Poetry Friday: Hippocrene by Elizabeth Smith

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

Packing up the house where one raised one’s children is a tricky business.  This is what I’m discovering as I delve into closets, under beds, and through stacks of papers my three children have left behind in their journey from childhood to independence.  School projects, English papers, love letters, knick knacks picked up on travels here and there…all the detritus of growing up and growing into the beautiful souls they are today.  Some things I open up and then put away quickly in boxes labeled for each of my three, these are their private detritus, which they can choose to keep or toss away as their private selves dictate.  Some things are just meant to be lingered over, revisited for the glimpses they provide for each child at some particular stage of their development.

Elizabeth’s AP English poetry project falls into this latter category.  I never saw these poems or this booklet in real time.  So, it was all the more meaningful to stumble upon it at this stage, the stage of packing up the home she grew up in.  On the eve of Mother’s Day, I thought I’d share this relic of our past, where she pays homage to all the words we celebrated together when we lived together, and then creates something that is indelibly her own, as children are wont to do.

IMG_0838 2

Poetry Friday: Spring in the Classroom by Mary Oliver

Thanks to Irene at Live Your Poem for hosting Poetry Friday today.

Image result for spring trees in bloom

Spring has finally arrived with a vengeance, and we have been bathed in warm sunshine and Spring blossoms all week.  After weeks and weeks of  February-like gloom, it’s a joy to be able to glance out of our classroom windows and see blue skies and lovely cherry blossoms.   All that  Springtime beauty comes at a price, however, which is the immediate loss of my sixth graders’ attention spans.  They long to BE in all this Spring goodness, as in BE OUTSIDE in the midst of it.  I guess it’s time to turn to Mary Oliver’s wise poem about  what it’s like to be a student at the onset of Spring, so that I can turn back to my kiddos  and their book learning with a keener awareness of their suffering:

Spring in the Classroom
Elbows on dry books, we dreamed
Past Miss Willow Bangs, and lessons, and windows,
To catch all day glimpses and guesses of the greening woodlot,
Its secrets and increases,
Its hidden nests and kind.
And what warmed in us was no book-learning,
But the old mud blood murmuring,
Loosening like petals from bone sleep.
So spring surrounded the classroom, and we suffered to be kept indoors,
Droned through lessons, carved when we could with jackknives
Our pulsing initials into the desks, and grew
Angry to be held so, without pity and beyond reason,
By Miss Willow Bangs, her eyes two stones behind glass,
Her legs thick, her heart
In love with pencils and arithmetic.
So it went — one gorgeous day lost after another
While we sat like captives and breathed the chalky air
And the leaves thickened and birds called
From the edge of the world — till it grew easy to hate,
To plot mutiny, even murder. Oh, we had her in chains,
We had her hanged and cold, in our longing to be gone!
And then one day, Miss Willow Bangs, we saw you
As we ran wild in our three o’clock escape
Past the abandoned swings; you were leaning
All furry and blooming against the old brick wall
In the Art Teacher’s arms.
Mary Oliver

Poetry Friday: Two Set Out on Their Journey Galway Kinnell, 1927 – 2014

Image result for two little kids walking on a road vintage

When my children were young, it was rare to see them apart wherever we went and whatever we did.  No matter where we moved (and we moved a lot), or where we traveled (and we traveled a lot, too), the three of them kept themselves amused and happy with elaborate games and story lines of the “to be continued” variety.

Even in the throes of cranky adolescence, they turned more often to each other than away from each other – allies, always, against unreasonable and unimaginative parents.

These days, they have each other on speed dial, and since they all live in various parts of Brooklyn, they see each other with some frequency.

Of the many blessings my husband and I count ourselves lucky for having, is this: the bond between our three, on a journey of “ten thousand acts” :

Two Set Out on Their Journey  –   Galway Kinnell

We sit side by side,
brother and sister, and read
the book of what will be, while a breeze
blows the pages over—
desolate odd, cheerful even,
and otherwise. When we come
to our own story, the happy beginning,
the ending we don’t know yet,
the ten thousand acts
encumbering the days between,
we will read every page of it.
If an ancestor has pressed
a love-flower for us, it will lie hidden
between pages of the slow going,
where only those who adore the story
ever read. When the time comes
to shut the book and set out,
we will take childhood’s laughter
as far as we can into the days to come,
until another laughter sounds back
from the place where our next bodies
will have risen and will be telling
tales of what seemed deadly serious once,
offering to us oldening wayfarers
the light heart, now made of time
and sorrow, that we started with.



Poetry Friday: For My Son, Reading Harry Potter by Michael Blumenthal

Poetry Friday is hosted by  the Poetry Friday Roundup  is hosted by  Tricia at The Miss Rumphius Effect.

Our classroom library is a busy place, a messy place.  Books are checked out, book talked, and sometimes put back where they “belong”… and most often, not.  Keeping our library somewhat organized is a somewhat impossible task. But that is a good thing, I think, because it means that it is used…and its use leads to moments like this:


when Brooke was so deeply lost in her book, that she didn’t hear the bell ring and (truth to tell) couldn’t care less.  Her classmates took their seats, and then rose for the Pledge…but Brooke was far away in Maine, with Reena and Zora and grumpy old Mrs. Falala.

I think I love this part of teaching best – finding great books for kids, and then watching as they lose themselves in stories.

For My Son, Reading Harry Potter


How lovely, to be lost
as you are now
in someone else’s thoughts
an imagined world
of witchcraft, wizardry and clans
that takes you in so utterly
all the ceaseless background noise
of life’s insistent pull and drag soon fades
and you are left, a young boy
captured in attention’s undivided daze,
as I was once
when books defined a world
no trouble could yet penetrate
or others spoil, or regret stain,
when, between covers, under covers,
all is safe and sure
and each Odysseus makes it home again
and every transformation is to bird or bush
or to a star atwinkle in some firmament of light,
or to a club that lets you, and all others, in.
Oh, how I wish for you
that life may let you turn and turn
these pages, in whose spell
time is frozen, as is pain and fright and loss
before you’re destined to be lost again
in that disordered and distressing book
your life will write for you and cannot change.

Poetry Friday:On the Steps of the Jefferson Memorial – Linda Pastan

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

Being a Social Studies teacher in an election year is a tricky business. This is especially so when you teach U.S. history from the Revolution through the Civil War, as I do.  We move from the elevated language of our Declaration of Independence to the high hopes and compromises of our Constitution to slavery and the horror of Civil War.   When we study history, we learn that people are complicated and contradictory, that “heroes” often have feet of clay, and that the search for truth can lead us to troublesome discoveries.   We need heroes, but we need truth even more.


On the Steps of the Jefferson Memorial –  Linda Pastan

We invent our gods
the way the Greeks did,
in our own image—but magnified.
Athena, the very mother of wisdom,
squabbled with Poseidon
like any human sibling
until their furious tempers
made the sea writhe.
Zeus wore a crown
of lightning bolts one minute,
a cloak of feathers the next,
as driven by earthly lust
he prepared to swoop
down on Leda.
Despite their power,
frailty ran through them
like the darker veins
in the marble of these temples
we call monuments.
Looking at Jefferson now,
I think of the language
he left for us to live by.
I think of the slave
in the kitchen downstairs.

Poetry Friday:Learning the Bicycle by Wyatt Prunty

Poetry Friday is hosted by Sylvia Vardel @ Poetry for Children

kid on bike

It’s Spring time (well, it’s cold and grey, so it feels as though it’s almost Spring time), and all the little ones in my neighborhood are learning to ride their shiny new bikes.  I love this time of year.  The teacher in me loves to hear the way parents and siblings coach the newbies along with gentle reassurances, clear directions, and enthusiastic celebration of even the smallest signs of progress.  And the parent in me is always taken back in time to those Spring afternoons when I helped my own three kids, one by one, to “learn the bicycle”.

At the time, of course, it was just a matter of helping them learn how to master one more skill, just as they had needed me to help them learn to walk, or use the potty, or the other million or so skills that dot the journey from birth through toddlerhood…from adolescence to adulthood.

But, there is something about learning the bicycle that, looking back, seemed to mark the beginning of letting go.  I still remember the moments when each of my three, having mastered balance and hand brakes, suddenly realized that they were finally off and away.  I’ll never forget the exuberance with which they began to pedal faster and faster, down the sidewalk, and out of sight.  Their journey away from me had just begun.

Learning the Bicycle by Wyatt Prunty

The older children pedal past
Stable as little gyros, spinning hard
To supper, bath, and bed, until at last
We also quit, silent and tired
Beside the darkening yard where trees
Now shadow up instead of down.
Their predictable lengths can only tease
Her as, head lowered, she walks her bike alone
Somewhere between her wanting to ride
And her certainty she will always fall.
Tomorrow, though I will run behind,
Arms out to catch her, she’ll tilt then balance wide
Of my reach, till distance makes her small,
Smaller, beyond the place I stop and know
That to teach her I had to follow
And when she learned I had to let her go.

Poetry Friday:The visible and the in-by Marge Piercy

Thanks to Buffy Silverman of Buffy’s Blog for hosting the Poetry Friday round-up!

box of photographs.jpg

I’ve been spending time recently talking to one of my children about relationships – what happens to memories and love when a relationship ends? when the tethers of friendship fray and then give way?   Not having any wise answers of my own, I turn to poetry – and this one, I think, says what I feel about people in our lives and all the variations of relationships we seem destined to have…The visible and the in-by Marge Piercy


Some people move through your life
like the perfume of peonies, heavy
and sensual and lingering.

Some people move through your life
like the sweet musky scent of cosmos
so delicate if you sniff twice, it’s gone.

Some people occupy your life
like moving men who cart off
couches, pianos and break dishes.

Some people touch you so lightly you
are not sure it happened. Others leave
you flat with footprints on your chest.

Some are like those fall warblers
you can’t tell from each other even
though you search Petersen’s.

Some come down hard on you like
a striking falcon and the scars remain
and you are forever wary of the sky.

We all are waiting rooms at bus
stations where hundreds have passed
through unnoticed and others

have almost burned us down
and others have left us clean and new
and others have just moved in.