Posts Tagged ‘poetry’

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Wildflowers in a jar, Margaret Simon

If you read my post last week, you know I have a thing for flowers. After visiting Petite Anse Farms and cutting my own flowers, the wildflowers that line the Lafitte Greenway in New Orleans drew me in and begged to be clipped, collected, and given away.

This week is the Ehtical ELA Open Write and Monday’s prompt from Sarah Donovan encouraged us to write about “a shimmer of being alive.” My mind went back to the wildflowers I had cut on a walk with my daughter this weekend.

And So I Cut Wildflowers

I am taken by the little blooms
that peek from weeds
the ones on the side of the road

and want to carry them home
though I have nothing to cut them with
and frankly worry I will look like
a thief, a landscape destroyer, hoarder. 

The store is open, so I rush in,
buy kitchen shears, the kind for deboning
a chicken–I debone flowers

touch them with my soft hands
hold them in a nest
where scent to scent
pollen on pollen
the warmth of sunlight
still in their faces…

I cut wildflowers
place them in the Mason jar with residue
of coffee grounds, leave them
on your kitchen counter
without a note that says

I love you
You will know

Margaret Simon, draft
And So I Cut Wildflowers, Margaret Simon

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New York, NY, September 13, 2001 — Urban Search and Rescue specialists continue to search for survivors amongst the wreckage at the World Trade Center.
Photo by Andrea Booher/ FEMA News Photo

I never know if it’s the right thing to do.  I didn’t write it into my lesson plans.  I hesitate every year about teaching 9/11 to my gifted students.  But there’s a part of me that thinks they need to know the truth.  The need to have some seed of understanding about the meaning of that tragic day.

In my email on Monday morning, I read “Teach this Poem” from the Academy of American Poets. I forgot that I had signed up for this email, but I was glad it came.  The lesson gave me strong footing for talking about the unspeakable tragedy of 16 years ago.

First we looked at a photo of the destruction, writing down things we saw.

Some words collected from the image

ruined lives

Then we read Lucille Clifton’s poem Tuesday, 9/11/01.  We noticed in the structure of the poem spaces, no capital letters.  This structure, someone said, expressed how raw and true her response was.  One student read it aloud.  The others hummed at the end, that hum when words hit you right in the gut.

I looked at their faces, the faces of my students who were innocent of terror and fear, but they heard it, they saw it, they got it.  And this understanding made me so extremely sad.

At the end of class, Faith came to me and said, “I need a hug.”

She knew it was me who needed the hug.

How do we best teach this history that is still so new and raw?  Pictures, poems, words, talk, tears.  That’s how.

My students wrote their poetic responses. Some wrote the facts they learned.  Some wrote their own feelings.  Some wrote through the eyes of the helpers.

I wish I didn’t have to teach this day.  I wish this day never happened.  I hope my students walked away with not only the details of the tragedy, but also a heart of kindness, hopefulness, and (please God) peace!


Madison’s journal page

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Note: Header image art by my sister, Beth Gibson Saxena.

Join the Two Writing Teachers blog for the Slice of Life Challenge.

Join the Two Writing Teachers blog for the Slice of Life Challenge.


Jane Yolen

Poets love words. Poets play with words. Poets want you to love language as much as they do.

In my classroom, we read poems together, searching for sounds, images, and meaning. Jane Yolen is a master. I’ve admired her poetry for years. But only a year ago, maybe less, I signed up for her daily poem email. She believes in writing a poem a day. She practices what she preaches and sends out her daily drafts trusting that we receivers will honor and respect her words.

I shared one of these gems with my students, “Seven Ways of Kneeling on the Ground.” My first intent in sharing this poem was to show students how to use a pattern of 7 stanzas with 3 lines each, but in further examination, the poem offered so much more. We found imagery bouncing off the page. Her poem exemplified the magical sounds of words without using end rhyme: “Kneeling in the high bracken/ the brown crackle of it.”

There is JOY in reading a poem together, marking it up in colorful markers, and discovering how language (the sounds of words, double meanings, metaphor) leads us to a deeper understanding of our world.


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Poetry Friday round-up is at Books 4 Learning

Poetry Friday round-up is at Books 4 Learning

wagon wheel

I dedicate this post, a prose fairy tale poem in three parts, to my writing friends Tara Smith, Kimberley Moran, and Julianne Harmatz.  We spent the week together in upstate New York laughing, eating, drinking, touring, shopping, and oh yes…writing.  These verses were inspired by Petal People notecards by Martha Starke. 

I. Julianne

Once there was a girl from Los Angeles
with a head of curly hair.
She walked the hills of New York state
gathering wild flowers–

verbena, hosta, bleeding heart,
Johnny-jump-ups, bridal wreath–

placing them all in a clear glass jar.

The flowers captured sunshine,
the wild air of summer.

She looked at the flowers in the center of the breakfast table,
and smiled a sneaky smile.
She found the key to happiness–
Gather wildflowers in a glass jar.
You will have sunshine every day.

II. Kimberley

There once was a girl from Maine
who walked the hills of New York state,
looking for something, though she knew not what.

She picked up a wreath of wild flowers
arranged in the shape of a heart.

This heart of hydrangea petals
surrounded by Queen Anne’s lace
touched her very own broken heart.

She hung the wreath on her own front door
to show the world and herself
that this was enough.

III. Tara

Once a girl from New Jersey
walked all the way to New York
searching for wisdom,
(perhaps words on a bumper sticker),
a message for the secret of life.

On a bedlam farm,
dirty from long disuse,
she met a man selling seeds.

He told her to plant this tiny seed,
(so small she could hardly see),
water it every day, speak in a soft voice.
The seed will grow into the finest of flowers
more beautiful than hollyhocks.

One day when the sun rose
& the fog lifted,
she saw the flower,
finer than anything imagined,
and she said, “It is good!”

Margaret Simon, all rights reserved,
with incredible respect and love
for the gift of time that is born at a farm in New York


Queen Anne's Lace





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Poetry Friday round-up is with Mary Lee at A Year of Reading

Poetry Friday round-up is with Mary Lee at A Year of Reading

I am dedicating this Poetry Friday post to my mother-in-law, Anne Simon, who took me on an amazing adventure to Tanzania, Africa to celebrate her 85th birthday.

I have been blogging about this trip since I’ve returned.  You can read previous posts: Safe Water for Eastern Africa, Tarangire National Park, Maasai village, and Lions on the Serengeti.

The only way to thank Anne “Minga” for this fabulous opportunity was to thoroughly enjoy it.  I immersed myself in Presence, my one little word, taking in the experience with my whole mind, body, and spirit.

On the day of Minga’s birthday, we set out at sunrise to tour areas on the Serengeti with rocky outcrops called kopjes.  Kopjes are places where lions linger and hide their young.  We stopped to have breakfast on one of these kopjes.  Before any of us got out of the vehicles, though, our guides scouted and clapped away any animal life.

Kopjes (pronounced ko-pee-us) dotted the Serengeti landscape.

Kopjes (pronounced ko-pee-us) dotted the Serengeti landscape.


Singing "Happy Birthday" to Anne on the kopjes breakfast.

Singing “Happy Birthday” to Anne on the kopjes breakfast.

I created a video to capture the birthday celebration complete with a cake and the camp workers singing a favorite celebration song, Hakuna Matata (not the Disney version).


Since today is Poetry Friday, I found an appropriate poem to share.  “The Journey” by Mary Oliver describes the individual that my mother-in-law is, strong and independent.  I am very grateful that she is willing to share her journey with me.

One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began,
though the voices around you
kept shouting
their bad advice–
though the whole house
began to tremble
and you felt the old tug
at your ankles.
“Mend my life!”
each voice cried.
But you didn’t stop.
You knew what you had to do,
though the wind pried
with its stiff fingers
at the very foundations,
though their melancholy
was terrible.
It was already late
enough, and a wild night,
and the road full of fallen
branches and stones.
But little by little,
as you left their voices behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice
which you slowly
recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world,
determined to do
the only thing you could do–
determined to save
the only life you could save.

–Mary Oliver

This poem, along with many other poems from women, can be found in The Woman in this Poem, selected and introduced by Georgia Heard.


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Join the Two Writing Teachers blog for March Slice of Life Challenge.

Join the Two Writing Teachers blog for March Slice of Life Challenge.

roses 3

Today is Good Friday.  For me, it’s always a day to be quiet.  We don’t have school today, so I can take my time waking up (I still wake in the dark.), sip my coffee slowly, and sit with these roses.  Our local grocer sells roses for $10.99 a dozen.  Every once in a while, I buy them for myself.  I bought these over a week ago, and they are still bright and blooming.  Flowers can make the saddest of days seem brighter.  So in the glow of roses, I contemplate a poem.

 The yarn is a tangled mess.

I could have taken the time
to prepare, rolled patiently
this thread into a ball
the needle would glide
smoothly through.
But I left out this step.
Now I am struggling with knots.

How in our daily haste to get started,
to make something new,
we make the process harder.

Yet, as I sit and detangle,
my mind unravels, too.
I release the struggle
into my fingers
let go of the tangles,
knit a prayer.

–Margaret Simon


Poetry Friday round-up with Heidi at My Juicy Little Universe.

Poetry Friday round-up with Heidi at My Juicy Little Universe.

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Join the Two Writing Teachers blog for March Slice of Life Challenge.

Join the Two Writing Teachers blog for March Slice of Life Challenge.


Spring sunrise by Margaret Simon

Spring sunrise by Margaret Simon

First morning of spring, my husband said, “You’re missing a show outside.”  He was right.  I grabbed my camera and went out on the deck in my PJs.  The air was cool, but the sun was coming up sending a beam of light down the bayou.  There was a slight fog flying over the bayou.  My mind wandered to poetry.

When the fog floats above the water
like it is today, I believe
I could walk on water,
strap on my angel wings
and move toward the light.

Could heaven be as beautiful as this?

–Margaret Simon

My friend Susan brought me a seedling of a Red Buckeye tree.  Her note said, “I sprouted this seedling from a buckeye in our yard, so it should do well in yours also.  I would recommend leaving it in its pot until next January keeping it watered and in partial shade. Hope that it thrives for you. Happy Spring!”

I have high hopes for this little tree.  The problem is I usually kill plants.  But this one came to me in the spirit of spring, new life.  It must live, right?  It has angel wings.

red buckeye seedling

My red buckeye seedling

red buckeye mature

Blooming red buckeye

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Join the Poetry Friday round-up with Keri at Keri Recommends

Join the Poetry Friday round-up with Keri at Keri Recommends

Last week Michelle Barnes interviewed Douglas Florian who challenged poets to write a poem about nothing.  On Saturday, I had a bunch of nothing much going on and I read a poem by Barbara Crooker that was about nothing and the joy of a day when nothing goes wrong.  I stole a line and off I went.

with a borrowed line from Barbara Crooker, “Ordinary Life” in The Woman in this Poem selected by Georgia Heard.

This was a day when nothing happened.

I swept the floor.
Leaves piled with swirly
dust–not many left on trees

this winter day, but the sun
shone through a break in the clouds
making my gathering glisten.

I stopped to switch laundry
pulled long sleeves from the dryer.
Soft warmth brushed my cheek.

View from my kitchen window, by Margaret Simon

View from my kitchen window, by Margaret Simon

The dryer hummed a rhythm.
Time enough for another cup of coffee,
another deep breath of nothing happening.

I promised God to be present.
He said, “It’s all in the way you look at things.”
So I swept

words into a small pile
on a page
where nothing much was happening.

–Margaret Simon



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Join the Spiritual Thursday round up at Reading, Teaching, Learning.

Join the Spiritual Thursday round up at Reading, Teaching, Learning.



Paper Whites, Margaret Simon

For the next few weeks, blogger-friends and I will be posting about the spiritual aspects of our chosen words for 2016.  This week we are writing about Carol Varsalona’s word, Believe.

I took this picture of paper whites blooming in my front yard this week.  When I see flowers blooming, I believe deeper in the true magic of life.  I didn’t plant these flowers, and yet, every year they pop up and show their little white star-like faces. They shine.  Wake me up. Make me Believe.

I encouraged my students to create an acrostic with their words.  An acrostic is when you use the letters of the word as the beginning letter for each line of the poem.  Sounds easy enough, so I decided to write one with the word Believe.   In my notebook I wrote about 3 half-possibilities.  Each one kept sounding sappy.

But Believe is not a sappy word.

Believe is a strong word,
a word that holds on for dear life,
never letting you completely fall,
Believe buoys you up,
especially when troubles want to push you down.

Believe is a word you can count on,
holding its own weight.
Trusting in you to show up
when the sun is rising,
be ready for this new day.

Believe is a certain word,
proud yet humble,
a handkerchief that your grandmother stitched
calmly drying your tears,
then showing you the stars.
Believe believes in you.

–Margaret Simon





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Join the Two Writing Teachers blog for Tuesdays Slice of Life Challenge.

Join the Two Writing Teachers blog for Tuesdays Slice of Life Challenge.


I’m reading a new book, Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert.  I’m not sure where I read about this book.  I know Leigh Anne is reading it, and so is Catherine.  So here’s the thing: If there’s a group of us reading this book who want to chat, we could start a virtual book club.  We could chat in Voxer or Google Docs.  If you want to join in, email me at margaretsmn at gmail.

Four years ago I jumped into publishing and put out a middle-grade novel, Blessen.  At the time, I found an old diary that told me I’ve wanted to be an author all my life.   Notice my expectation as a teenager that maybe confidence came from someone else.

"I would love to be a writer if only someone would give me confidence!"

“I would love to be a writer if only someone would give me confidence!”

If growing up has taught me anything, it’s that confidence comes from courage that comes from your. own. self.  No one else can give it to you.

Elizabeth Gilbert says she lives in fear everyday.

Creativity is a path for the brave, yes, but it is not a path for the fearless, and it’s important to understand the distinction.

Fear will always show up when you are trying to be creative.  You can tell it to go away.  But it’s always there.  I love that this great author is telling me this.

I’ve grown to cherish this blogging space because I feel safe here.  Whoever you are, reading and leaving me kind comments, you are my angels.  You help me feel like my words are worthwhile and mean something.

Since my OLW is present, I am showing up.  I’ll listen for the muse, the magician, whatever his name is and answer with a yeah, ok, let’s do this crazy creative thing together.

Being present this past weekend, my husband and I visited Lake Martin for the sunset on the way to our dinner/ dancing date.  It was not the best of all sunsets.  I got my boots muddy.  But we showed up.  With a little magic from the lens and Picmonkey, I created an inspiring image.  On Sunday, I wrote a tanka for the image.  And I am sharing it here.  Kicking fear to the curb!  See ya!


Photo and poem by Margaret Simon

Photo and poem by Margaret Simon

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