Before the Blight by Ruth Stone

Poetry Friday is hosted by Carol at Carol’s Corner



Growing up in upstate New York, my husband Scott always associated scorching hot summers with the cool green shade of towering  Elm trees.  Those trees of his youth are all long gone now; one by one each fell victim to Dutch Elm disease and had to be cut down many years ago.

Still, when the first really hot days of summer arrive, Scott is often given to reminiscing about those summer days and those magnificent trees.

Before the Blight by Ruth Stone

The elms stretched themselves in indolent joy,
arching over the street that lay in green shadow
under their loose tent.
And the roses in Mrs. Mix’s yard pretzeled up her trellis
with pink Limoges cabbage blooms like Rubens’ nudes.
My lips whispered over the names of things
in the meadows, in the orchard, in the woods,
where I sometimes stood for long moments
listening to some bird telling me of the strangeness of myself;
rocked in the sinewy arms of summer.


Poetry Friday: Peonies by Mary Oliver

Poetry Friday is hosted by Mary Lee at A Year of Reading

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Our peonies are in full bloom this week, just in time for the rain storms that will also bow their heads deep into the grass and fling their petals far and wide.  At the first sign of a downpour, if I am home, I race out to rescue what I can.  They are the loveliest flower…why must they have the shortest season in which to bloom?

‘Peonies’   by Mary Oliver

This morning the green fists of the peonies are getting ready
to break my heart
as the sun rises,
as the sun strokes them with his old, buttery fingers

and they open —
pools of lace,
white and pink —
and all day the black ants climb over them,

boring their deep and mysterious holes
into the curls,
craving the sweet sap,
taking it away

to their dark, underground cities —
and all day
under the shifty wind,
as in a dance to the great wedding,

the flowers bend their bright bodies,
and tip their fragrance to the air,
and rise,
their red stems holding

all that dampness and recklessness
gladly and lightly,
and there it is again —
beauty the brave, the exemplary,

blazing open.
Do you love this world?
Do you cherish your humble and silky life?
Do you adore the green grass, with its terror beneath?

Do you also hurry, half-dressed and barefoot, into the garden,
and softly,
and exclaiming of their dearness,
fill your arms with the white and pink flowers,

with their honeyed heaviness, their lush trembling,
their eagerness
to be wild and perfect for a moment, before they are
nothing, forever?

Poetry Friday:Marching Through a Novel by John Updike

Poetry Friday is hosted by Margaret Simon @  Reflections on the Teche

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We’ve just begun our last round of book clubs in our sixth grade year.  Usually, our book club rounds follow genre studies, with a read aloud to analyze the structure and characteristics of that particular genre.  But this year, my students asked if they could close the year with  whatever genre they wanted, which sounded like an excellent idea to me.  Book groups and partnerships soon formed around every genre in our classroom library, from historical fiction to dystopian to realistic fiction.

When we gathered on our reading rug to plan our meeting dates, one student remarked at this range of books, which prompted another to ask, “how do they do this? The authors, how do they keep coming up with so many different types of stories and characters?”  This , of course, led to a high spirited discussion about imagination and craft and topics, and how writers pick and choose what they want to write about and how they write it.   Authors, it was decided, were “imagination magicians”…a term I instantly loved, and intend to use in my teaching life.

Here’s one of those imagination magicians, telling us something about his process:

Marching Through a Novel by  John Updike

Each morning my characters
greet me with misty faces
willing, though chilled, to muster
for another day’s progress
through dazzling quicksand,
the march of blank paper.
With instant obedience
they change clothes and mannerisms,
drop a speech impediment,
develop a motive backwards
to suit the deed’s done.
They extend skeletal arms
for the handcuffs of contrivance,
slog through docilely
maneuvers of coincidence,
look toward me hopefully,
their general and quartermaster,
for a clearer face, a bigger heart.
I do what l can for them,
but it is not enough.
Forward is my order,
though their bandages unravel
and some have no backbones
and some turn traitor
like heads with two faces
and some fall forgotten
in the trench work of loose threads,
poor puffs of cartoon flak.
Forward. Believe me, I love them
though I march them to finish them off.

Poetry Friday: Heat by H.D.

Poetry Friday is hosted by  Kiesha at Whispers from the Ridge

summer haze

It was above 90 degrees today.My kids came in from recess sweaty, stinky, and s-l-o-w…as in “I’m fried from the sun and can’t be expected to think” s-l-o-w.

By the time I left school for home, the temperatures had soared to 96. Yikes!  My minivan, normally a lovely cocoon of quiet after a day of nothing but noise, was hot enough to roast a Thanksgiving turkey (or so it felt).  By the time the air conditioning made its presence known, I was already pulling into my driveway.

Every blade of grass seemed to be wilting, every flower drooping, every leaf curling into its own cool, green self.

It’s May, but it felt like August.  Late this evening, it still feels like August.  And I am not ready for August heat, quite yet.

Heat by H.D. (Hilda Doolittle )

O wind, rend open the heat,

cut apart the heat,
rend it to tatters.

Fruit cannot drop
through this thick air—
fruit cannot fall into heat
that presses up and blunts
the points of pears
and rounds the grapes.

Cut through the heat—
plough through it,
turning it on either side
of your path.

Poetry Friday: Time with You by Gary Soto

Welcome to Poetry Friday, the round up is right here!!!

Cherry blossoms and dogwoods are blooming these days, and so (apparently) is love in our middle school.  So many whisperings of who likes who are floating through the air, and so many rumors of who likes who are swirling back (it is middle school, after all).  I see furtive looks, sweet smiles, and gossipy clusters of kids with hearts aflutter.

It is Spring, and love is blooming…

tree heart

Time with You by Gary Soto


We’re thirteen, almost fourteen,
And so much in love

We want the years to pass—
Clouds roll at super speed, rains fall,

Flowers unfold and die at the snap
Of our fingers. I want to stuff sand

Through a fat hourglass,
And rip the pages from the calendar.

Let me blow candles from my cake.
Let my puppy stretch to full size.

When we turn eighteen,
Time will become a canoe on a still lake.


Poetry Friday: All In A Day by Cynthia Rylant

Poetry Friday is hosted by Jama at Jama’s Alphabet Soup 

It’s a yucky-mucky day here in Northern New Jersey, with torrents of rain and the kind of clammy cold that chills you to the bone.  Everyone in my house is under the weather, including our four legged members, whose job it usually is to cheer us up on precisely such days.  Happily, it is also Poetry Friday – so I have much to look forward to as I make the round-up rounds.  I had it mind to share a morose and bedraggled sounding poem which would match my mood, but thought better of it and reached for a golden ray of Cynthia Rylant positivity…

…accompanied by Nikki McClure’s gorgeous illustrations from the book of the same name…

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All In A Day by Cynthia Rylant

A day is a perfect piece of time
to live a life,
to plant a seed,
to watch the sun go by.
A day starts early,
work to do,
beneath a brand-new sky.
A day brings hope
and kindness, too…
a day is all its own.
You can make a wish,
and start again,
you can find your way back home.
Every bird and every tree
and every living thing
loves the promise in a day,
loves what it can bring. (Gorgeous page!)
There is a faith in morningtime,
there is belief in noon.
Evening will come whispering
and shine a bright round moon.
A day can change just everything,
given half a chance.
Rain could show up at our door
and teach you how to dance.
The past is sailing off to sea,
the future’s fast asleep.
A day is all you have to be,
it’s all you get to keep.
Underneath that great big sky
the earth is all a-spin.
This day will soon be over
and it won’t come back again.
So live it well, make it count,
fill it up with you.
The day’s all yours, its waiting now…
See what you can do.

Poetry Friday: Poems from “Soul Food”

Poetry Friday is hosted by JoAnn at Teaching Authors

Thursday is usually poetry day in my sixth grade classroom (here’s a post about what that looks like), but the PARCC test got in the way of our usual routine this week. Thursday without poetry just did not feel right, and I was feeling the absence of our usual unpacking of and delight in poetry when I arrived home.

Waiting for me in my mailbox was this lovely book, a thoughtful gift from my friend Kimberley:

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Somehow, she must have intuited my need for nourishing words on this cloudy, poetry-less day, and somehow luck delivered it at exactly the right moment.

I made myself a cup of green tea, found the right spot on my favorite reading chair, and immersed myself in poetry.  First, I came upon an old favorite:

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and then I discovered a new favorite:

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Finally, Thursday felt like Thursday again