Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Out of Gas

amazed, appalled, amused,
befuddled, bewildered, confused
the ride that we took to the past--
so glad that we've run out of gas

I knew everyone would be able to write about schools or schooling; I just had no idea how many of you would have such vehement dislike of those days! As a teacher, I loved a good challenge -- a kid with a different kind of thinking, one whose previous teachers had warned me to watch out! These were the thinkers (yes, and often the stinkers) with whom I developed the closest relationships and respect.

I have to admit, though, that it saddens me to know how many of the smart, talented, creative, funny people here had such bad experiences with school. I feel a gigantic apology is in order...so, on behalf of those witless wonders of wisdom who lacked the vision to connect or protect or promote you...I am sorry.

The Bus stops here.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Catch the Big Yellow Poetry Bus


After all these weeks of running to catch the Poetry Bus, I'm finally at the wheel, and what do I bring?  It's the Big Yellow School Bus!

What else would I drive?

I'm what you might call a Schoolmarm. Counting this school year, which began for me this week, I've been in schools for fifty years as a student, teacher, school leader or district level administrator. It's as natural as breathing for me to plan a field trip!

So....sharpen your pencils, kiddies! Grab your papers and your lunch boxes, and come along! We'll start here in West Virginia, head north for Professor Semi-colon, then make our way across the country, picking up a Bug or two along the way. We'll make a brief detour to pick up some Canadian Kats before we reach the coast. After we fuel up on Enchantment, it's back to the Atlantic, by which time the TFE should have solved the Problem of the Day: How do we get a big yellow bus full of poets across the sea to London and Dumfries and Dublin and highways and byways between and beyond?

Well, that's the magic part of our art! I promise this bus will go as far as your words and imaginations can travel. Just meet the simple Poetry School Bus challenge for this week: write a poem about school or schooling. Leave your URL in my comment box, and I'll link it in the sidebar below my profile-->

The bus runs on Monday. Don't forget your permission slips, boys and girls!

* New Passenger : Judy Clem at http://www.judyclem.blogspot.com/
Welcome Aboard, Judy! 

Just for a warm up, here are a couple of mine:

SCHOOLMARM (that's me)

At three o'clock
When school is out,
She gathers up her things.
If she had an old hat,
She'd jam it on her head;
If she had an old horse,
She'd plod down country lanes,
Stopping here and there to pick tall stems
To take with her on her calls.
She'd sing along the way.
There would be dinner with the families,
A different one each day.
They'd watch their grammar,
Put out their better plates,
Offer her the choicest cuts of meat, good bread.
Later, they'd stand on the porches and wave
Until she was gone from sight
Before the washing up.
If she had a hat, a horse,
A country lane
At three o'clock --
If she had a hat and a horse
In her life.

This next one is dedicated to a wonderful poet friend with whom I survived the messed up college years. Her K is Name Lawson. Or something like that. She'll recognize herself here, and you can find her outstanding poetry here:


I still recall your stance
before the class,
so compact,
thick black curls
around your head,
eyes big as china saucers.
You're telling tales
of cars and barracudas
and mixed up names.
At night we pick black circles
from our eyes and rub them
on the smooth white page,
drawing lines round truth and beauty,
knowing it for what it (is) (is not).
At eighteen, we think we know
who we are.
And youth.
We drink our wine
from plastic cups
and sleep with youth
between us,
tangled in our separate dreams,
riding who we (are) (are not)
to places where we'll someday
know our names.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010



Why did it take me
          so many years
                    to know

that it is the milkweed,
          before it bursts
                    with sticky fluid,

          before it pops
                    its silky pods
                    of fluff,

that fills the nights
          with heady,
                    heavy Heaven?

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Georgia, Your Hands

Chris at Enchanted Oak is taking the Poetry Bus on a tour of sunny California this week, and she has given us a pictorial challenge. Georgia O'Keeffe's hands are the subject of both the picture and my poem.

O'Keeffe was married to the famous photographer Alfred Stieglitz, and they both scandalized society by some of the photos of her that he took and displayed (not to mention their unusual lifestyle). Stieglitz photographed O'Keeffe off and on for years, so we have a wonderful chronicle of her changing landscape as we see the progression of her subjects and her art.

One of my favorite photos of O'Keeffe shows a young woman, her hair loose around her shoulders, clasping a white silk gown at her breast. This is the first time I've seen the picture of her hands.

Georgia, Your Hands

When you stand so solid in the light
your hands crossed over your heart,
hair around your shoulders, Georgia,
white silk robe clasped loose across your breasts,
coal black eyes  held tight into the lens
like the eyes of the night,
it is your hands,  your long lean fingers
that crush and mix and brush the pigments
against the smooth white canvas
caressing it like silk, your strong, bold fingers
opening  yourself like an iris or a  poppy
or a white trumpet flower
that  feel deep into the yellow white of bones
that stroke the browns and lights of desert shadow sun;
it is your hands prying and pulling at their own skin
peeling away the layers of faraway city and desert,
your eyes, your hair, your white silk robe
until you too are nothing but bone,
bone and bone and stamen and sepal and sand.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

In Late Summer

After a few weeks of running behind the bus, I'm here on time with my ticket for scholar-poet-bus driver Jeanne Iris. Jeanne's given us three choices this week, and while this may bend the idea a bit, here's my attempt at meeting the challenge.

Visit Jeanne Iris at Revolutionary Revelry and hop on the bus. There's a great trip ahead!

Like everything else in late summer,
The strawberries have started to shrink on the stem,

Pulling back the skin so spiky little seeds
Stick out like flags announcing season's end.

The tomato vines have gone all spindly,
Sending leggy little chutes with fruit only the deer will eat.

Yesterday's abundance is today's remembrance.
And yet

The deep red berries resting in this bowl of cool cream
Taste sweet of summer sun,

And the coffee clinking in the icy glass
I lift this late summer morning

Moves me from these morose musings
As does the sight of that ragged butterfly there,

The one with the bottom of his wing half gone,
Lighting on those final purple flowers

Still sucking summer sweetness from the leavings
with his tongue.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Every Day is Holy

Holy Thurdays undo me.

Not so much the washing
as the offering of self,
the letting others know through
shedding socks and shoes like sin.

It seems a lifetime since
I nightly buffed your old scuffed shoes
and set them by the door,
my small child's way of saying
every day is holy.

Now your old bent feet
cause the years to fall away
like cool dry skin
until I am undone again.

These days if I could,
I'd wash you with my tears;
I'd use my hair to
wipe away our sin.