Poetry Friday: A Picture of the House at Beit Jala by Ghassan Zaqtan

Poetry Friday is hosted by hosted by Lisa at Steps and Staircases.

Today’s poem is in response to Trump’s action on Wednesday – recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.  So much for peace in the Middle East, so much for the Palestinians and their Palestine, so much for justice and the hope of freedom.


        A Picture of the House at Beit Jala by Ghassan Zaqtan

He has to return to shut that window,
it isn’t entirely clear
whether this is what he must do,
things are no longer clear
since he lost them,
and it seems a hole somewhere within him
has opened up

Filling in the cracks has exhausted him
mending the fences
wiping the glass
cleaning the edges
and watching the dust that seems, since he lost them,
to lure his memories into hoax and ruse.
From here his childhood appears as if it were a trick!
Inspecting the doors has fully exhausted him
the window latches
the condition of the plants
and wiping the dust
that has not ceased flowing
into the rooms, on the beds, sheets, pots
and on the picture frames on the walls

Since he lost them he stays with friends
who become fewer
sleeps in their beds
that become narrower
while the dust gnaws at his memories “there”
. . . he must return to shut that window
the upper story window which he often forgets
at the end of the stairway that leads to the roof

Since he lost them
he aimlessly walks
and the day’s small
purposes are also no longer clear.

translated from the Arabic by Fady Joudah



How to Read a Poem: Beginner’s Manual  by Pamela Spiro Wagner

Poetry Friday is posted by Mary Lee @ A Year of Reading 


The Friday before Thanksgiving, Laura Shovan shared a lovely poem called “Peanut Butter Cookies” (along with with delicious recipe, which you can treat yourself to here).  That poem lingered in my memory, and I carried around a printed copy of it for days.  I’ve just recently returned from visiting my parents, who are now in their nineties.  If you read the poem, it ends with a line that will strike a chord in all of us with aging parents, family, or friends – “the first taste of the last goodbye”.  For a poem that begins with “the salty aroma/of peanut butter cookies from the oven”, I found myself in an unexpectedly different place by the time I’d reached that last line.

For a week or so, I mulled over whether I should share this poem with my sixth graders. It was so well crafted, with just the sort of vivid sensory description and feeling that makes for deep reading and thinking.  But…that turn in the poem, which had so struck me, might be a bit much for them.  Even so, I went ahead with my gut instincts and assigned it for our Poetry Thursday poem.

Poetry Thursday was today, and the way my kids responded to the poem just blew me away.  My instinct had been right, this time.  Tonight, I sit with my stacks of poetry journals, read through their responses, and have to marvel at the way poetry moves through my students.  Each Thursday, they throw themselves into the poem of the week and have at it  –  savoring the words, delving for meaning, and wondering why they are touched by what they have read, as evidenced by what my Emily wrote, about that turn in the poem and the last line:

“I had seen my grandpa on Superbowl Sunday. He died on Friday.  The poem reminded me of this because it never said that the mom was sick. She out of the blue had a stroke. When I read this I started crying because I thought, “What if this happened to my mom?!”  This has since become my motto because, if you live life in fear, then you will never enjoy life. This poem is 100% my favorite.”

So, this Poetry Friday, I share a poem about poetry – and I thank my lucky stars that Poetry Thursday remains alive and well in Room 202.

How to Read a Poem: Beginner’s Manual  by Pamela Spiro Wagner

First, forget everything you have learned,
that poetry is difficult,
that it cannot be appreciated by the likes of you,
with your high school equivalency diploma
and steel-tipped boots,
or your white collar misunderstandings.

Do not assume meanings hidden from you:
the best poems mean what they say and say it.

To read poetry requires only courage
enough to leap from the edge
and trust.

Treat a poem like dirt,
humus rich and heavy from the garden.
Later on it will become the fat tomatoes
and golden squash piled high upon your kitchen table.

Poetry demands surrender,
language saying what is true
doing holy things to the ordinary.

Read just one poem a day.
Someday a book of poems may open in your hands
like a daffodil offering its cup
to the sun.

When you can name five poets
without including Bob Dylan,
when you exceed your quota
and don’t even notice,
close this manual.

Poetry Friday: The Cats by Ann Iverson

Poetry Friday is being hosted by Carol at Carol’s Corner


All day yesterday, as we were racing around the kitchen and dining room preparing for the Smith family Thanksgiving feast, Cat (so named because he embodies catness in all its glory) had his own agenda, as he invariably does.  He moved around rooms in search of the warmest sun spot, he busied himself with the tassels of sweaters and shawls draped here and there, he disappeared into travel bags in search of the mysteries of the outside world, and he sat on windowsills casting a look of bemused condescension at all the humans in his life busy with things such as setting the table or heaping attention upon a lifeless bird.

This morning, as we try to rouse ourselves from a feasting stupor, Cat is racing  around the house in single minded pursuit of something known only to him.  Oblivious to sleeping bodies or closed doors, I hear him bound up and down and all around.

I sip my tea and wait for the moment when he will saunter back into the dining room, looking calm and collected and pleased with himself.  Without so much as a glance my way to acknowledge the mayhem of the past half hour, Cat will find the warmest pool of golden sunshine, and curl himself into contented dreams.   Cats seem to know the secrets of living life exactly the way one wants to…how not to admire that?

The Cats by Ann Iverson

To find such glory in a dehydrated pea
on the tile between the stove and fridge.

To toss the needs of others aside
when you simply aren’t in the mood for affection.

To find yourselves so irresistible.

And always in a small spot of sun,
you sprawl and spread out the pleasure of yourselves

never fretting, never wanting to go back
to erase your few decisions.

To find yourself so remarkable
all the day long.

Poetry Friday: At the Beginning of Winter by Tom Hennen

Poetry Friday is hosted by Jane at Raincity Librarian


bedlam farm winter

Photograph  by Jon Katz


Winter is definitely on its way.  Every morning this week, my feet have crunched across frost encrusted leaves as I’ve made my way to my car.  Among my list of chores this weekend is dragging out my warmest sweaters, socks, and those heavy winter boots.  Only the middle school boys in my school seem impervious to the seasonal change – they are still in their basketball shorts and t-shirts.   Driving to school this morning with the heat blasting all the way and the seat warmer turned up as high as I could manage, I had to shake my head in amazement at the sight of all these legs exposed to a bitterly cold wind.   Middle school boys are impervious to many things, the need for quiet and cleanliness, for instance, and, apparently, winter, too.
At the Beginning of Winter by Tom Hennen 

In the shallows of the river
After one o’clock in the afternoon
Ice still
An eighth of an inch thick.
Night never disappears completely
But moves among the shadows
On the bank
Like a glimpse of fur.
Flies and spiderwebs
Appear alone in the flat air.
The naked aspens stand like children
Waiting to be baptized
And the goldenrod too is stripped down
To its bare stalk
In the cold
Even my thoughts
Have lost their foliage.

Poetry Friday: What’s Found by Sheila Packa  

Chelsea Physic gafdens Poetry Friday is hosted by Jama at Jama’s Alphabet Soup

When you’ve visited the same place over many, many years, and in many, many guises (child, college student, young married, mother of one-two-then three, and now as a “woman of a certain age”), you tend not to see as much as you once saw.  Everything looks familiar, and reassuringly so.  True, certain shops may change, and shiny new restaurants take the place of old haunts, but my neck of London has always been Chelsea, where my parents live, and winding roads and squares of Chelsea remain somehow endearingly changeless.

Yesterday, I found myself at the Chelsea Physic Garden, London’s oldest botanic garden, on a grey, dull, Fall afternoon.  For much of my walk there, I simply followed my feet which seemed to know, by instinct, how to travel.  The moment I stepped beyond the arched and vine encircled entrance, however, the garden beyond looked somehow changed.  Perhaps it was because I had never seen it in November’s light, perhaps it was because two beautiful new planters had made their appearance by the ticket booth, perhaps because I was in London to visit my aging and now frail parents…whatever the reason, I saw the garden anew.

What’s Found by Sheila Packa


in the tangle of trees
in twigs
from branches
and trunks and roots
in the ephemeral
tenderness of green
leaves that last a season
in the trembling and wind
the blue of sky and lake
in clouds resounding
from a place of emptiness
a chamber that answers
in vibration, string and wind
a trembling, brimming and falling
in the place opposite of grief
the place opposite of dark
in the body of lost
in water and air
a star whose light
has ended but travels
toward us
rising and falling
in a cascade of notes
which is not endless
but aching and sweet
like iridescent feathers
of wings that rise and fall
in the circle of migration
in each flight
music that we breathe

Pausing here and there in the garden, between  exhausted summer blooms and still thriving evergreens, I think I found what I was looking for…

in the place opposite of grief
the place opposite of dark

…and it was most welcome.


Poetry Friday:November Fifth, Riverside Drive by Katha Pollitt

Poetry Friday is hosted by Linda @ TeacherDance


My Facebook memories page popped up this morning with a photograph I had taken with my daughter Elizabeth five years ago on a Fall evening at Riverside Drive.  It had been  a Teacher’s College  day of learning for me, and we met at Riverside Park after Elizabeth was done with her own graduate classes at Columbia.  That photograph brought back many memories, most of which really centered around what it is like to be at Riverside Park late on a Fall afternoon, when what is left of the sun perfectly illuminates what is left of the leaves.

Fall in New York City is magical.

November Fifth, Riverside Drive by Katha Pollitt

The sky a shock, the ginkgoes yellow fever,
I wear the day out walking. November, and still
light stuns the big bay windows on West End
Avenue, the park brims over with light like a bowl
and on the river
a sailboat quivers like a white leaf in the wind.

How like an eighteenth-century painting, this
year ‘s decorous decline: the sun
still warms the aging marble porticos
and scrolled pavilions past which an old man,
black-coated apparition of Voltaire,
flaps on his constitutional. “Clear air,
clear mind” -as if he could outpace
darkness scything home like a flock of crows.


Poetry Friday: Reading to My Kids by Kevin Carey

Poetry Friday is hosted by Brenda @ Friendly Fairy Tales


Our first read aloud of the year  has given way to book clubs.   Every year I am asked about whether it is worth it to set aside so much time for reading aloud in my sixth grade classroom, and every year I reach into my experience with my own kids to answer: YES!  I read aloud to my three children many times a day, and even now, book talk and reading passages from books we love, is very much a part of our family life.

I think we can strive for the same spirit in our classroom with the children we teach – that book love begins with reading aloud and talking about our reading lives.  Listening to my kids discussing their book club selections was a joyous experience today.  Reading to kids – such a worthwhile investment of time and love.

Reading to My Kids by Kevin Carey


When they were little I read
to them at night until my tongue
got tired. They would poke me
when I started to nod off after twenty pages
of Harry Potter or Lemony Snicket.
I read (to them) to get them to love reading
but I was never sure if it was working
or if it was just what I was supposed to do.
But one day, my daughter (fifteen then)
was finishing Of Mice and Men in the car
on our way to basketball.
She was at the end when I heard her say,
No, in a familiar frightened voice
and I knew right away where she was.
“Let’s do it now,” Lennie begged,
“Let’s get that place now.”
“Sure, right now. I gotta. We gotta,”
and she started crying, then I started crying,
and I think I saw Steinbeck
in the back seat nodding his head,
and it felt right to me,
like I’d done something right,
and I thought to myself, Keep going,
read it to me, please, please, I can take it.