Poetry Friday: Shoulders by Naomi Shihab Nye

Poetry Friday is hosted by Keri at Keri Recommends


Shoulders by Naomi Shihab Nye

A man crosses the street in rain,
stepping gently, looking two times north and south,
because his son is asleep on his shoulder.

No car must splash him.
No car drive too near to his shadow.

This man carries the world’s most sensitive cargo
but he’s not marked.
Nowhere does his jacket say FRAGILE,

His ear fills up with breathing.
He hears the hum of a boy’s dream
deep inside him.

We’re not going to be able
to live in this world
if we’re not willing to do what he’s doing
with one another.

The road will only be wide.
The rain will never stop falling.

I have been thinking a lot about kindness and our collective sense of humanity this week, as President Obama’s days in office dwindle and we enter another dimension entirely: one where bullying, misogyny, racism, and selfish gain are not only permitted by the man who will sit in the White House, but celebrated, too.  If  Wednesday’s press conference is any indication, we will be seeing this behavior every day and it may well begin to be the “new normal”.

I worry about what this will do to us as a nation, but I worry more about its effect on our children; we may teach them not to behave and speak in disrespectful, intimidating ways, but they will see their President doing so every day, and getting away with it.  How to teach kindness in the face of that?

In my small world, which is my classroom, I think I need to speak less about kindness and endeavor to show more of it.  Our kids are watching closely these days, more than ever.  I think they see the disconnect between what we say they should do (anti-bullying posters and assemblies) and how we behave towards them and each other, how we tolerate the bullying by the powerful and make excuses for that.  I need to cultivate my patience, I need to look for the causes underlying acting out, I need to  be willing to see things from their point of view even when it gets in the way of what I’m trying to accomplish as a teacher.   If my students don’t see me practicing every day kindness, if they don’t feel my essential sympathy for them even when they aren’t at their best, it doesn’t matter what else I say to them – the road will only be wide/the rain will never stop falling.

I can’t do anything about the behavior of the man who will soon be in the White House, but I can be vigilant about the way I behave in my house… and my classroom, too (which is, after all, my home away from home.



Poetry Friday: “Cross” by Margaret Hasse

Penny Parker Klostermann has the Poetry Friday Roundup today!

back to school shopping

It’s back to school season, and every where I go back to school shopping is taking place. For once, I am glad to be an empty nester, because not only do I detest shopping in general, but I these particular kind of  shopping excursions fell into a whole other category of  loathing.  Once the kids got older, with definite ideas about everything from shoes to types of pens to where we should shop, back to school shopping became all the more exhausting and excruciating.

Arguments.  So. Many. Arguments.

Compromises.  So. Many. Compromises.

This poem, featured on The Writer’s Almanac the other day, touched a nerve and brought those back to school shopping expeditions back to mind.  I see many “grand annoyers” out there in the stores these days…and I am, for once, glad to have move beyond this stage.


At concerts that I did not want to attend with my mother,
I learned to practice any number of nuisances possible in a
place of silence. I wore a cross to vex my mother, a Unitarian,
then ran the pendant back and forth along my necklace chain
like a loud zipper. During a pianissimo passage I unwrapped
waxy paper from a caramel, then coughed as if feathers tickled
my throat.

I’m paying for past trespasses now.

(you can rest the rest of the poem here.)

Digilit Sunday: Curving towards social justice through song

digilit sunday

Digilit Sunday is hosted by Margaret Simon @ Reflections on the Teche.  Today, Margaret asks us to reflect on the word “curves”.

At first, I was not sure what to do with Margaret’s word, and so I borrowed Julieanne’s habit of allowing myself to simply mull over the idea to see where my thoughts would lead.  And I found myself gravitating to this image, a postcard on my bulletin board from a years ago visit to the Met, Vasily Kandinsky’s Free Curve to the Point – Accompanying Sound of Geometric Curves:

I have always loved the way this represented thought (to me, that is), and the way thoughts curve here and there in random ways at first, and then reach some sort of decisive point.

This led me to think about the way our year long poetry study has followed curves of its own: we began by examining the various craft moves in a poet’s tool box, then moved on to investigating poetry as a means of expressing personal thoughts, feelings, imaginings and perspectives.  Finally, in the waning days of the school year, we seem to be moving decisively into  the realm of the larger world: poetry as a call for social justice.  
A few weeks ago, a student wanted us to discuss Macklemore’s “White Privilege II”.  And so we did.  Our classroom crackled with important ideas and many perspectives; there was some agreement, and some disagreement, but our conversation (like Kandinsky’s curves), led to a decisive point: race relations cannot be ignored, and it is clear that equal justice under the law is something we are still working towards in our nation.
On Friday, we dug into the lyrics of Blowin’ in the Wind and If I had a Hammer.  My kids thought about each song first as individuals:

and then as a group.  They added lines and verses, sketched their thoughts, and asked questions about themselves and the world they live in:

At the end of our classes, my kids arrived at some decisive points in our conversations: we must not ignore the injustices we see, we must act more out of love than hate, we can make a difference.   We curve towards truth and the cause of social justice.





Poetry Friday: So Much of the World by Gregory Djanikian

Matt Forrest Esenwine hosts Poetry Friday  Radio, Rhythm & Rhyme today!

These are our in between days…in between the end of the school year and the beginning of summer, the start of the goodbyes and the end of the daily togetherness…we are in between.

So Much of the World

by Gregory Djanikian

So much of the world exists
without us

the mountain in its own steepness

the deer sliding
into the trees becoming
a darkness
in the woods’ darkness.

So much of an open field
lies somewhere between the grass
and the dragonfly’s drive and thrum

the seed and seedling,
the earth within.

But so much of it lies in someone
standing alone at the edge of a field
with a life apart

feeling for a moment
the plover’s cry
on the tongue

the curve and plumb
of the apple bough
in limb and bone.

So much of it between
one thing and another,

days of invitation,
then of release and return.

Slice of Life Tuesday: The Kidlitosphere Poem arrives here!

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The Kidlitosphere Progressive Poem is hosted by poet, Irene Latham, who had this wonderful idea that a poem could be a collaborative April feast, crafted line by line all month long.  I participated for the first time last year, and had forgotten all the anxiety of the process, remembering just the delight in being part of this creative process.  Well, that anxiety has returned…since it is finally time for me to provide the next line!

The poem takes shape bit by bit, of course, and each line comes as such a surprise.  In this case, there was someone to be with right away, and she seemed a vital and fascinating presence.  Just as I was settling into her presence, striding with purpose and swinging brown arms, she seems transformed into a mermaid.  Then there is grandmother with her memory-laden cuffed bracelet and wise words which resonate.  And then a startled fisherman with a choice.  So much to think about, so many vivid shifts in imagery and mood.  Ah, the anxiety of living up to this poetry community!  After weaving my way through the twists and turns, and writing many a trial line, here are the first twenty lines of the poem along with my addition for line 21:

She lives without a net, walking along the alluvium of the delta.
Shoes swing over her shoulder, on her bare feet stick jeweled flecks of dark mica.

Hands faster than fish swing at the ends of bare brown arms. Her hair flows,
snows in wild wind as she digs in the indigo varnished handbag,

pulls out her grandmother’s oval cuffed bracelet,
strokes the turquoise stones, and steps through the curved doorway.

Tripping on her tail she slips hair first down the slide… splash!
She glides past glossy water hyacinth to shimmer with a school of shad,

listens to the ibises roosting in the trees of the cypress swamp
an echo of Grandmother’s words, still fresh in her windswept memory.

Born from the oyster, expect the pearl.
Reach for the rainbow reflection on the smallest dewdrop.

The surface glistens, a shadow slips above her head, a paddle dips
she reaches, seizes. She’s electric energy and turquoise eyes.

Lifted high, she gulps strange air – stares clearly into
Green pirogue, crawfish trap, startled fisherman

with turquoise eyes, twins of her own, riveted on her wrist–
She’s swifter than a dolphin, slipping away, leaving him only a handful of

memories of his own grandmother’s counsel: Watch for her. You’ll have but one chance to
determine—to decide. Garner wisdom from the water and from the pearl of the past.

In a quicksilver flash, an arc of resolution, he leaps into the shimmering water

Tomorrow Pat at Writer on a Horse will take bring us  one line closer to our completed 2015 Kidlitosphere Progressive Poem.  And here’s the Progressive Poem team:

1 Jone at Check it Out
2 Joy at Poetry for Kids Joy
3 Heidi at My Juicy Little Universe
4 Laura at Writing the World for Kids
5 Charles at Poetry Time Blog
6 Ramona at Pleasures from the Page
7 Catherine at Catherine Johnson
8 Irene at Live Your Poem
9 Mary Lee at Poetrepository
10 Michelle at Today’s Little Ditty
11 Kim at Flukeprints
12 Margaret at Reflections on the Teche
13 Doraine at DoriReads
14 Renee at No Water River
15 Robyn at Life on the Deckle Edge
16 Ruth at There is No Such Thing as a Godforsaken Town
17 Buffy at Buffy’s Blog
18 Sheila at Sheila Renfro
19 Linda at Teacher Dance
20 Penny at A Penny and her Jots
21 Tara at A Teaching Life
22 Pat at Writer on a Horse
23 Tamera at The Writer’s Whimsy
24 Tricia at The Miss Rumphius Effect
25 Tabatha at The Opposite of indifference
26 Brian at Walk the Walk
27 Jan at Bookseedstudio
28 Amy at The Poem Farm
29 Donna at Mainely Write
30 Matt at Radio, Rhythm & Rhyme

Digilit Sunday: The Poem Farm and The Favorite Poem Project

diglit sunday

Digilit Sunday was created and is hosted by Margaret Simon @ Reflections on the Teche – join us and share your digital teaching ideas!

Every Thursday, my students unpack a poem and we share our ideas about how the poet used the elements of figurative language and beautiful words to craft poems we love to read.  Whenever possible, I love to share recordings of poets reading their own works, and speaking about how and why they came to write the poems they did.  Amy Ludwig VanDerwater’s site, The Poem Farm, is a rich resource for us to draw from:

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We love the way Amy writes about how she grows her ideas into poems, and we love hearing her voice as she reads each.  We learn so much about word choice and line breaks just from hearing poetry spoken loud.

Another wonderful poetry resource is The Favorite Poem Project:

Favorite Poem Project Videos

The collection of 50 short video documentaries showcases individual Americans reading and speaking personally about poems they love. The videos have been regular features on PBS’s NewsHour with Jim Lehrer and are a permanent part of the Library of Congress archive of recorded poetry and literature. They have also proven valuable as teaching and learning tools for a range of classrooms and ages. The videos may be viewed on this website. The video collection is also available in DVD format, packaged with the anthology An Invitation to Poetry.

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It’s a powerful experience for my kids to hear other kids talking about poems they loved so much that they memorized them and think about them all the time.  Poems can do that – they become the mentor texts of our lives in a very special way.  I would love for my students to feel about a selection of poems as their own, as I do, so that they can commit them to memory and have the pleasure of reciting favorite lines at will.

This year, I am thinking about curating a class video album based on the Favorite Poem Project – what a wonderful way of ending the year that would be!

The 2014 Kidlitosphere Progressive Poem Arrives…and Ends: Line 30


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This has been the journey of our 2014 Kidlitosphere Progressive Poem:

1 Charles at Poetry Time
2 Joy at Joy Acey
3 Donna at Mainely Write
4 Anastasia at Poet! Poet!
5 Carrie at Story Patch
6 Sheila at Sheila Renfro
7 Pat at Writer on a Horse
8 Matt at Radio, Rhythm & Rhyme
9 Diane at Random Noodling
10 Tabatha at The Opposite of Indifference
11 Linda at Write Time
12 Mary Lee at A Year of Reading
13 Janet at Live Your Poem
14 Deborah at Show–Not Tell
15 Tamera at The Writer’s Whimsy
16 Robyn at Life on the Deckle Edge
17 Margaret at Reflections on the Teche
18 Irene at Live Your Poem
19 Julie at The Drift Record
20 Buffy at Buffy Silverman
21 Renee at No Water River
22 Laura at Author Amok
23 Amy at The Poem Farm
24 Linda at TeacherDance
25 Michelle at Today’s Little Ditty
26 Lisa at Lisa Schroeder Books
27 Kate at Live Your Poem
28 Caroline at Caroline Starr Rose
29 Ruth at There is No Such Thing as a Godforsaken Town

Each contributor has ruminated and worried and sweated over building this poem line by line.  As I’ve followed its progress,  ideas about where this poem will go change every day with each new line – so many surprises and flights of fancy! My anxiety, of course, increased every day – there I was, slotted for the last line, and feeling the pressure of that particular spot.  Should I return to those “warnings written in the rune”? And, what about that “honeyed word whispered low—dreams” ? But along came, and tantalizingly so,  the “sapphire eggs to charm your host.”  I was mulling this over, weighing possibilities, magical and luminescent possibilities, when Ruth surprised me with yesterday’s omelet!  Which brought me back to Kate’s line: 

“I found a bird, I found a song, I found a word,” I say.

The word “dream” repeated a few times, and the entrance of “A boy, with hair in wild waves and eyes blue as the sea” left me thinking that he had to be part of the poem’s resolution.  So, here it is…

Three Blue Eggs

Sitting on a rock, airing out my feelings to the universe
Acting like a peacock, only making matters that much worse;

Should I trumpet like an elephant emoting to the moon
Or just ignore the warnings written in the rune?

Those stars can’t seal my future; it’s not inscribed in stone.
The possibilities are endless! Who could have known?

Gathering courage, spiral like an eagle after prey,
Then gird my wings for whirlwind gales in realms far, far away.

But, hold it! Let’s get practical! What’s needed before I go?
Time to be tactical—I’ll ask my friends what I should stow.

And in one breath, a honeyed word whispered low—dreams—
Whose voice? I turned to see. I was shocked. Irene’s!

“Each voyage starts with tattered maps; your dreams dance on this page.
Determine these dreams—then breathe them! Engage your inner sage.”

The merry hen said, “Take my sapphire eggs to charm your host.”
I tuck them close—still warm—then take my first step toward the coast.

This journey will not make me rich, and yet I long to be
Like luminescent jellyfish, awash in mystery.

I turn and whisper, “Won’t you come?” to all the beasts and birds
And listen while they scamper, their answers winging words:

“Take these steps alone to start; each journey is an art.
You are your own best company. Now it’s time to depart!”

I blow a kiss. I hike for days, blue eggs pressed to my chest.
One evening’s rest, campfire low, shifting shadows brought a guest.

A boy, with hair in wild waves and eyes blue as the sea,
Says, “You’ve traveled far. What did you find—your best discovery?”

“I found a bird, I found a song, I found a word,” I say.
The hidden eggs, I make them known. “I’ve brought these on the way.”

We share an omelet and some talk; is my quest at an end?

For now my dreams dance along with a gentle blue eyed friend.

So, there we are- what an adventure!  Thank you, Irene, for setting us off on our way, and everyone else who participated, commented, and cheered us along the way.