On groundhogs, leach fields and curses

Recently, Mary Lee Hahn shared a link to a delightful old blog post of hers that featured paint chips and poetic curses (here). I was intrigued and tucked away the idea to play with later.

And then today happened.

Today was actually a continuation of events that happened earlier this week. It all began when, in search of blackberries, I wandered over our leach field (for those who don’t know, that’s a critical component of a septic system). And I noticed that the ground felt uneven (for those who don’t know, the ground should be flat and even). Looking around, I discovered random piles of sand on top of the grass (for those who don’t know, sand is a component of a leach field and is NOT supposed to be above the ground). This was not a small amount of sand. This could NOT be good.

Um, Kurt, I said, a few minutes later to my husband, pointing out the intermittently spaced 8-9 inch circumference sand volcanos, What’s going on here?

Then we looked at each other, the gears shifting and aligning. We remembered the groundhogs we’d had to get rid of a couple of years ago for suspicious activity in the area. Remembered the cute groundhog that had visited us a couple of times recently. The one we thought had been living under the barn. We also remembered the missing broccoli and leaf lettuce in the garden. The fact that groundhogs love to burrow. It took a while, but the light went on.

Kurt appraised the situation and strategically set a trap. We decided to wait and see what happened for a couple of days and then call in the experts.

Then today, I heard a suspicious watery noise emanating from the basement. Upon investigation I discovered a pipe emitting a steady waterfall which had formed a lazy river along our creepy dirt basement floor.

Uh oh.

I went outside to find Kurt and brought him down to the basement.

Where does that pipe go? I asked him, pointing to the leaking pipe.

Cue the ominous music and the duh Duh DUHhhhhhh!!!!! followed by a long pause.

The septic system, Kurt replied.

The septic system? I asked.

The septic system.

Another long pause.

Are you positive?


Clearly this discovery pushed things up to the next response level. I dove into our files searching for our septic service company’s phone number and found the receipt for our last date of service.


Another discovery for the day…we had maybe kind of sort of forgotten in the midst of Covid and life in general to get the tank pumped out in a timely manner. We were more than overdue.

So which came first, the groundhog or the overfilled system?

After a frantic afternoon of googling, facebook requests for help, phone calls and explanations(Piles of what on your leach field?), a welcome dose of good luck and a hefty bill, we now have no leaking pipe, an emptied and functioning system and instructions for how to deal with the groundhogs.

Yes, unfortunately, we were right. Groundhogs are burrowing into our leach field. Luckily, it seems like most of today’s issues stemmed from the overdue cleaning, but we still have to deal with the groundhogs or we could have much more significant issues arise.

All this is the background to why I found myself considering curse poems again today.

I reread Mary Lee’s poem and copied her list of synonyms for curse. Then I googled “curse poems” and found this poem by J.M. Synge, which he apparently wrote to the sister of an enemy:

The Curse

Lord, confound this surly sister,
Blight her brow with blotch and blister,
Cramp her larynx, lung, and liver,
In her guts a galling give her.

Isn’t that fantastic to read aloud?

Finally, this evening, with the events of the day and those poetic inspirations in mind, I settled in to vent my spleen by writing a curse poem. It’s been a long day and it’s still a drafty poem, but I feel a little bit better.

A Curse on the Invading Groundhog

Rise ye gods and cast a spell
upon this creature spawned from hell
Jinx his scurvy rodent hide
taunt him with groundhogicide

Bedeck his coat with mange and pox
Bung up his ev’ry tunnel with rocks
Behex his stolen greens to rot 
spoil his food and give him nought

Blast him with pustuling blisters
cramp his innards into twisters
plague him with wounds rank and septic
make his every hour dyspeptic

Roust him from his stealthy burrow
drive him over field and furrow 
Raise his fever by degrees
’til he yields the field and flees

©Molly Hogan, draft

Here’s hoping the groundhog responds to this curse. Truly, it’s better than the alternatives.

Margaret Simon has this week’s Poetry Friday Round up at her blog, Reflections on the Teche. Be sure to stop by and see what’s on offer and wish her a Happy Birthday!

PF: A Stolen Moment

I just spent some time in Tennessee enjoying family and unfamiliar scenery. One afternoon I spent some time sitting under a crepe myrtle tree, lingering in the moment, looking down over the lake and into the distant fading ridges of mountains. Ahhhhhhh….

Sitting Under the Crepe Myrtle

Sheltered from midday sun
surrounded by the hum of bees
the rustle of leaves
the heartbeat of the tree
Blossom sweet serenity

©Molly Hogan

This week the warm and wonderful Jan Annino is hosting. Be sure to stop by and check out her blog at Bookseedstudio.

July Challenge: Persistence

It’s the first of July and also the first Friday of the month. That means it’s time to share the Inklings challenge for the month. Heidi had the honors this month. After noticing how in her own garden “THE PLANTS KEEP GROWING. They rarely give up,” she noted that “there are so many ways in which we’ve all (but especially as women, as educators) had to be persistent, despite our weariness.” So, she invited us to write a poem about persistence.

For a variety of reasons, the past month got away from me (first of July=first Friday of July was an equation that escaped my attention until quite recently!). I am going with my initial off-the-cuff responses to the challenge. Clearly I needed (and took) a respite from heavier topics.

One of life’s pressing questions…

Who is more persistent:
The thick, black hair
firmly rooted 
in the softening skin
on the left side of my chin
or I 
who wield
the tweezers
again and again?

©Molly Hogan

I’ve run into a dilemma with the title of the next poem. It’s not objects, as in things, but objects, as in voices dissent. So, how does one convey that or give enough context in a title? Definitely a conundrum! I just decided to opt for forewarning you.

Cat Objects

Why is “dogged”
used to indicate persistence
or a steady pursuit?
Isn’t her presence
at the mouse hole,
paw poised, statue-still
more worthy of canonization
in the lexicon?
So, not “dogged”
but “catted”?
Just yell “Squirrel!”
she suggests
and rests her case.

©Molly Hogan

If you want to see what the other Inklings did with this challenge, click on the links below:

Linda Mitchell
Margaret Simon
Catherine Flynn
Heidi Mordhorst
MaryLee Hahn

I’ll be traveling for the next week or so, and am unsure how much internet access and time I’ll have. I hope to be able to make the rounds, albeit, perhaps, in a piecemeal fashion.

This week’s Poetry Friday Roundup is hosted by Janice Scully at her blog, Salt City Verse. She’s sharing a great poem inspired by reading about supernovae.

A Word or Two of Gratitude

This month Linda Mitchell posed our Inkling challenge: “Honor someone’s April Poetry project in some way with a poem in the spirit of their project, a response poem or some way that suits you.” I loved the idea, but was a bit worried because I hadn’t followed along consistently with many, or really any, of the National Poetry Month (NPM) projects. I was peripherally aware of what people were doing, and dipped in now and again, but that was about it. Time just got away from me, and focus was in short supply as well.

As I pondered my options (and was all too aware of time ticking away), I realized that the big take-away for me this past month was admiration and gratitude for everyone who participated. I was simply wowed by the commitment and passion of each poet, impressed by their creative projects and by their determination to recognize and participate in NPM. Although I didn’t participate at all, I benefitted greatly from those who did and shared their work and their processes so generously. In the end, I decided that’s what I wanted to honor–the creative efforts and outcomes of all who participated in NPM.

A Word or Two of Gratitude

They dive 
into the rush and gush
of creative flow
not knowing, just going
and growing
sowing poetry seeds
on a month-long quest
not to be the best
but to be blessed by words
along a self-chosen quest
to dive deep and reap
to snatch at a wisp
of whispered word
twist it, chisel it
into a “something” that prickles
pierces upward
like a tender leaf 

Reaching through soil
breaching boundaries 
reward for the toil
from coiled seed
into bud and bloom
which soon falls
to mulch, to mix 
into rich compost
a host for the next endeavor
that might be

Never minding the distractions
odd daily impactions
they peel back layers
a wordy striptease
to find the sublime
rewind time
strike at each part
let words fall apart
until the heart
of it all pulses 
with a steady
beat beat beat
at our world-weary feet

A gift beyond measure
a poetry treasure

©Molly Hogan

If you want to check out what the other Inklings did with this challenge, click on the links below:

Linda Mitchell
Catherine Flynn
Heidi Mordhorst
MaryLee Hahn
Margaret is spending time with family this week and won’t be participating.

This week’s Poetry Friday is hosted by Jama Rattigan at her blog, Jama’s Alphabet Soup. Be sure to stop by and see what she’s dishing up this week along with other PF participants.

PF: The Thing Is…

This month Mary Lee challenged the Inklings to write using Ellen Bass’s poem “The Thing Is” as a mentor poem. She said, “Keep the title, but choose a theme/message either from your own life or from current events.”

Well, March is always a busy month for me and this year was no exception. I participated in the Two Writing Teachers Slice of Life challenge, finished up second trimester report cards, and had Parent-Teacher conferences. Plus, I lost an hour of time to Daylight Savings! (Which I’m still a bit peeved about!) In other words, I didn’t get to play around with this prompt as much as I would have liked. The Thing is…there is never enough time!

In a serendipitous moment, though, someone recently shared Naomi Shihab Nye’s poem, “The Art of Disappearing.” I wrote down one line to consider using as a strike line in a golden shovel poem: “You’re trying to remember something too important to forget.” Then I thought why not try it with the challenge?

The Thing Is…

you wake to morning like you’re
emerging from a desert, trying
to make your way to
the oasis to drink, to guzzle, to remember,
to relive water cooling your parched throat or something
soothing your raw, cracked lips. Too
thirsty to stay still. It isn’t important
how early it is –or how late– what matters is to
rise. Drink deep. Write. So you don’t forget.

©Molly Hogan, draft
strike line from Naomi Shihab Nye’s “The Art of Disappearing”

If you want to check out the other Inklings’ responses to Mary Lee’s challenge, click on their links:

Linda Mitchell
Margaret Simon
Catherine Flynn
Heidi Mordhorst
MaryLee Hahn

This week Heidi is also hosting the Poetry Friday Roundup at My Juicy Little Universe. She’s sharing her response to Mary Lee’s challenge along with a dazzling array of good news and goodies to welcome you to NPM. Make sure to head over to her blog and check things out!

PF: Ah, Bread!

In my family we travel for bread. 1 1/2 hours roundtrip for great bagels? Sure! 2 hours? Well, maybe… We also bake bread. And eat and eat and eat bread. We’re easily influenced by carbohydrates and enjoy every moment of our continual surrender. So, I was delighted when Diane Mayr posted a yeast-related prompt in Laura Shovan’s February Challenge. She included a fascinating short video about all things yeasty. Surely I could rise to the occasion?

My first effort was an acrostic:


Your best efforts
eventually end up

©Molly Hogan

Well, that seemed a bit depressing, although it did make me laugh.

I went back to the drawing board, and here’s what I came up with next–a very drafty (reverse?) acrostic:


You’re never sure if you are
Equal to the challenge
A promise in the making but
Sometimes you fail. Still,
Time is on your side
Time to work your magic
Small beings can effect great change
And there you are
Elastic under life’s punches
You rise, you fall

©Molly Hogan, draft

At least that one was a bit more optimistic. Maybe.

Eventually, I moved away from acrostics and ended up with this poem:

Breaking Bread

The yeasty aroma 
draws me in.
I belly up to the table
slice thick slabs
slather on the butter.
After a couple,
my inhibitions scatter
with the crumbs.
I engage 
in rampant gluttony,
deliciously carbdizzy.
Only thinking about
the next bite
and the one after that.

Who says you can’t 
get drunk on bread?

©Molly Hogan, draft

This week’s Poetry Friday Roundup is hosted by Tricia Stohr-Hunt on her blog, The Miss Rumphius Effect.

Nothing Weighty About Me

I’m participating in Laura Shovan‘s February Poetry Challenge this year. I always look forward to this month with its creative prompts and the sharing of poems (even when I fall behind on the daily quota.) This year the theme is “Time”. The prompts, as always, have been rich and varied, and the responses even more so. It’s an ongoing education.

My favorite experience is when the alchemy of prompt and poetry takes me in an unexpected direction. One day last week, I had a restless night and was up at 3 am. I checked out the prompt and Matthew Winner had shared a link to “Hazy Shade of Winter” by the Bangles.

After listening to it, I forgot to hit pause and the next song started playing: “Our Lips are Sealed” by the GoGos.

Somehow the combination of the two songs struck me and a poem happened.

Nothing Weighty About Me

Call me shallow if you must
but I prefer the next song 
the bouncy bubble-gum beat
of the GoGos
singing“Our Lips Are Sealed”
to this one
with its eerie overtones
driving beat and
threads of warning.

See what’s become of me?

Word on the street says
it’s a hot song anyway
Paul Simon’s work 
encircled with bangles
But a touch of sparkle
can’t conceal its dark roots
any more than a bottle of bleach
can turn back time.

See what’s become of me?

But pass the Clairol
and a helping of cotton candy, Baby.
I’m all for light and fluffy
a fan of the sweet stuff.
Why ponder browning leaves
gritty patches of snow 
and impending winter
when I can rise above it all
cruise through summer days
with my lithe and limber friends
on top of the world
forever young
singing in the wind.

See what’s become of me?

©Molly Hogan, draft

This week’s Poetry Friday post is hosted by Linda Baie at her blog, TeacherDance.

PF: Math Poems

This month Catherine Flynn challenged us to write any sort of mathematical poem. It was a nice open prompt with lots of options, and Catherine included some links to inspire us. I decided pretty quickly that I wanted to write a Fib poem. I had the sense, whether accurate it or not, that it should be written about something natural. I tossed around a few ideas until, serendipitously, a blizzard arrived.


feathered down
then two    threefour and
soon the sky was dizzy with snow

©Molly Hogan

After playing around with that, I started thinking about the number, zero. Back when I taught first grade, I used to write with my first graders in response to a mentor text called “Zero is…” I always loved their responses and how the text got us thinking about zero in different ways. It reminded me that there’s more to zero than meets the eye.

In Tennis, Zero Is Love

is an absence,
a placeholder
meaning nothing is there.
An even number, 
it’s the fulcrum
on the number line
between positives
and negatives.
Zero, added,

Still, Zero is nuanced.
Holding its place,
it can move numbers
toward infinity
or with a single operation
fully erase them.
It’s open
to interpretation:
With zero,
context is everything.

When you walk beside me,
your hand in mine,
Zero is my loneliness.

©Molly Hogan, draft

If you’re interested in reading what the other Inklings have done with this challenge, check out their posts:

Linda Mitchell
Margaret Simon
Catherine Flynn
Heidi Mordhorst
MaryLee Hahn

This week’s Poetry Friday Roundup is hosted by Elisabeth Norton at her blog, Unexpected Intersections.

More Wordle Poems

So, I’m still addicted to Wordle and look forward to each daily puzzle. I’ve realized that an upside to writing poems with my word guesses is that there’s a consolation prize to doing poorly at Wordle (aka needing more guesses). For me, it’s easier to write poems with four or five words than with three words. So, even when I’m not doing as well, I have more poetic material to work with. I’ve revised my “rules” so that it’s okay to use different forms of a word as long as the base word is included. Really, I’m just focusing on fun and not on finesse. I enjoy following the words and seeing where they lead me.

Update: What I mentioned last week and failed to mention this week is that credit for the Wordle poetry idea goes completely to Buffy Silverman, not to me.

word guesses: fairy, tried, crimp, prick


When child was born
rogue fairy tried
to weave foul magic
to crimp her life–
one single deadly
finger prick.
(Enchanted wheel
should do the trick!)
But evil wishes
don’t prevail
when others work
to change the tale.
Heart-cast magic
with best intent
can alter spells
from malcontent.

©Molly Hogan

word guesses: frame, mouth, mount

Cookie Heist

“I’ve been framed,” she cried
with her mouth open wide
smeared chocolate on her chin
crumbs trailing behind–
All mounting evidence
of a culinary crime.

©Molly Hogan

The Poetry Friday Roundup is hosted this week by Irene Latham at her blog, Live Your Poem. Make sure to stop by and contemplate all things patient.

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


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.