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Thank you to Two Writing Teachers for creating an amazing community of writers and a safe, welcoming space to write and share.
Photo by Karolina Grabowska on Pexels.com

This is not where I usually write, but I’m trying it out–the coffee shop where jazz is playing and the hum of the refrigerators sound like the cicadas in my yard. A young couple chat quietly. She’s wearing athletic shorts and a “Friends” long sleeved t-shirt. He’s got on jeans and a ball cap. She’s talking and playing with the straw in her cup. He leans in, nods and laughs. She is a natural beauty, long black hair, tanned skin, perfect teeth. Someone’s daughter. Someone’s sister.

While I watch this couple, I am trying not to look by the window where two women sit in the comfy chairs talking with their hands. Literally. There are no sounds, only signs. I once knew some sign language, but as with any language you do not practice, the ability fades with time. No matter. What they are talking about is none of my business. I can sit and listen with my eyes. Notice the beauty of expression without words.

I recently read Jhumpa Lahiri’s latest book Whereabouts. Lahiri’s writing fascinated me because there was no defined setting even though you always had a sense for where she was. The narrator does not identify herself or anyone else by name. Lahiri breaks the rules about novels without blinking an eye. She takes us to wherever she is and we go willingly. Like sitting here in this coffee shop observing and being present to the moment when nothing much happened.

The writer’s greatest chance may be devotion to the passing fragment.

It is small, but it is pure, and it may hold compact infinity.

Kim Stafford, The Muses Among Us
Poetry Friday round-up is with Kat Apel down under with snails and cats and #petpicpoems

I have a new creative obsession outlet: zentangle poems. I signed up for art card exchange with Amy Souza at Spark . I have a pocket Buddha reader. The pages are small (2″ x 3″) and full of wonderful Zen words in which to create small poems. Here are the art cards I sent out.

The winds, coming and going
free
See beyond reality,
illusion, vision, dream
beyond the realm of words.
(Zentangle Buddha Poem #1)

Disentangling truth
can free you.
Understand sweetness.
Trust the self.
Nothing exists forever.
(Zentangle Buddha Poem #2)
Find truth
in a tangle–
hopelessly question
Understand the tangle-truth.
(Zentangle Buddha Poem #3)
How brightly you will shine!
You are yourself.
You, wherever you are.
(Zentangle Buddha Poem #4)
You will know
the scent of sandalwood
against the weed.

My sister is an artist. (You can find her on Instagram at bethsaxena_art.) Beth sent me this folded book with the message “This book wants to be a poem.” I’ve had it for a while. She painted in blank spaces just the right size for Zentangle Buddha Poems.

The womb is pure and free.
Wonder indeed
entered
is calm insight
and truth.

This summer it has rained every day here in South Louisiana. The effects of climate change are here, warmer air, warmer oceans, more water vapor=more rain. We are waterlogged. However, the plants seem to love it. The trees are greener than ever, covered in resurrection fern that only turns green when it is wet. I’ve managed a daily walk between downpours. I took this picture yesterday of the bark on one of our oak trees.

Live Oak, photo by Margaret Simon

There’s imagery here, metaphor maybe? Find your own way into a small poem and leave it in the comments. Be sure to respond to other writers with encouraging words.

This old tree frosted
white with lichen brightens
a trail to fairy heaven

Margaret Simon, haiku draft
Thank you to Two Writing Teachers for creating an amazing community of writers and a safe, welcoming space to write and share.

Covid numbers are rising in our community. It’s invaded my family. We thought we were doing everything right. We are all vaccinated. Apparently, the Delta variant doesn’t care. The good news is no one is very sick. The vaccine is doing its job. Needless to say it’s rocked my world. We thought we knew. Now we know nothing. Keep masking up, my friends. This awful ride isn’t over yet.

Trying to replace some sense of control, I planted a tree. I’ve been nurturing a red buckeye for years. My friend Jim gave me a seedling. I’ve kept it in a pot, then a bigger pot and a bigger one, but now it’s in the ground. I hope the roots are ready.

In January, my friend Marion died from an aggressive cancer. I did not get to say goodbye. Before her death, she and her daughter Robin cleaned out her yarn supply. They gifted me with two large boxes that I placed in a closet upstairs. I wasn’t ready to open them. Robin had asked that we plant a tree to memorialize Marion. When I planted the red buckeye, I thought of Marion and the yarn, so I opened one of the boxes. I found a piece of knitting and wrapped it and placed it in the hole before placing the tree. A simple gesture that I am writing about here, so I can remember.

red buckeye

Marion was a writer. We met in a writing group once a month for at least 18 years. The poem “Last Words” by Rita Dove appeared in The New Yorker shortly after her death. This poem was just what Marion would have said.

Let the end come
as the best parts of living have come
unsought and undeserved
inconvenient

now that’s a good death.

Rita Dove, read the full poem here.

In the Open Write at Ethical ELA, Tracie McCormick prompted us to write a Golden Shovel. Here’s my Golden Shovel for Marion.

Bury the Knitting
(Golden Shovel for Marion using the striking line from Rita Dove, “Let the end come as the best parts of living.”

I bury the knitting; Let
dirt fall like rain on the
stitches of your gentle hands. The end
came too soon. I come
to this tree today to pray as
you did. The
roots will ravel around the best
parts
of a daily life of
love and care-filled living.

Margaret Simon, draft
Poetry Friday round-up is with my friend and writing group partner, Molly Hogan at Nix the Comfort Zone

One of the best things about summer is having time to be creative. I’ve enjoyed designing collages on marbleized notebooks as well as writing poems for the Summer Poem Swap, coordinated by Tabatha Yeatts. The third exchange I sent off a notebook to Tabatha herself. And she gifted me with a poetic zine, Today’s Poem (after me, after Cheryl Dumesnil’s Today’s Sermon.)

More about making a zine from Tabatha here.

I love this personal-to-me poem, especially the line about toy phones. I’ve been answering a lot of toy phones lately with my little grands, and I love how this one line captures the Joy of being with them in just a few words. The magic of poetry! Thanks, Tabatha, for organizing this fun and meaningful exchange and for being my partner for this round.

Today’s Poem, zine by Tabatha Yeatts

Today’s poem
riffles through a pile of
to-do lists,
looking for blank paper

Today’s poem
answers calls
from toy phones

Today’s poem
hears sunflowers’
reminders to feed the birds

Today’s poem
clicks like a typewriter
while it’s napping

 Today’s poem
refracts a rainbow
into your bathwater

Today’s poem
runs back and forth
through an imaginary sprinkler

Today’s poem
fills your tank
and walks you to your car

Tabatha Yeatts, (for Margaret Simon, Summer Poem Swap 2021)

One of our teacher-writer-blogger friends Leigh Anne Eck is on vacation in Florida. Don’t you just love a vacation photo that you can sink your dreams into?

Florida sunset by Leigh Anne Eck

Treasure
found in a sea shell,
an open sky,
a moment

with you.

Margaret Simon, draft

Take a moment to muse about this photo. Write a small poem in the comments. You may share on social media with #ThisPhoto, #poemsofpresence and #smallpoems. Be sure to leave encouraging responses to other writers.

Poetry Friday round-up is here! Scroll down to add your link to Inlinkz.

Finding safe online spaces for writing is invaluable to me as a poet-teacher in a small Louisiana town. During the pandemic shut down of 2020, writing kept me sane and real and present. Sarah J. Donovan, Ph.D. directs the website for teacher-writers at Ethical ELA. She is assistant professor of secondary English education at Oklahoma State University where she turned the writing we did during April 2020 into an oral history project.

With the help of colleagues, each volunteer was interviewed through a Zoom meeting and our contributed poems have been curated into a collection entitled Bridge the Distance, Teacher-Poets Writing to Bridge the Distance: An Oral History of COVID-19 in Poems. You can click the link to read the manuscript or order a hard copy.

I ordered a copy. No one profits from the sale of this anthology; you are paying printing costs only. I wanted to have this collection in hand to read and use with my students as mentor texts.

order on Amazon

My contributed poems can be read here:

The Duplex of Virtual Teaching.

Magic Bean

Eight Reasons to Take a Walk on Sunday Morning

8. Bells chime a call to worship
to empty pews echoing the song of trees.

7. I’m sorry I keep taking the same path,
the same images do not grow weary of me noticing.

I pick gardenias from CeCe’s side yard.
If she came out, she wouldn’t mind.

6. I stop by Anne’s to view her century plant as it reaches
skyward. A century plant waits 25 years to blooming,
blooming only once in a lifetime. A lifetime
I took for granted only weeks ago.

5. I can take my time.
No one will call to check on me.

I’ll check the feeders:
the hummingbirds like sweet water.

I’ll get to it in time.

4. I walk and walk
wondering if it will always be this way.

Hollow bells pealing for no one.

No one venturing out to see anyone.

3. It may rain tomorrow. Today,
the sun shines, the birds sing,
and I don’t have to join the chorus.

I’ll keep singing to myself.

2. A link was sent by email
to a video church service, one priest, one reader.

The organist plays
as though the cathedral is full.

Full feels scary now.
Full carries weight.
Who wants to be full?

1. I close this book,
heat another cup of tea,
and find my shoes,
find my way,
fill my day,
and perhaps…

Bloom!

Margaret Simon, all rights reserved
Bridge the Distance, 2021

You are invited to the Inlinkz link party!Click here to enter

Does anyone feel like summer is quickly going by? I did not, intentionally, make a list of goals for this summer; however, there is that running list in my head of things that are not getting done. So be it, right? Summer is for relaxing and taking each day as it comes.

When I look out of my window, I see this mandevilla vine going wild. It’s stretched beyond the reaches of the trellis. So be it… Let it go. That is what this plant teaches me. (This post is up later because I forgot it was Wednesday, another good sign of summer.)

Wandering Mandevilla vine, Photo by Margaret Simon

Summer sun + daily dose of rain = wandering time

Margaret Simon, equation poem

Please add a small poem in the comments. Encourage other writers with positive response.

Poetry Friday round-up is with Laura Shovan.

This being the first Friday of the month, our Sunday night writing group is up to a new challenge, this time from Heidi. Tabatha Yeatts recently posted a poem by Gail Martin. “What Pain Doesn’t Know about Me” makes a great mentor text for writing about nearly anything. Molly used the prompt to cleverly write about frogs!

Heidi added to the challenge to throw in anthimeria. Go ahead and click the link. I didn’t know what it was either, but I’ve likely used the technique before. Anthimeria is converting a noun into a verb, or a verb into a noun and so forth. I had already drafted a poem when I saw this added bonus, so I edited for the effect.

What Grief Doesn’t Know About Me

after Gail Martin

How I go to bed early and rise before the sun.

My duck-feet. How my surface-body is still while I paddle fiercely.

I can count syllables while walking. I lullaby babies.

He’s not taken my singing,

My generations in the South,

My ability to swim in the deep. Tread water indefinitely.

We don’t talk every day.  We have coffee together on Mondays.

Now, as I watch my cat bat at a black pen on the kitchen table,
I know not to put my hand in the mix. 

If you ask me how my day is going, I might cry.

Margaret Simon, draft

To read how others in our group met the challenge:

Catherine Flynn at Reading to the Core
Linda Mitchell at A Word Edgewise
Heidi Mordhorst at My Juicy Little Universe
Molly Hogan at Nix the Comfort Zone

graphic by Carol Varsalona
who is hosting the gathering of Spiritual Journey posts today.

This morning I turned the calendar to July and wondered where my summer is going. Carol invited us to write about Nurturing our Summer Souls for Spiritual Journey first Thursday. I thought I would wake up early and write, but the thing about summer is expectations fall into the sun. I woke up tired. The only thing I can figure is the water aerobics class last night has affected me in more ways than I thought possible. I have welcomed these classes, the time with friends, the cool of the water, and the invigorating feeling of exercise. But this old body is finding muscles that have been dormant. It’s a good thing, right? Remind me.

My summer soul is being nurtured by the National Writing Project’s #WriteAcrossAmerica virtual writing marathon. I’ve participated in three different stops. Each Tuesday a different project site takes on the marathon. This week I went to Milwaukee, Wisconsin, a place foreign to me. The story map is full of places to explore and writing prompts to contemplate. I stopped at the Indian Village Site and followed a link to Margaret Noodin’s Ted Talk.

I’ve been fascinated by Margaret Noodin’s work since listening to Poetry Unbound from On Being. Margaret not only shares my name, but she also sings. She sings her poems in Anishinaabemowin and English. Being Episcopalian, I love a good chant and that is what Margaret Noodin delivers.

As I listened I wrote. This poem follows her words and weaves in my own words as if we became a confluence of thoughts, two rivers meeting and flowing together for a time.

Minowakiing: The Good Land

Languages
teach us of place. In this Good Land,
we can keep ourselves alive,
hearts beating wild, transforming
the world
in a net, networking, working in
interconnection.

I see lessons in light
see a word East
move into melting
transitioning time to place
word to word.

Listen to sounds singing of fish
bobbing in the water.
Let’s listen to each other.
Remember we are in a good place.

Remember the bird knows,
the grass knows,
the old oak knows

We inherit the language of our ancestors,
reminded how to find the road, the map
to our own lives.
Here. Together.

Margaret Simon, with Margaret Noodin