Posts Tagged ‘After Irene Latham’

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A week ago I had a Mohs procedure on my nose. That means the dermatologist biopsied what I thought was a zit that turned out to be a squamous cell carcinoma. This type of surgery is no big deal to the young “boy scout” who was extremely proud of his suturing technique, but to me, it was uncomfortable and annoying. Ethical ELA was having its monthly Open Write, so the whole thing became a muse for a poem. Scott McCloskey led the exercise in writing about something you were “today years old” when you first learned about it.

Numbed Ignorance

Being a patient is not new to me,
but at today’s years old,
I learned of a procedure for removing
cancer cells off a nose called Mohs.

The young doctor told me
“You’re going to love this!”
as he stitched and stitched
as if there’s anything to love about
his brutal touch, about cancer cells, about a hole in my nose.

Sure I want to be rid of it,
but I carry the sign,
the cross-hatch signature
he was so proud of, the black eye,
the irritant of a bandage on my face.

I am learning that knowledge
is not all it’s cracked up to be.
Just hand me an ice pack
and let me go back to
numbed ignorance.

Margaret Simon, draft

Some people are good at sending cards. I want to be better. It’s a skill I admire. When my daughter’s mother-in-law heard about my little procedure, she sent me a card. I’ve been using Dictionary for a Better World to teach my students about poetry. On Friday, we explored Irene Latham’s poem Belonging which is a pantoum form. I’ve been puzzling with the form ever since. A pantoum is much harder to write than it looks, but here goes…


A card came in the mail
addressed especially to me.
As I fingered each detail,
I felt your hand in mine.

Addressed especially for me,
little bear with a bouquet
held his hands out to mine
with caring words to say.

This little bear with bouquet
hopes I’m better by today.
Your kind words do say
someone cares.

You hope I’m better today.
I feel your hand in mine. 
Across the miles you say
in a card that’s in the mail.

Margaret Simon, for Andree
Sweet card from Andree’

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Today’s Poetry Friday Round up is with Dave at Leap of Dave.

Today was the first Poetry Friday of the new school year. Prompted by Kim Johnson who is writing daily to Dictionary for a Better World, I decided to begin at the beginning with the word Acceptance. Irene Latham wrote the model poem we read today. I have to admit starting with such a metaphor-driven poem was challenging. “I am a word with teeth– a crocodile” At first my students thought the poem was all about a crocodile. We had to work hard to make the connection between the title and the illustration.

From Dictionary for a Better World by Irene Latham and Charles Waters.

When it came time to write, I suggested using Irene’s form for an opening line. I am a word with ______. Adelyn chose the word Art. I adore what she wrote for her first poem of 4th grade gifted class.


I am a word with imagination

A rainbow over my head

Some understand me, some don’t

Yet I don’t wait for supplies I improvise

I rest in a messy room

Full of markers, crayons and sketch books

As I dream of a

peacock flying overhead

by Adelyn, 4th grade

I am happy to be writing poems with kids again!

Here is my poem after Irene on the word Gracious:


I am a word with wings–
a butterfly
landing on a red blossom.

Some want to catch me.
Others let me be.

Yet I do not waste time (as you do)
in the muddy banks
between despair

and hope.
I rest in freedom–
air, wind–
lightly lifting

as nectar fills my soul
with sweet gratitude.

Margaret Simon, draft, after Irene Latham

Consider joining me with my friends over at Ethical ELA for this weekend’s Open Write starting tomorrow through Wednesday.

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