Archive for February, 2023

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

I have lived in South Louisiana for 40 years, but had never attended the authentic Courir de Mardi Gras. Courir is a French Cajun word meaning run. In the western parishes north of us, there are multiple small towns that have a chicken run. The basic idea is the krewes are going house to house to get all the ingredients for a gumbo. The final ingredient is a chicken. The chicken run is a crazy, wild drunken race to catch the chicken.

I introduced this cultural tradition to my students, and we did chicken art on the Thursday before our Mardi Gras break. We followed a video created by the Acadiana Center for the Arts linked here. The chickens were created using recycled materials. In Courir de Mardi Gras, the costumes are made with scraps of fabric and masks are made with screen. It is the total opposite of New Orleans Mardi Gras which is all about royalty and elaborate beautiful costumes. Courir de Mardi Gras has a captain rather than a king who leads the krewe.

My husband and I became interested in Courir from a performance we saw at the  Acadiana Center for the Arts. We decided to go to the parade in Eunice when all the krewes come in, some on horse back. My daughter, son-in-law, and grandkids joined us. We had made some costumes by adding fabric patches and fringe to old clothes. I used an old scarf, some sparkling jewel tape, and an old denim shirt. As the parade came through, Leo was poked (in jest) by a couple tricksters; one of them untied my shoelaces. Afterward there was a band we love to hear and dance to, Steve Riley and the Mamou Playboys.

I have to admit I was a bit creeped out by the chickens. I refrained from petting one. They walk close to the crowd to allow for petting. The chickens are surprisingly calm. I gasped when I saw a dead one on the ground. And to top it all off, a woman was wearing a taxidermic chicken on her head. While the band was playing, some of the tricksters got on the stage and threw a live chicken into the crowd. Luckily, I was not close by.

Learning more about the culture of my own state is fascinating and fun. I’m also trying to accept some of the craziness of it all. For the most part, it is harmless fun.

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Poetry Friday is hosted today by Tabatha at
The Opposite of Indifference.

I have been off this week and joyfully participating in two writing challenges. I truly wish I could do this every day. Writing to prompts makes my creative juices flow. If I write a poem each day, I feel a certain satisfaction that I’ve accomplished something.

This week the Poetry Sisters challenge was to write an ekphrastic poem, which is a poem written to art. Their theme this year is transformation. In the February Project with Laura Shovan, Molly Hogan used photographs of abandoned buildings to prompt us to think about their story. I went to a mysterious place with this image.

Photo by Molly Hogan

I’ve always enjoyed writing about a mystery. In high school, I had a short story published in the school’s literary journal about a portrait in an abandoned house that ended with a question, a mystery. Many in the Facebook group wanted to know more. Mystery is like that. We want to know. I recently heard on a podcast “surrender to the mystery.” I believe that we don’t know all the answers, and we are not supposed to. So let this poem sit with you in all its unknown.


She left the curtains
the window open,
the cat in the yard.
She left when the air
was warm and damp
fearing her shame
would shatter her dream. 

Margaret Simon, draft

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Today, Ash Wednesday, feels like a day for an open field, a sunrise, a few clouds. My body is tired. As they say around here, I Did Mardi Gras. Every day– Saturday to Fat Tuesday. I welcome the rest, the coming down from a party hearty high to a calm cloudy Lent. I invite you to peacefulness, to look to the fallow fields for solace and grace.

Sunrise Field by Margaret Simon (You may use this photo.)

am still
staring out
toward the field,
fallow and fertile
whispering to the wind
secrets of stillness and peace
believing that time can heal wounds
believing strong faith starts with good soil.

Margaret Simon, draft

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My fellow Inkling, writing partner Molly Hogan has the round up today at Nix the Comfort Zone.

I surprise myself. Every day this month there is a new prompt with the theme of “Story” in Laura Shovan’s February project. Every day I am invited to write a poem. Intimidating? Totally. Scary? You bet. Comforting? Always.

I discover over and over again that writing in a community of poets is a safe and accepting place to be. I need to just get over my little ego voice and jump in.

This week Buffy Silverman put up a prompt with these images she’s allowing us to share. She asked us to write about gatherings.

You would think I’d write something about nature. But all that was on my mind was the fact that my brother had texted that he wants to come visit. He has not had a weekend off in a long time, and the last time he visited was for my daughter’s wedding in 2017. My poem written on the spot was about the joy of trying to fit everyone into our house. This is one of those drafts that will likely remain a draft, but I had fun writing it. I forget sometimes that writing should be fun.

Sleeping Arrangements

Add a brother-uncle to the mix
complicates the sleeping arrangements.
He should get the guest room because he’s the guest.
Children can sleep anywhere, except they can’t.
They require a confinement misnomered “Pack & Play”
more like “Stuff and Sleep,” and don’t forget to turn on
the sound machine. There must be a night light,
but nothing too bright.
Cow has to be in the far right corner
while silky covers her face.
Now the 3-year-old has figured out how to climb out,
so he needs an adult in the room nearby.

I tell them “Come! Come!”
We will figure it out
because all my loves in one house
is Everything to me.

Margaret Simon, flash draft

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And now, folks, for something different. I’ve been working on a collage that I thought I was going to use as a prompt in Laura Shovan’s February project, but another idea came to me. I decided to offer it to you today as a photo prompt.

Collage work is intriguing to me. I cut out images that evoke some emotion in me and build it like a puzzle. I feel like my response poem will be different from yours because I have spent more time with it. Although, as I type this, I haven’t written a poem yet.

Think about the story that is happening in the collage as though it was a magazine photo. Interview the woman. Who is she? Where is she? Why is she there? Or take a more descriptive stance. Describe the scene using your senses. Whatever you decide, please share a bit with us. Remember this is quick draft writing, so leave only encouraging comments to others.

Magazine collage by Margaret Simon

Fire Girl

My adventures usually begin in my mind.
I wander the savannah, discover beauty,
feel the rush of adrenaline…

Then there is the mountain to climb,
the people I may leave behind,
so I settle in, next to our small fire
and thumb pages to find my bookmark.

Margaret Simon, draft

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Our daughter Martha came home this weekend with her 7 week old, June Margaret “Junebug”. We were talking about names and the fact that Margaret is a family name on both sides. My grandmother and my husband’s grandmother were both named Margaret. Apparently Martha didn’t know about Mate’s name, Jeff’s grandmother, because she only knew her as “Mate” and Betsy Ross.

Jeff’s grandmother grew up in Canada. His grandparents’ love story starts with a bad fish. Cecil Lennan was in the hospital in Toronto, Canada and opened his eyes to the love of his life, Margaret Ross. They married in New York City, and Cecil “Pate” nicknamed her Betsy. “Since you are an American now, you should be Betsy Ross.” She was never again called Margaret. New life. New country. New name.

Shortly after their marriage, “Betsy” Ross Lennan traveled back home to her family in Canada. While she was gone, Cecil wrote her letters. This was 1925. We still have three of them. In 2018, I was writing in a workshop and used one of these letters to write a found poem. I blogged about it here.

Since today is Valentine’s Day, I am reposting this love poem.

Come Back, my Love
(after Cecil Lennan, 1925.)

If you come in on the 7:47, bring the bathing suit with you.
And bring back yourself even if you forget all of the above.

Bring back that dark brown hair I love,
the big wavy curl that hangs
continuously over your left eye.

Bring back the eyes looking into mine
telling me you are mine.
Bring back the nose,
your quivering lips–silent.

Bring back the arms that have hugged me
so tightly–a little tighter still, because–
because they wanted to.

Bring back your heart, that electric spark
thrilling my toes, my body to my head
and down again–and again.

Bring back the mystery, the wonder,
the sweetness that is yours.
I will take it all, put my arms around it
all, and hug, and kiss, and love it
for ages and ages.
Will you?

Margaret Simon, found poem (c) 2018
Thank you to Two Writing Teachers for creating an amazing community of writers and a safe, welcoming space to write and share.

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Poetry Friday is hosted today by Carol at Beyond Literacy Link

I feel like I chose the wrong One Little Word this year. I’ve grappled with it since I decided. What is the purpose of a One Little Word? Is it a guide or an affirmation? Should you pursue it or let it comfort you?

Every day I choose a quote-of-the-day to post on a Jamboard for my students to write a response to. Lately, I’ve allowed the students themselves to take over this routine. I have a few quote books that they use. We select a photo background and use the text box or sticky note feature to write in. One of the quotes this week was this one. Avalyn chose a background to this Mark Twain quote that was both day and night. It made me think about my OLW: Purpose.

I decided to play around with an acrostic form using Purpose. And this poem emerged:

Until you
Purpose is
Step at a time
Every day.

Voila! Poetry led me to the answer I had been searching for all along. Life is a journey. There is no destination. It’s a constant discovery day by day. I cannot choose a word like Purpose and magically feel satisfied with myself. It is a word that I will search for the rest of my life. Unlike Mark Twain’s idea that there is a day when you will discover why you were born, I’ve come to the realization that why you were born is a daily march. It’s what we do. And every once in a while, someone or something will knock you off the path and that’s when you need a different word: Grace.

These days I need Grace more than Purpose. I need to let myself feel what I feel, but not get attached to those feelings. Not let the feelings define me. I received this message from EnneaThought of the Day:

Remember that your cognitive error is to identify with your changing feelings and emotional states, especially negative ones. Since your feelings constantly change, your identity does as well, undermining many of your psychological needs. Notice this tendency in your thinking today.

EnneaThought of the Day,

I’m going to keep Purpose around for a little while longer. It’s only February, but I’m hoping to relax a little and let time do the telling. Maybe another more appropriate, more calming word will emerge.

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Yesterday was a busy day. School, then coffee with a friend, then SCBWI Zoom meeting. By the time I finished, it was 7:30 and the chicken needed to be cooked…So, I forgot to look for a photo until early this morning. Somehow, somewhere one always turns up. It took a while for me to settle on this one. I borrowed it from Kim Douillard’s Instagram feed. I’ll ask for forgiveness later. But I was attracted to the hopefulness of a single dandelion. I think we are all ready for some sign of spring to come.

“Seeds or Weeds” Photo by Kim Douillard

Wish Flower

Before the mower mows,
a yellow flower grows.

Before the winds of March, 
fluffy seedlings spark.

Before the child blows,
the wish already knows.

Margaret Simon, draft

Please leave a small poem in the comments and encouraging words for other writers. Thanks for stopping by.

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Laura has the roundup this week.

Catherine Flynn of our writing group, the Inkings, put forth this challenge for our first of the month poetry challenge: “Somewhere, someone recommended the book How to Love the World: Poems of Gratitude and Hope. It includes “reflective pauses” and invitations for “writing and reflection.” After the poem “Work,” by Sally Bliumis-Dunn, (https://sallybliumisdunn.com/) the invitation reads: “Can you remember a time when you felt so consumed with the act of making something that you lost all sense of time and your mind seemed to clear? What allowed you to enter this mindful creative space?”

Mindful creative space is also known as Flow as defined by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. I studied his theory way back in the early 90’s when I was getting my masters in gifted education. It can be such a euphoric feeling that many creatives crave it. Like time doesn’t exist or matter. It hasn’t been happening to me lately, and this prompt challenge made me start thinking about what my blocks to flow have been.

You can read this list as a list of excuses (because they are) or as a sad list of losses. But the more I read about grief and writing and mental health, I realize that this is normal. Frustrating. Yes. But normal and as my Nikki McClure calendar reminds me, I will get through.

Calendar by Nikki McClure

Flow, not Flowing

I lost my journal,
the one notebook with the instructions on how to do this thing
called writing. Hiding
between the books in the school backpack,
and then there’s the time it takes to pack a lunch
and get out the door. Not to mention
the dog threw up again this morning.

I lost my godchild,
the one I’d hadn’t seen in years. She was growing up,
going to graduate school, doing all the things
a twenty-something does without a care,
yet now I care because she’s gone

and I can’t sleep or write or do anything
to make all those absent years present again.

I lost my happiness, buried deep
in the rains of winter, drowning out
the words I want to write, need to write.

“Are you writing?” they ask. I say I am
because that is what I do. Say it until it is true.
This is my confession and to tell the truth,
it flowed right out of me.

Margaret Simon, on-the-spot-I-need-to-post-something draft

Here are links to my Inkling friends’ posts:

Mary Lee

A bonus blossom:
I’ve had this orchid for a year, at least and these blossoms popped out this week.

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The Spiritual Journey First Thursday is gathering at Bob’s site.

For this month’s Spiritual Journey posts, Bob asked us to use the theme “Colors of My Life” Ever since my father died in April, the color that reminds me to think of him is yellow.

One day in early June as I recovered ever so slowly from Covid, a male prothonotary warbler came to my window. He flapped his wings, showing off or defending his territory from his reflected invader I’m not sure which, but I internalized it as a visit from my father’s spirit.

Recently I was in an antique shop with my daughters, wandering as they shopped and I found a little ceramic yellow bird with a sweet succulent in it. Now it sits on my kitchen table. Do we need these little things? Probably not, but in some small way, they give comfort and hope.

My cat Fancy overlooks a succulent plant.

Yellow Through My Days

In a terra-cotta pot, daffodil
bulbs sprout, ones my dear friend
nurtured and planted for someday.

Someday, a yellow blossom
will pop open like a sparkle
of light welcoming spring.

Someday, a yellow prothonotary warbler
will find a house perched
at water’s edge, ready for nesting.

Someday, the yellowed pages
of a scrapbook will break
my heart.

But today, yellow is hiding
inside a bulb, on a southern shore
and in a cardboard box

for someday…

Margaret Simon, draft

Daffodils sprouting

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