Choking Humanity

Today’s news, quietly screaming the ugly truth,
We are a completely broken humanity.

Hatred, violence, and political pretense
Are prowlin’ about provokin’ humanity.

The “bliss” of ignorance has become our disgrace
We’re the kiss of poison oak in humanity.

Change will not come unless we humbly face the facts —
Primary facts — and get woke in humanity.

Can I, Julie, help turn this Ship of Fools around?
I’ll use voice — with an outspoken humanity.

NaPoWriMo.net (Day 14) “Today’s is an oldie-but-a-goody: the ghazal. The form was originally developed in Arabic and Persian poetry, but has become increasingly used in English, after being popularized by poets including Agha Shahid Ali. A ghazal is formed of couplets, each of which is its own complete statement. Both lined of the first couplet end with the same phrase or end-word, and that end-word is also repeated at the end of each couplet. If you’re really feeling inspired, you can also attempt to incorporate internal rhymes and a reference to your own name in the final couplet.”

This writing prompt — writing a ghazal — after today’s events is necessary, critical,  and Timely.

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Portrait of a Student Who Desperately Wants to Learn

 

Hearing a hullabaloo from
the next classroom over,
I hopped into the hallway
To see a student spewing sass at her teacher.

She flips her hair and rolls her eyes.
At the same moment —
Smack —
A smart snapping sound sails off her lips.
“Whatever,” she huffs,
Crossing one arm over the other,
Pointing her elbows out
Like the quills of a porcupine.
“I didn’t want to be in your class anyways!”

She pivots,
Fifty percent ballerina, fifty percent basketball player—
One hundred percent attitude.

I spy
the same student
several hours later,
Beside a classmate,
During after school tutoring,
Blatantly whispering
“You know what I hate?”
She begs of her buddy,
“Teachers that say they don’t care.”

Her companion corroborates,
“Mmm-hmm.”

“They should know
I’m fronting.

They got something
And I want what they got.
That’s why I show up.
Now, why would you
Tell someone
Who show up
Everyday
That you don’t care ‘bout them?
Ain’t you the grown-up here?”

Again, her friend
Renders Assent,
“Mmm-hmm.
They should
just know, no
Matter what,
No matter how you act
No matter what you say,
That you want
What they got.
They should
just know.”


 

NaPoWriMo.net – Day 10 Prompt “Today, I’d like to challenge you to write a poem that is a portrait of someone important to you. It doesn’t need to focus so much on what a person looks (or looked) like, as what they are or were.”

My Tears Make Me a Warrior (Day 8)

I don’t need nerves of steel
To be allowed to grow and heal.
My tears make me a warrior.

Call me sensitive, if you will,
Emotions don’t scare me — 
I’ve had my fill.
My tears make me a warrior.

It takes courage to face the things I’ve seen.
Bliss, pain, and everything in between.
My tears make me a warrior.

Depression, sadness, and despair?
Bitter and angry beyond repair?
My tears make me a warrior.

I may scream;
I just might cry.
I won’t pretend
Something’s in my eye.
I have no need
To hide or deny.
Ask about my feelings?
Let me demystify —
My tears make me a warrior.

I don’t need to act tough.
Reality is enough.
It takes guts to cry,
That’s why I’m so fly—
My tears make me a warrior.

NaPoWriMo.net Day 8

“Today I’d like to challenge you to write a poem that relies on repetition. It can be repetition of a phrase, or just a word. Need a couple of examples? Try “The Bells” by Edgar Allan Poe, or Joy Harjo’s “She Had Some Horses”. Poe’s poem creates a relentless, clanging effect through the repetition of the word “bells,” while Harjo’s repeated use of the phrase “she had some horses” and variations thereof gives her poem poem its incantatory effect, while also deepening its central philosophical conceit of what things are the same and what things are different.”

A Day Late and a Dolour Short

 

Sometimes she tries to give it her all.
Others notice this about her, too. I
Can’t compete with her; don’t want to, really.
So, what is it that I honestly want?
Time to trace my toes in the sand. More
Magical moments – more meaningful than
A number, score, rank, grade or anything
Quantitative could claim. Time to be in
Company of colleagues, comrades, peers – the
People who know me best in all the World.
I want to travel to where there is
Culture, flavor, sunshine and music to
Remind me that I can taste, smell, feel,
See, and hear all that has been valued.
New faces, voices, ideas and
Chances to say that I have lived and loved.

NaPoWriMo – Day 4 Prompt 

“One of the most popular British works of classical music is Edward Elgar’s “Enigma Variations.” The “enigma” of the title is widely believed to be a hidden melody that is not actually played, but which is tucked somehow into the composition through counterpoint. Today I’d like you to take some inspiration from Elgar and write a poem with a secret – in other words, a poem with a word or idea or line that it isn’t expressing directly.”

Training


(NaPoWriMo2017 – Day 2)

5 years friendship
12 miles bike path
4 gym shoes, slightly worn
2 caps baseball
3000 milliliters water

Locate 6-mile bike path, and confirm that at least one end has parking.  Fill 2 water bottles for each person, set aside.  Dress comfortably.  Be sure to use baseball caps to protect eyes and face from the sun.  

Walk together. Share funny stories. Ponder aloud. Reveal fears and worries. Discuss emotions.  All of them.  Listen.  Provide pep-talks.  

Pause

Notice the breeze.  See the color of each leave, noting the differences since the last walk.  Celebrate the slivers of sunshine that drip through the canopy of trees above. Pay attention to the beauty around you.  Declare the metaphor among long walks and important friendships.

Continue walking to the end of the path.  Drink more water.  Turn around and make 6-mile return hike.

Prompt for 4/2/2017

Today, I’d like you to write a poem inspired by, or in the form of, a recipe! It can be a recipe for something real, like your grandmother’s lemon chiffon cake, or for something imaginary, like a love potion or a spell.  NaPoWriMo.com

When I Grow Up, I want to be a Fire Truck

screen-shot-2017-02-10-at-6-22-30-pmFire truck

I remember looking through
an old childhood book,
In which I had added
My two cents.
With all of my sense,
And my backward-letter
Penmanship, I had plotted
my plans
on the page.

“When I grow up
I want to be
a firetruck.”

Since then,
I had laughed at
Such silly, sophomoric
Sentiment.

“Look,” I’d say, and point
at my self-prescribed,
Pre-school script.
“I really took it to heart
When they told me I could be
Anything I wanted.
A firetruck?
What could I have
Been thinking?”

But, tonight,
As I listed and lamented
The long list of
Other occupations

I had once considered:

Interior designer,
Psychologist,
Cultural anthropologist,
I realized something. . .

Haven’t I since,
In a sense,
Become all of these things?

Except for the fire truck.

But that, perhaps, is
What I am to become.

I still
Want to be
A fire truck!

You see, of a fire truck,

Nobody has ever said:

“Don’t listen to her,
she’s just overreacting.”

“He’s making all of that noise,
Because he didn’t get his way.”

When fire truck wails and screams,
nobody says:

“She has become angry and bitter.”

“Maybe he wants something to really cry about.”

“She’s probably about to get her period.”

“He’s being irrational and crazy.”

As the fire truck
Declares an emergency,
Nobody dismisses it with:

“I don’t know why she is crying. It was her own fault.”

“There he goes, getting all political again.”

“She has no reason to be upset.
She is just being manipulative.”

“Dude, seriously?
Are you complaining again?”

But, a fire truck is respected,
Heard, heeded, honored.

The fire truck is a warrior,
Shouting out
An alarm call,
A barbaric yawp,
A siren cry to save lives.

The fire truck is
not a second-hand good.
Not a victim,

A fire truck is not
Something to be seen and not heard,
But instead,
Is a voice.
A voice that matters.

A voice that pushes through denial
Saying
“Hey!
There is something wrong here.
I can point it out.
I can lead the way.
Hear me.”

I still
Want to be
A fire truck!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 




 

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

screen-shot-2016-11-15-at-7-43-36-pm

“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

screen-shot-2016-11-15-at-8-04-04-pm

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

 

Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling

screen-shot-2016-11-15-at-7-28-38-pm

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

screen-shot-2016-11-15-at-8-35-17-pm

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