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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.

Temperatures are high in these parts, and the virus doesn’t care. I haven’t seen my parents in person since Christmas. My mother sent me a Portal that works like Facetime through Facebook Messenger. The screen props up on the counter in the kitchen. Every time Leo (20 months) comes over, he points to it and says “Pop!” That’s my dad. That’s how he knows them, through the Portal.

My father has not been big on social media, but in the last month, he’s posting almost daily reports, “Reports from an independent retirement home.” They have been on lockdown for two weeks and were finally released on Saturday (Covid tests negative) to go downstairs for meals again. Here is one of my dad’s posts.

What does one look forward to when you are in quarantine? It’s different I imagine for everyone. As days go by, the options diminish. It gets down to such things as the next nap, the next meal, the next unexpected package, even the mail. Then there’s TV, which ends up being a search for the never found good program. My solace is a good book, which often ends up being the next nap. And so the circle goes on and on. The challenge becomes the acknowledgment that where you are is where you are and you’d better adjust to it. Part of the adjustment is to occasionally posting my thoughts. I hope you don’t mind.

John Gibson

Dad doesn’t know it, but I’m collecting his posts. I started doing this thinking I’d make a found poem, but now I like the way they speak themselves, full of his unique voice.

Andy Schoenborn posted the #OpenWrite prompt on Monday’s Ethical ELA. (Click the link to see the full prompt and read some amazing poetic responses.) Here is my poem draft:

My dog, Charlie

Weather Report

The dog lies at my feet
on the cold floor because
Heat is unbearable at 91
in dog years, the age of Mac
in human years, when the virus
took him.

Heat doesn’t care
if you are young or old
or if you have people
who love you. I see my parents
through a screen.
Their weather changes daily
with temperature checks, sticks up the nose.
(It was reported that my dad yelled from the pain.)
Funny
if we didn’t care so much
about isolation, the comfort
of a friend to eat ice cream with.

Hurricanes come in late summer
when we’ve let our guard down,
when masks fall to our chins,
when we just want to hug
because another person, human,
grandmother, friend has died.

The weather channel
broadcasts
24 hours
a map covered in red.

Margaret Simon, draft

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Poetry Friday round-up is with Molly at Nix the Comfort Zone.

On Tuesday I treated myself to a virtual writing marathon sponsored by the National Writing Project. #WriteAcrossAmerica. I showed up for the last stop on a journey across the country. I’m sorry I missed out on all the other stops. This last one was in New Orleans where the writing marathon originated.

Years ago I would spend some time each summer at the New Orleans Writing Marathon organized by the Southeastern Louisiana Writing Project. Three to four days of walking the French Quarter and writing led to lifelong friendships and a few memorable writing pieces.

Unfortunately, the virtual marathon happened in my own house through a screen, but because of the miracle of technology, I was able to connect with new friends and see some old ones. We had three writing sessions and shared in small break out rooms.

The third writing session led me to this poem, still quite drafty. I was just getting my writing muscle to work and the whole thing was over, not a marathon at all, but a quick 75 minute sprint.

Muses

Muses have a lost sense of time.
They live in the back of Napoleon’s Bar
drinking Pim’s Cups.

I’ve asked them to visit me
here on the bayou steeped
in cafe au lait brown
buzzing with cicada song.

They come in the long shadows
of a summer afternoon.
or in the fractal face
of a sunflower in bloom.

Muses mock me
with their silver linings,
here then there,
then nowhere,
hiding in plain sight.

Sometimes, I step on them
by mistake.

Give me that mess
again. My pen is waiting.

Margaret Simon, draft
Backyard Shadows by Margaret Simon

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Welcome to This Photo Wants to be a Poem, a weekly poetry prompt modeled after Laura Purdie Salas’s 15 Words or Less. We invite you to write a small poem in the comments and write encouraging comments to other writers. No judgements here. Just playing with words.

Today’s photo comes from teacher/poet/photographer Molly Hogan. She lives in Maine and recently photographed the marsh. This photo with its sepia tones attracted me. The soothing sway of nature keeps me sane these days, and I am grateful for Molly and others who post such wonderful natural landscapes.

Marsh by Molly Hogan

In this yellow light,
an elegant ballet
of marsh grasses
shine.

Margaret Simon, draft

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Poetry Friday round-up is with Laura at Writing the World for Kids.
Photo by Daria Obymaha on Pexels.com

Today is my 38th wedding anniversary. Yesterday I was buying a last minute card for my husband, and I told the clerk, “I almost forgot; tomorrow is my 38th wedding anniversary.”

She smiled under her mask and behind plexiglass and said, “That’s so nice.” Something in her voice made me hear her longing for love in her own life.

I replied, “It is nice when you find the right one.”

I’ve been blessed I found him so early in my life. I was not yet 21 when I walked down a long, candlelit aisle knowing with confidence I was doing the best thing I could ever do. And I was so right!

On Sundays we change the sheets. Sometimes he’ll put them back on the bed before I know it, a sweet surprise. And sometimes we make the bed together. I am reminded of this love poem by Li-Young Lee from Behind My Eyes. Li-Young Lee turns this chore into a love song.

to hold :: li-young lee

So we’re dust. In the meantime, my wife and I
make the bed. Holding opposite edges of the sheet,
we raise it, billowing, then pull it tight,
measuring by eye as it falls into alignment
between us. We tug, fold, tuck. And if I’m lucky,
she’ll remember a recent dream and tell me.

One day we’ll lie down and not get up.
One day, all we guard will be surrendered.

Until then, we’ll go on learning to recognize
what we love, and what it takes
to tend what isn’t for our having.
So often, fear has led me
to abandon what I know I must relinquish
in time. But for the moment,
I’ll listen to her dream,
and she to mine, our mutual hearing calling
more and more detail into the light
of a joint and fragile keeping.

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I am rounding up Spiritual Thursday posts with inLinkz at the end of this post.

Sometimes when I try to write, I do lots of other things. My mind wanders and wanders, like a butterfly trying to light upon the perfect flower. I really don’t recall where my mind was when I suggested the topic of Spiritual Art for this month’s Spiritual Journey posts. It was probably way back in January when our lives were rocking along at a normal pace in a normal way.

I have to admit this extended time of isolation has been easy for this introvert. I do not mind quiet time. I am rarely bored, but the losses are getting too close for comfort. Our local newspaper logs an average of 10 obituaries a day. We are facing a delay to the start of school. The news goes from bad to worse. Finding some art to bury my head into would be welcome.

In my sorting and shifting to find more distraction, I opened the latest Smithsonian Magazine and found this image.

Nicola Muirhead, Smithsonian Magazine.

Nicola Muirhead created this image by putting dishwashing liquid on a Polaroid photograph of her husband and her hands touching. She described her process, “Contact and physical connection are, of course, two of the most dangerous things you can do during the pandemic with someone outside your household. I have been so grateful to have my partner, Faraz, with me during this time, and we are able to hug and kiss and touch. Still, sometimes even touching your loved one can be filled with anxiety. When he goes out for the shopping or I for a walk, and return home, there is always the fear of carrying back the coronavirus. These are the thoughts I have had during the pandemic—adding to the anxiety of lockdown. This Polaroid was washed and then disinfected with bleach. I used dishing washing soap around the edges of the frame to draw the viewer into the hands touching, distorting everything else around it. (Nicola Muirhead)

Art can help us know more about ourselves. Observing this art, I found myself wanting to be the hand feeling the loving touch of another. Touch is what I miss most. I see my children (grown adults), but I don’t touch them. I spend time with my mother-in-law outside at a distance. I connect with my parents through Facetime. My mother commented that if I came to visit, I would be able to see her outside at a distance with a mask, but she doesn’t want that. She wants to hug me. I get it. We are starving for those simple hugs, the touch of the hand, the gesture of love.

Nicola Muirhead applied the chemicals that now define our days, bleach, hand sanitizer, dishwashing liquid, to every day photographs. What happens when we apply disinfectant to our relationships, to our spiritual life? This pandemic will change us; it has changed us. Perhaps we will learn the value of connectedness. Perhaps we will be more resilient. And perhaps we will find a resurrection.

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

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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.

Early in the first days of the pandemic, people were posting about cleaning out closets. At the time, my attention was on my students, my family, and the gorgeous spring we were having. I did Zoom meetings and made videos outside. I was fulfilled. Not at all bored. And couldn’t imagine why I should clean out anything.

But here we are 5 months in, and the weather has turned to mush: wet, hot, and humid. Going outside you risk all sorts of maladies, mosquito bites, dehydration, etc. So now I have turned to the closets.

I am not sure why we humans hold on to so much stuff. I’ve been looking at everything from photos to Christmas ornaments to baby stuff. The cleaning is cleansing. I’m also creating a room just for the grandkids. With show tunes in the background, this process has been rewarding and fun.

Speaking with my writing group last night, we are all making our way through with a variety of diversions. Heidi is making playful poems using magazine cut-outs. Check out her post here.

Molly started a new hashtag on Twitter. #poeticdiversion I posted this photo and poem that captures the beauty of resurrection fern after the rain. I never get enough of this miracle.

All day rain
Brightens green
Resurrection

What are your diversions? How are you coping? Consider joining in with poetry. #moreplay #magazineticpoetry #makesomething #poeticdiversion

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Poetry Friday round-up is with here! Link up at the end of this post with InLinkz.

Before the pandemic, I had applied to the Summer Poetry Teachers Institute to be held in Chicago at The Poetry Foundation. Alas, a trip to Chicago to hang out with poets and poetry teachers is a dream yet to come true, but the foundation offered a viable alternative in a 3-day virtual institute last week. It was wonderful! The presentations were all professionally done, the hand-outs were well organized, and they facilitated a real time Q & A. By far the best PD of my summer.

One of the Big Essential Questions was “What is Poetry?” This was the topic of Richard Blanco’s presentation. Oh, my! Swoon. He could read poems to me all day! For today’s Poetry Friday, let’s consider this question. Here are some quotes from the conference.

Poetry is someone standing up
and saying, with as little
concealment as possible, what
it is for him or her to be on
earth at this moment.

Galway Kinnell

Poetry is a bird. 
Sometimes its song is shrill,
sometimes its song is sweet. 
It preens its feathers
so they shine brightly in the sunlight. 
It nurtures its own
and delights all who gaze upon it.

Isman, fellow institute participant

In the comments, write your response to What is Poetry? I’d love to gather them together into a collaborative poem. And don’t forget to link up your post with InLinkz.

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

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Poetry Friday round-up is with Jan at BookSeedStudio

Last week I wrote down two lines from Poetry Friday posts. The first was a line from Amy, “If you let yourself.” The second was a clunker that Linda was giving away. “the wish is the thing.”

From those two line gifts, I wrote this draft that I haven’t thrown away yet.

If you let yourself
fail & appear worthless,
a freedom sets in.
Instead of focus on results,
you can concentrate
on the work
of being human.

If you let yourself
trust the sun to fertilize,
you can leave the blooming
to God & be still–
the wish is the thing.

Margaret Simon, draft

I received two gift poems today from Tabatha’s wonderful summer poetry swap. Tabatha herself sent me a snake poem. Apparently July 16th is World Snake Day . Who knew? On that day, I opened my storage shed to get the hidden key to our house, and a small very wiggly snake was at my feet caught up in a spider web. I grabbed the key and ran, leaving the door open in case the little scoundrel got itself loose.

For her poem, Tabatha imagined me going on a snake hunt with my grandson. Coincidentally, Leo and I did find a dead snake in our yard a few months ago. He still remembers that snake and points to the spot where we saw it every time. “Nake gone.”


SNAKE HUNTING WITH GRANDMA

Grandma packs our drinks and snacks,   

squirts sunblock and rubs it in.

I pick a stick for each of us   

to peek at things hidden.

We need a map to follow—   

I draw the view from east to west,

plus rainbow snakes sleeping   

next to eggs in their nests.

It’s rainbow snakes we’re hunting—  

I see garters every day—

A water snake isn’t rare    

and king snakes come to play

(sort of). But a rainbow snake’s  

a serpent I haven’t seen,

a funny kind of rainbow    

with no orange, blue, or green.

Grandma and I walk and watch,   

hear noisy birds, see speedy deer,

steer clear of snapping turtles,    

and spook hares that disappear.

As we go, we keep our eyes peeled   

for the stripes of rainbow snakes.

If we don’t spot one, we still had fun,   

and we will hunt another day!

by Tabatha Yeatts

for Margaret Simon, Summer Poem Swap 2020

I also received a poem from Christie Wyman. She, too, captured the bayou life and joy of grandparenting.

Wandering and wondering
Together, hand in hand
Through the parish
Along the Teche’s shores
Among sugar cane and pages

Listening
For whispers, songs, and the wood duck’s call
Feeling
Life in abundance
Seeking inspiration

A shared joyful connection
To the web of nature

Joy upon the pages

Christie Wyman, 2020

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Spiritual Journey host is Carol Varsalona at Beyond Literacy Link.

“Even a happy life cannot be without a measure of darkness and the word ‘happiness’ would lose its meaning if it were not balanced by sadness.” – C.G. Jung

Photo by Tina Nord from Pexels

Ruminating on balance today with my Spiritual Journey Thursday group.

Balance doesn’t happen all in one day.
Like love, balance is a process.
I strive to be stable,
but some days are riddled with self-doubt.
Even in these sheltered days,
I lose sleep, lose faith, slip off the stack of stones
onto the cold hard floor of reality.

“It’s always about balance,”
says my daughter in defense of screen time.
My brother-in-law’s philosophy is “Eat a donut,
then have a grapefruit.”

After a long walk in the sun,
your body craves water,
water, water…
There are some balance rules
you must obey. Your body
is one of them.

In the chiaroscuro of light and dark,
we see clearly and in blurred lines
where our balance lies. Tip-toe in,
but don’t worry if you have to hold
onto the rails sometimes.


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I miss traveling. I usually have a trip or two planned for the summer. A few summers ago my husband and I took a trip to the Pacific Northwest. The beaches there are very different from Gulf Coast beaches. For one thing, the temperatures are colder. With our heat rising to 95 or more degrees these days, I wish for the cool breeze of a Northwest beach.

My friend, JoAnne Duncan lives in Washington state within driving distance of beautiful mountains and beaches. She’s traveling near Seattle this week. She’s been posting some gorgeous photos of her trip on Facebook. This one just begged to be a poem.

Feather at Sea by JoAnne Duncan.

I am a feather
tethered
to blue stones
tossed from sea.
Notice me
before I fly.

Margaret Simon, draft

Take a minute to look outside at this image, look inside to your heart, and put down a few words, 16 or so, in the comments as a small poem. Please encourage other writers with your comments. Poetry is balm.

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