’ll need to add links later too! Update: 36 hours later and we just got power back! Woot!)

SOLC Day 1: A Mad, Magical Moment

slice-of-life_individual

March 2020 SOLC–Day 1
This month I’m participating in the Slice of Life Challenge (SOLC) to write about a small moment every day in March. A huge thank you to Two Writing Teachers for all that they do to create an amazing community of writers and a safe, welcoming space to write, learn, share and grow.
http://www.twowritingteachers.org

On Saturday afternoon, I lounged in the family room, lost in my mystery novel, enjoying a low-energy afternoon after an active, productive morning. At some point, I must have nodded off. When I woke, I still felt deliciously drowsy. I stretched and slowly opened my eyes.

I didn’t think I’d slept long, but the light that filled the room was definitely odd.  I yawned, shrugged off the throw blanket and walked over to the window to look outside. The sun was shining, but it was…snowing?

What?

Suddenly wide awake, I plunged my feet into the nearest shoes, snatched up my camera and raced outside. The sun gleamed brightly through a bank of low clouds, but even as I watched, the snow flakes were falling faster and faster. It was stunning. Each flake glistened in the sky like glitter! I took a few pictures, well aware that I probably wouldn’t be able to capture the glorious light, the wonder of the moment.

After a few minutes, I raced back inside to grab my camera bag and a different lens. My husband looked up from his lazy afternoon couch position.

“It’s amazing out there!” I cried, then dashed out again.

I wandered about the yard, taking a picture now and then, slipping on the icy snow and grinning from ear to ear, transfixed by the sight. Snow flakes continued to fall, the sun shone, and the sky got bluer and bluer. It was a mad, magical moment.

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I had wondered if my first small moment would be hard to find. If I’d regret signing up for the challenge this year. Instead, the moment drifted softly into my day. Precious and fleeting. Feeling a bit like a miracle.