Poetry Friday: First Snow ~ Mary Oliver

Someone in our classroom mentioned that he’d heard another snow storm was coming our way next week.  Instantly, a chorus of groans and moans filled the air.  It seems that even the children of the North East, with their skis and sleds, and dreams of making perfect snow forts and snow angels, have had enough of the snow.  Not so long ago, it seemed, this very same group could not wait for the first snowfall of the year.  Not so long ago, neither could I.  But here we are…  So, rather than complain, I thought I’d reach back in time to those first days of winter, when fresh fallen snow was such a delight.

First Snow ~ Mary Oliver

The snow
began here
this morning and all day
continued, its white
rhetoric everywhere
calling us back to why, how,
whence such beauty and what
the meaning; such
an oracular fever! flowing
past windows, an energy it seemed
would never ebb, never settle
less than lovely! and only now,
deep into night,
it has finally ended.
The silence
is immense,
and the heavens still hold
a million candles, nowhere
the familiar things:
stars, the moon,
the darkness we expect
and nightly turn from. Trees
glitter like castles
of ribbons, the broad fields
smolder with light, a passing
creekbed lies
heaped with shining hills;
and though the questions
that have assailed us all day
remain — not a single
answer has been found —
walking out now
into the silence and the light
under the trees,
and through the fields,
feels like one.


Poetry Friday:Honey At The Table by Mary Oliver

Poetry Friday is hosted by  Renée M. LaTulippe of No Water River.

We’ve had a warm day or two this week, which made me think that Spring might just be closer than the calendar promises.  Perhaps this is what made me reach for the honey jar for my after school cup of tea, the yearning for warmer days.  The tea was delicious, and that touch of honey so soul satisfying.

Honey At The Table by Mary Oliver

It fills you with the soft
essence of vanished flowers, it becomes
a trickle sharp as a hair that you follow
from the honey pot over the table

and out the door and over the ground,
and all the while it thickens,

grows deeper and wilder, edged
with pine boughs and wet boulders,
pawprints of bobcat and bear, until

deep in the forest you
shuffle up some tree, you rip the bark,

you float into and swallow the dripping combs,
bits of the tree, crushed bees – – – a taste
composed of everything lost, in which everything lost is found.


Poetry Friday:Days by Billy Collins

 Poetry Friday is hosted by Sally Murphy

We have passed the midpoint of our school year.  Quite suddenly, or so it seems, the year has shrunk by half.  Time, which seemed more than enough in September, now  feels hardly enough.

After dismissal today, I kept watch from my window as middle schoolers skated and sloshed in ankle deep melting snow.  In a few months, the trees will be lush, the kids will be bigger and in it’s-summer-already mode.

Time flies…yes, it does.

Days by Billy Collins

Each one is a gift, no doubt,
mysteriously placed in your waking hand
or set upon your forehead
moments before you open your eyes.

Today begins cold and bright,
the ground heavy with snow
and the thick masonry of ice,
the sun glinting off the turrets of clouds.

Through the calm eye of the window
everything is in its place
but so precariously
this day might be resting somehow

on the one before it,
all the days of the past stacked high
like the impossible tower of dishes
entertainers used to build on stage.

No wonder you find yourself
perched on the top of a tall ladder
hoping to add one more.
Just another Wednesday

you whisper,
then holding your breath,
place this cup on yesterday’s saucer
without the slightest clink.



Poetry Friday: South by Natasha Tretheway

PoetryFriday is hosted by Donna @ Mainely Write

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The invitation has been sitting on my desk for some weeks now, opened and unanswered. The due date for a response has come and gone,  as well.  So, I suppose I was not surprised when the email arrived on Monday: Are you coming to the wedding? We’d be so disappointed if you couldn’t! 

I haven’t responded to that one, either.

The bride-to-be is the daughter of good friends; her wedding is a happy occasion.  I am joyful at the thought that this accomplished young woman has such a blessed reason to gather friends and family together to celebrate.  It’s the wedding’s venue that gives me pause, and it’s the venue that will be the reason for my unwillingness to attend: both the vows and the reception will take place at a plantation.  And though the grounds and rooms look breathtakingly beautiful, the perfect spot for an elegant wedding in fact…it’s a plantation!  How can a place that has seen such  human suffering and brutality  have even been considered worthy of a wedding? This is what I’ve been struggling with…this is why I know I cannot go.

South by Natasha Tretheway

Homo sapiens is the only species
to suffer psychological exile.
—E. O. Wilson
I returned to a stand of pines,
                            bone-thin phalanx
flanking the roadside, tangle
                            of understory—a dialectic of dark
and light—and magnolias blossoming
                            like afterthought: each flower
a surrender, white flags draped
                            among the branches. I returned
to land’s end, the swath of coast
                            clear cut and buried in sand:
mangrove, live oak, gulfweed
                            razed and replaced by thin palms—
palmettos—symbols of victory
                            or defiance, over and over
marking this vanquished land. I returned
                            to a field of cotton, hallowed ground—
as slave legend goes—each boll
                            holding the ghosts of generations:
those who measured their days
                            by the heft of sacks and lengths
of rows, whose sweat flecked the cotton plants
                            still sewn into our clothes.
I returned to a country battlefield
                            where colored troops fought and died—
Port Hudson where their bodies swelled
                            and blackened beneath the sun—unburied
until earth’s green sheet pulled over them,
                            unmarked by any headstones.
Where the roads, buildings, and monuments
                            are named to honor the Confederacy,
where that old flag still hangs, I return
                            to Mississippi, state that made a crime
of me—mulatto, half-breed—native
                            in my native land, this place they’ll bury me.




On Turning Ten by Billy Collins


Carol Varsalona is hosting the Roundup at Beyond Literacy Link.

Image result for silhouette of a  boy looking out

We are one week away from the end of the second quarter of the school year – the halfway point.  Watching my kids in our classroom, overhearing  their conversations, and reading what they write about, I can see them making that unmistakable shift from  the children they were when they first walked into the room in September to the adolescents who will walk out in June.

Already, their once open  and easy to read faces have turned guarded and sometimes closed.

Already the easy way in which they shared their worries and thoughts  in the artless way of the very young has shifted into  a more careful and private mode.

Give them another month or so, especially as we drift into our early April Spring Break,  and they will cross that invisible line from kidhood into teenager – they will become  somewhat blasé, studiedly so, about so many of things they had previously delighted in.  No longer will they rush to the window to catch the first flakes of a new snowfall.  No longer will they spin an exuberant cartwheel just because their mood suddenly called for just this.  No longer will they wonder aloud about “stuff” in the free and easy way they once did, a way that paid less attention to their classmates than the wonder itself.

They are turning a corner,  trying not to look back, growing into their other selves…my sixth graders and on the verge of moving their inner selves to seventh grade.  I will miss them…

On Turning Ten by Billy Collins

The whole idea of it makes me feel
like I’m coming down with something,
something worse than any stomach ache
or the headaches I get from reading in bad light–
a kind of measles of the spirit,
a mumps of the psyche,
a disfiguring chicken pox of the soul.You tell me it is too early to be looking back,
but that is because you have forgotten
the perfect simplicity of being one
and the beautiful complexity introduced by two.
But I can lie on my bed and remember every digit.
At four I was an Arabian wizard.
I could make myself invisible
by drinking a glass of milk a certain way.
At seven I was a soldier, at nine a prince.

But now I am mostly at the window
watching the late afternoon light.
Back then it never fell so solemnly
against the side of my tree house,
and my bicycle never leaned against the garage
as it does today,
all the dark blue speed drained out of it.

This is the beginning of sadness, I say to myself,
as I walk through the universe in my sneakers.
It is time to say good-bye to my imaginary friends,
time to turn the first big number.

It seems only yesterday I used to believe
there was nothing under my skin but light.
If you cut me I could shine.
But now when I fall upon the sidewalks of life,
I skin my knees. I bleed.


Poetry Friday:“Crossing Jordan” by Langston Hughes

Poetry Friday is hosted by  Jan at Bookseedstudio

Every new day reveals what many of us, the majority of us, knew all along. The man elected to the highest office in our land is a racist.  Thursday’s news about his views regarding the people of Haiti and Africa, as far as I am concerned, was just more proof…if more proof were indeed necessary.

As a citizen of this great country, I am embarrassed and ashamed.  As an educator, I am simply sad.  I teach American history, I cover the founding of America from the early days of revolutionary talk to the seeds of Civil War.  Every day, we examine these founding ideals: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” And every day we discuss the events in our history, from its earliest days through national crisis after national crisis, and the way in which we have had to struggle to find “the better angels of our nature”.

It is so very sad for my students, who have grown up with President Obama in the Oval Office, to be living through a time in which racism, sexism, and every other type of vile -ism, lives openly in the White House.

On the eve of celebrating Martin Luther King Jr.’s life and work, on the eve of Black History month, I have to return to the voice of Langston Hughes.  Thanks to the vile man in the Oval Office, these are lonely days for many, folks…


“Crossing Jordan” by Langston Hughes

It was that lonely day, folks,
When I walked by myself.
My friends was all around me
But it was just as if they’d left
I went up on a mountain
In a high cold wind
And the coat that I was wearing
Was mosquito-net thin.
Then I went down in the valley
And I crossed an icy stream
And the water I was crossing,
Was no water in a dream,
And the shoes that I was wearing
No protection for that stream.
Then I stood out on a prairie
And as far as I could see
Wasn’t nobody on that prairie
That looked like me—
Cause it was that lonely day, folks,
When I walked all by myself
And my friends was right there with me
But was just as if they’d left.
Crossing Jordan! Crossing Jordan!
Alone and by myself.

– Langston Hughes, 1941


Poetry Friday:Christmas, 1970  by Sandra M. Castillo

Poetry Friday is hosted by Buffy Silverman at Buffy’s Blog

silver christmas tree

We’ve been reading Alan Gratz’s brilliant book, Refugee in our class these past few weeks.  As we go into the Christmas season, with Hanukkah just past and the New Year around the corner, our classroom conversation turned to the refugees of today – so many of them, and in such seemingly hopeless times.  I guess it is in that somber spirit that I share this poem today:

Christmas, 1970  by Sandra M. Castillo

We assemble the silver tree,
our translated lives,
its luminous branches,
numbered to fit into its body.
place its metallic roots
to decorate our first Christmas.
Mother finds herself
opening, closing the Red Cross box
she will carry into 1976
like an unwanted door prize,
a timepiece, a stubborn fact,
an emblem of exile measuring our days,
marked by the moment of our departure,
our lives no longer arranged.
there is a photograph,
a Polaroid Mother cannot remember was ever taken:
I am sitting under Tia Tere’s Christmas tree,
her first apartment in this, our new world:
my sisters by my side,
I wear a white dress, black boots,
an eight-year-old’s resignation;
Mae and Mitzy, age four,
wear red and white snowflake sweaters and identical smiles,
on this, our first Christmas,
away from ourselves.
The future unreal, unmade,
Mother will cry into the new year
with Lidia and Emerito,
our elderly downstairs neighbors,
who realize what we are too young to understand:
Even a map cannot show you
the way back to a place
that no longer exists.
Sandra M. Castillo, “Christmas, 1970” from My Father Sings, to My Embarrassment. Copyright © 2002 by Sandra M. Castillo. Reprinted by permission of White Pine Press.