Archive for November, 2021

Poetry Friday round-up is with Ruth at There is No Such Thing as a Godforsaken Town.

Happy Black Friday, a day I am celebrating with another family gathering around our newest grandchild Stella. She is turning one on Tuesday. There will be the traditional day after Thanksgiving gumbo as well as cake and presents and lots of wildness from her toddler brother and cousin. The best kind of Black Friday ever.

In the meantime, I wrote a quick ode to join the Poetry Sisters challenge for this month.

Ode to Autumn

Something in the way you move
attracts the wandering eyes
of this watcher–
a tapestry of yellow and red
settles my wild mind.

Something in the way you move
blows a soft whisper 
to my weathered cheek
not warm like a kiss
but tickles just the same.

Something in the way you move
stirs my soul to memory,
opens the stored-away box
of photos releasing a scent
of amber and wood.

You move quickly, Autumn,
dropping by with a basketful
of acorns and satsumas,
sweet sugarcane cigar,
then leave on a storm cloud.

Take my grief with your wind 
and turn my heart to joy. 

Margaret Simon, draft
For Molly, who lost her dear father on Thanksgiving Day
Satsuma Tree by Margaret Simon

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A Happy Thanksgiving thank you for this little community of writers. Thanks for making time for yourself on Wednesday morning to write along with me and others. I am grateful for you!

This past weekend my daughters and I traveled to Texas wine country. You can read my Slice of Life about it here. Our Airbnb was connected to downtown Fredericksburg by a narrow concrete bridge across Barons Creek. On the chain link fence were locks. Maggie said, “Like Paris!” Oblivious to the reference I took this picture.

Locks over Barons Creek, Fredericksburg, TX by Margaret Simon

I challenge you to write a small poem without using the word locks. If you haven’t tried a tricube form, read Linda Mitchell’s prompt from Ethical ELA. Like haiku, a tricube captures a single moment with few words. Three by three, three syllables in each line, three lines in each stanza, three stanzas. Share your small poems in the comments or on Facebook. Join here.

On my way
across paths
of rivers

I hold on
to your hand
with fervor

Our two hearts
are combined
with vigor

Margaret Simon, draft

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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.
Fredericksburg, Texas

For my 60th birthday back in August, my daughters bought me a vacation with them to Fredericksburg, Texas. A sisters trip. We invited my sister-in-law who lives in Dallas to come along. This was to our advantage because she drove and picked us up at the Austin airport to drive to Fredericksburg. Not to mention she was fun to have along.

Fredericksburg is a town in the hill country, settled by Germans, and home to 59 wineries. Just imagine all girls at a winery table on the banks of Baron’s Creek toasting and sharing stories. Nothing better, right? We laughed, we cried, we laughed.

One evening we found ourselves closing down a winery. We had stayed beyond our welcome, and it was dark. Two of my daughters worked on getting us an Uber (We were being responsible), but on a Sunday evening in a small town, they were few and far between. We were also being a bit picky and didn’t want the old cowboy with the car full of trash (and a foul smell). We walked to the entrance and someone told us the gates were closed. We’d have to walk to the back gate which was apparently quite a distance down a dark dirt road.

To the rescue appeared Enrique. He told us to wait right there while he got his truck. His truck was like brand new and big enough to hold 4 of us in the back seat comfortably. When he got us to the back gate, Katherine said, “The Uber is 15 minutes away.”

Our angel Enrique said, “Ya’ll going back to town? I’ll take you.” And he flashed his million-dollar-twenty-something-Mexican smile our way.

We made it safely back to town while I embarrassed my girls by calling our angel “Enriquo.” But I was sober enough to find $40 to leave on the seat. He saved us and wanted no payment for it.

My Inkling friend Linda Mitchell is the host at Ethical ELA today with a prompt for writing a Tricube poem. Here is mine in deep gratitude for my daughters.

My three girls
now women
look at me

What they see
in my eyes–
mother’s joy

What they hear
from my lips–
words of love

Margaret Simon, draft

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Poetry Friday round-up is with Carol at Beyond Literacy Link

This prompt came to me in an email from Poets & Writers, The Time is Now. When my Inklings saw this poem, Mary Lee thought the prompt was surely In Gratitude by Abigail Carroll which was featured on this episode of The Slowdown. I love how the universe is like that sometimes, synchronous, speaking to each other. I join the conversation with my own ode to a single letter.

Ode to Letter M

But I love the M, mountainous-
signed with 3 fingers hugging a thumb,
the way milk-full infant fingers 
grip my thumb and hold on tight.

I love the M handed down on grandmother’s tea towels,
embroidered like the sign of the cross
on my forehead. I baptize you in the name of

I stand with the Roman numeral (M)
confident in her thousand mornings
musing on the mimicry
of a single mockingbird. 

Scent of magnolia fills the room 
from the lit candle, like a warm May breeze
that blows homemade cards, 
memories, and a rainbow handprint 
identifying me
as Mamère, 
as someone to love. 

Margaret Simon

Rainbow hands, by Leo

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Opossum in a persimmon tree–say it three times fast. I caught this guy one morning on my walk with Charlie through the neighborhood. Does he look guilty to you? He didn’t move at all while I wandered to different perspectives to take his portrait. He was suspicious, yes, but completely still. Charlie didn’t bark. I don’t think he saw the opossum. We, opossum and I, however, locked eyes, and I will never be the same. These creatures usually freak me out, but this one…this one…was different somehow. Maybe it was the persimmon tree backdrop or his innocent guilty stare. Tempted to name him, I’ll just post his portrait here for you to muse about.

Opossum in persimmon tree, by Margaret Simon

Leave a small poem in the comments. I’ll be back to post mine. Be kind in your responses to other writers. Enjoy!

Opossum in a persimmon tree
Staring right back at me
Did I catch a thief
or make a new friend? 

Margaret Simon, draft

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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.

Through blogging communities like this one (Slice of Life) and Poetry Friday, I’ve met many mentors for writing. Amy Ludwig VanDerwater is one of those special teacher-poets who generously gives of herself. During the pandemic shut down, she recorded videos in Betsy, her writing camper, every day. These can be found on her YouTube channel. Last year she went back to teaching, so she didn’t blog as much. Boy, did we miss her voice in cyberspace!

But she’s back and each week on Friday, she posts a mentor poem on The Poem Farm with student-friendly (and adult-friendly) instructions for writing your own poem. This past Friday, her poem came up on my Instagram and was just right for our writing time.

Crocheted wool hat by Margaret Simon

One of our kindergarten teachers is having a baby, so I crocheted a little hat for her new child. This was on my mind when I wrote alongside my students. I gifted the poem to Miss Heidi along with the hat.

The Wool Hat

after Amy Ludwig VanDerwater “Circles”

When sheep’s wool
becomes yarn
becomes crochet
becomes hat,
a newborn baby’s head
holds a sheep,
and I wonder
how prayers
offered for a stranger
growing inside a friend
becomes a child
wearing a hat
passed on
from sheep to hand
to heart
to warmth
to love.

Margaret Simon

Jaden, 6th grade, has started a new trend when he writes his gratitude poem. If he makes a mistake, he turns it into a picture. I noticed his little designs and complimented him. He said, “Oh, I made those dots and stars because I messed up.” That sounds like a poem to me. And so he turned his mistakes into stars into a poem.

Recycle Poem

Old mistakes
become rainbows
and new designs
old mistakes 
become new inspirations 
when I look at the designs
will I remember the old mistakes? 
will I think of new ideas?
shapes like stars and squares?
or something new?
what will the new mistakes become?

Jaden, 6th grade

One of the fourth grade teachers is raising monarchs. Katie was inspired by this and wrote her circle poem about the life cycle of a butterfly.

Life Cycle Poem

Out of a small egg
comes a small, slimy, bean.
A bean that squirms
and grows and grows.
Grows into a small
chrysalis where it stays for a while
until it’s ready to fly.
Fly into the real world
with beautiful, colored, wings
and to reproduce
another small egg.

Katie, 6th grade
Monarch hatchling by Margaret Simon

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Poetry Friday round-up is with Matt at Radio, Rhythm, & Rhyme

Three months ago I said, “Sure!” when my friend Stephanie asked me to participate in a poetry reading. I figured I had plenty of time. And here we are less than a week away. The poetry night is in conjunction with a Water/ Ways traveling Smithsonian exhibit. Stephanie, the assistant at the Bayou Teche Museum, wrote the grant and wanted to add arts into the presentations. I asked her, “Do you realize I write for children?”

The topic is water, so I plan to read from Bayou Song, a swimming poem from Rhymes and Rhythm, and two yet-to-be published poems from Swamp Song. There will be three poets laureate reading alongside me. I’m excited to meet the newest state poet laureate Mona Lisa Saloy. I’ve seen her present on Zoom, but this reading together will be in person.

Darrell Bourque is a mentor of mine. He was poet laureate in Louisiana from 2007-2011. And Jonathan Mayers is coming from Baton Rouge. He is the city’s poet laureate. Melissa and I have been friends since our writing group days in the 90’s. We will support each other as the two non-poets laureate.

In my classroom, the gratitude “Poet-Tree” is filling up with leaves of grateful poems. Yesterday a few teachers stopped by to tell me they were reading the poems and one even said she wanted to write her own and put it on our tree. Spreading poetry love!

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Wednesday is here again. I feel like I’m in a whirlpool heading for Christmas, the calendar is full, and I’m forgetting what day it is. Wednesday already? I did have the forethought on Saturday to save a photo from our friend-poet-teacher Molly Hogan. As you know, she is an avid photographer of wildlife. She posts her photos on Instagram and Facebook. In Maine, apparently bluebirds are still there. We start to see them down south around Christmas. I really don’t know how Molly takes such fine photos of birds. I asked her once and she said, “I just take a lot of them, so one or two come out good.” I also think she has patience for the good shot that I don’t have.

female bluebird by Molly Hogan

This female bluebird has an attitude. She seems to have a teacher’s stance, wide alert eye with her beak in the air, on the verge of letting out a loud call. So I did a quick search and found this video of an Eastern bluebird call.

Take a moment to take in the sound. How would you describe it in a poem?

Write a small poem in the comments and support other writers with encouraging comments.

World in tune–
Harmony heals us.

Margaret Simon, draft #haynaku #gratitude #poemsofpresence

Thanks for stopping by.

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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.

On Saturday as part of the Festival of Words, I had the privilege to attend a small workshop with Aimee Nezhukumatathil. She led us through a number of writing exercises and ended with a discussion of the haibun.

From Poets.org: “Haibun combines a prose poem with a haiku. The haiku usually ends the poem as a sort of whispery and insightful postscript to the prose of the beginning of the poem. Another way of looking at the form is thinking of haibun as highly focused testimony or recollection of a journey composed of a prose poem and ending with a meaningful murmur of sorts: a haiku.”

Aimee added to this definition with two concepts: Aware, a Japanese concept similar to natsukashisa, a type of nostalgia with a fondness for what is gone but also slight optimism for what’s ahead and a sense of calm because this is the natural course of things. She also Nezhukumatathiled the form with the addition of scent. She spoke about scent as a way to activate the reader’s mind to a memory.

On Monday, I went to a former school to screen a student for gifted. They put me in my old room to do the testing and while the child took her test, I wrote this poem.

I enter the spacious classroom, and you are not here. So many hard days in masks and social distance
defined our relationship then. Your desk is gone. The smell of pencil shavings is sharp
mixed with musty-mold of an old school. Today I am testing a girl like you,
bright and edgy with a little swagger to her walk. But she isn’t you. No one can be you but you.
This chair, the small blue square that lost its cushion years ago, holds me again.
I trip over its wobbly wheels wishing you were here to laugh at me. Where are you now?
In another classroom, another school, same masked face, same suspicious eyes.
I want to know if you are OK. I only ever wanted you to be OK.

Students come in
Twist my heart into a knot
And leave it longing

Margaret Simon, draft
Photo by Ivan Samkov on Pexels.com

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Poetry Friday round-up is with Mary Lee at A(n)other Year of Reading

The Inklings challenge this month comes from Linda Mitchell. She charged us with writing “a poem that includes the idea of percentage or percent. Percentages are all around us in recipes, prices, assessments, statistics. Include the idea of percentage in your poem in some way.”

I put off this challenge for a while until a muse slapped me in the face from Brain Pickings (which is now called The Marginalian). This article is beautifully written: Every Loss Reveals What We Are Made Of by Maria Popova. Incorporating inspiration from Maria Popova and a quote from Maria Mitchell, I crafted a poem container of loss, aging, and rebirth.

Photo by Eriks Abzinovs on Pexels.com

We Reach Forth

The way we stand at the mirror
and see strands of hair 
overnight lose their color,
devoid of fresh light
gone gray in the way
a leaf loses the green of chlorophyll.

We lose our vigor.

The way I collapse on the sofa
after the grandchildren leave–
how it sags from years
of holding us.

The way, like branches, we reach forth
and strain every nerve, 
but we seize only a bit of the curtain 
that hides the infinite from us.*

How 96 percent of the universe
is dark matter 
invisible to us, how can we know
what tomorrow will bring?

The way we shed more color,
fall to the ground,
crush into mulch,
then hatch from darkness
and find light
find light
find light.

*Maria Mitchell

Margaret Simon, draft

Below are links to my fellow Inklings and their responses to the % challenge:

Linda@A Word Edgewise
Heidi @my juicy little universe
Molly@Nix the Comfort Zone
Catherine@Reading to the Core
Mary Lee @ A(n)other Year of Reading

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