September Iris (A Golden Shovel Poem)

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Autumn approaches, kind and Just
Throwing hints of its arrival— aloof, cat-like

Prowling and batting frost through the passing moons,
But by day, hiding, napping, and

Basking in brightness, allowing heat like
a season of summer suns.

Leaves shed their green With
Emerald subsiding to olive before the
Tawny, coppery shades show with certainty.
Dried and crumbled memories fall off of  
Branches, covering the earth with umber tides.

Though the equinox expresses endings, you, Iris, are Just
Standing there, a September bloom, proud-like.
You remind me to harbor my hopes
Inward singing for eventual springing
Iris, surrounded by delicate falls, your standards held high.

The world tries to remind you that summer is settled, but Still
Here you are, Iris, regal and resplendent. I’ll
Remember watching you, Iris—brave, beautiful rebel—rise.

This a Golden Shovel Poem, which I learned about in Nikki Grime’s amazing book called
One Last Word.   

My Golden Shovel poem is written based on the 3rd stanza of “Still I Rise” by Maya Angelou.
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Speak Up for Puerto Rico

You may have noticed that you are not seeing much footage of the mess that is currently Puerto Rico. You may have noticed that you are not reading many Tweets and Facebook messages about the devastation that has happened in Puerto Rico. This does not mean that there is no problem.  In fact, it means we have a HUGE problem.  It means that we’re receiving no communication because they have no power. That’s right. No internet. No phones.  Nothing with which to charge a device.  Nothing to maintain food, sanitation, or even hospitals.  That means that more than 3.5 million people (American citizens, mind you) are trapped on an island that is completely flooded and has no power.

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Now, when Florida was ravaged by Hurricane Irma, and Texas was trampled by Hurricane Harvey (both filled with American citizens, just like Puerto Rico), there was a lot of coverage.  Not only did we have news reporters on site, but residents posted their own updates.  People shared photos of their neighbors rescuing others. People posted videos of First Response groups getting children out of cars.  People posted images of nature at its worst and humanity at its best.  Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and YouTube were filled with updates and we retweeted, liked, shared, and posted the updates.  The people in Puerto Rico can’t post updates.  

They. Have. No. Power.  

 

So, I did some math . . . 

3,679,086 people in Puerto Rico
-600,000 under age 14 (who might not have phones—overestimated, of course)
-750,000 over age 65 (who might not have phones—overestimated, of course)
  -329,086 (added margin of error so that my calculations are underestimated and cannot                    be dismissed as exaggeration)
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2,000,000 people left in Puerto Rico who would likely post updates on social media if they                     had electric power and internet.

They have been without power for 2 days.  If we underestimate that each person had been able to post twice per day (Bet you can’t Tweet just one!) on their chosen social media, we would be at 4 posts per person, which is 8,000,000 posts.  We are at least 8 million posts behind on Puerto Rico.  This might be why the news channels are not covering as much. This might be why #PuertoRico is not trending on social media. This might be why the president of the United States has not made his plans to go to Puerto Rico yet. We must speak up for Puerto Rico.  We are 8 million posts behind.  They can not communicate out to us, so we must be a voice for them.  8 million posts is a lot to do, so I would love help.
I will not stop until #PuertoRico is trending on Twitter and the US president makes known his plans to visit and directly address this territory of our nation.

I will be using the following hashtags if you’d like to help get to 8 million posts:

#PuertoRico   #SpeakUpForPuertoRico #8MillionPosts   #HurricaneMaria

Statistics taken from https://suburbanstats.org/population/how-many-people-live-in-puerto-rico

Iris (NaPoWriMo – Day 5)



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Sometimes, when home was a battleground
And the rest of the world seemed equally formidable,
I’d escape to the tiny fir fortress
That lined the front of the house.
Armored behind an Arborvitae acropolis,
I would wait out the storm
Of drunken denunciations
and loaded questions. Cradled
Between bricks and bushy branches,
I discovered a fragrant friend.
Iris.
She was late, as the flowers of spring
Had come and gone.
Lily of the valley
Whispers could no longer be heard.
She was diagonal—
Leaning toward the light
That forced its way between the shrubs.
She was evanescent.
As soon as I discovered her each summer,
I knew she would only be around for a few days.
Then, she would wilt, shriveling
As she aged.
Fortunately,
She would return each summer—
Just when I forgot, or thought
She’d forgotten—
She would rise up,
A Champion,
Flaunting her fruity falls,
To remind me—
To make sure that
I see—
Even in the darkest corners,
Even when I had waited longer than
I thought I could bear,
Beauty,
Hope,
always pushes through.

Day 5 Prompt from NaPoWriMo.net “In honor of Mary Oliver’s work, I’d like to challenge you to write a poem that is based in the natural world: it could be about a particular plant, animal, or a particular landscape. But it should be about a slice of the natural world that you have personally experienced and optimally, one that you have experienced often. Try to incorporate specific details while also stating why you find the chosen place or plant/animal meaningful.”

Love Letter to America

Dear America,

Love can save us.  Trust me, I know.

My childhood was not a lovely one.  I was the youngest, and therefore the most helpless, child of a very broken family.  Alcoholism, domestic violence, and several types of abuse were some of the secrets we kept (or thought we kept) hidden within our household. When life was not a place of fear and terror, it was a place of shame and doubt.  Love saved me. One of the first times that I confronted love was in the book Sylvester and the Magic Pebble by William Steig.  I know it seems silly that a book about a donkey and a little red marble could show me what love looks like.  It was Sylvester’s parents who got through to me. They grieved when their adored son, Sylvester, couldn’t be found.  I realized that love could look like grieving.  My next encounter with love was the Frances books by Russell Hoban.  Frances was lovable, though she was sometimes stubborn, selfish, and childish. Frances had wise caring people in her life who helped her grow and change. I learned that love is not abrasive and that love can transform.

I watched my dad encounter love in the Alcoholics Anonymous book (the Big Book) as he read accounts of other recovering alcoholics sharing their experience, strength, and hope. Yes, I ended up reading the whole book cover-to-cover, too.  I was watching it transform my father, so I just had to read it.  I knew there was good stuff in there!

Book by book, chapter by chapter, page by page, I have been transformed as I have encountered love in books.  I have realized that I am not alone. I have realized that my shortcomings don’t have to be permanent.  I have learned that people are resilient, and I can be too.   I learned that there is hope.  Since then, I have tried to share this love with others.  I like helping my students and friends find the right book. The book that will speak to their hearts.

Needless to say, I was ecstatic when I stumbled upon Donalyn Miller’s words that put voice to what I was trying to do with books.  On page 9 of The Book Whisperer, Donalyn explains how she and her husband have use books to express themselves and their hearts to each other with “Books are our love letter (or apologies) passed between us, adding a layer of conversation beyond our spoken words.”

For over a week, I have been beyond words. I know that to heal, to move forward, I need to use my voice, but there is too much to articulate.  I also know that I need to love. Fearlessly.  So, America, I want to express my love for you.  Here is my love letter to you in the form of books.

Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson

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Even when it seems that the world (or in Melinda’s case, the entire high school) is against you, and you are hurting alone, find your safe place, your safe person, and speak.

Staying Fat For Sarah Byrnes by Chris Crutcher

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Sometimes the best way to help a friend is to listen to what she is not saying.

 

Garvey’s Choice by Nikki Grimes

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When a friend encourages you to be yourself, your toughest critic might finally accept you as you are, even if your toughest critic is your own father.

 

Mother Bruce by Ryan T. Higgins

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Wait, do you really expect me to tell you a tiny little thing about each book on this list?  Just read this one!  Trust me!

One For the Murphys by Lynda Mullay Hunt

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Even those of us who feel we are undeserving of love, are indeed loved.

 

Love the Baby by Steven Layne

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Jealousy can cause hatred, but seeing another’s vulnerability and humanity can sometimes be what we need to help us love.

If You Plant a Seed by Kadir Nelson

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“If you plant a seed of kindness, in almost no time at all, the fruits of kindness will grow and grow and grow.”

 

Ghost by Jason Reynolds

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Sometimes love looks like a bald, chipped-tooth, taxi-driving coach who pushes you to be better.

 

Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling

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Love, especially sacrificial love, trumps everything no matter how terrifying, dark, and powerful a certain force may appear to be.

 

A Perfect Season for Dreaming/Un Tiempo Perfecto Para Soñar by Benjamin Alire Sáenz

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Find someone you trust and share your dreams.

My Secret Camera: Life in the Lodz Ghetto by Frank Dabba Smith, with photographs by Mendel Grossman

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Even in the worst of times, connecting with others, laughter, and love helps us persevere.

Each Kindness by Jacqueline Woodson

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Pay attention to how you treat others, and remember that even small amounts of kindness can ripple outward and change the world.

 

America, this is a teeny tiny list, and there are countless books that will remind you who you are to the world, and who the world should be to you.  These are just a few that I have on my coffee table right now, reminding me that there is hope. Start with one of these, or choose another book, but read, love, transform, and be transformed.
Fondly,

Julie Hoffman