Friday, August 31, 2012

Poetry Friday: The Castle-Builder

My son showed me this poem, in a book we have called The Children's Own Longfellow. It seems appropriate in a week full of never-ending work.

The Castle-Builder
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

A gentle boy, with soft and silken locks,
A dreamy boy, with brown and tender eyes,
A castle-builder, with his wooden blocks,
And towers that touch imaginary skies.

A fearless rider on his father's knee,
An eager listener unto stories told
At the Round Table of the nursery,
Of heroes and adventures manifold.

There will be other towers for thee to build;
There will be other steeds for thee to ride;
There will be other legends, and all filled
With greater marvels and more glorified.

Build on, and make thy castles high and fair,
Rising and reaching upward to the skies;
Listen to voices in the upper air,
Nor lose thy simple faith in mysteries.

Here is the roundup for today.

Monday, August 27, 2012

After the Storm

I've lived in Port-au-Prince for sixteen years, and Isaac is the worst storm I have ever experienced. There have been many storms that have done more damage to the country as a whole, but never any that battered Port-au-Prince quite this savagely. My husband and I were awake almost all night on Friday as the gusts of wind grew stronger and stronger. It wasn't as bad as an earthquake, but it was still pretty bad.

On Saturday my husband and kids cleaned up fallen branches from our courtyard and we eyed our solar panels dubiously; they didn't look good, but there wasn't any sun, so we couldn't check on whether they were working.

On Sunday afternoon we had a little bit of sun, enough to find out that the solar panels were still working. We also went over to our school campus to get online, since our internet at home is still down. I talked to the man who cleans my classroom, who was moonlighting as a gate guard. I told him that we were surprised by how bad the storm was, and he agreed that he was, too. I said, "They always say hurricanes are coming, and it's never anything," and he nodded. He said it was the worst he'd ever lived through, too.

I asked him how he and his family had fared and he said they were fine, but their roof blew off. They went next door and spent the rest of the night with their neighbors, and then in the morning he bought a tarp, which will serve as a roof until he can get his replaced. I asked if any other school employees had had damage to their homes. He said he only knew of one, who hadn't had a roof to start with, just a tarp. And of course, his tarp blew away. There may be others, he said. He'll find out when they come to work on Monday.

Before the earthquake I didn't even know the Kreyol word for tarp, prela, but now it's very much a part of my vocabulary. Many people continue to live under tarps or tents, two and half years after goudou goudou shook our city. There was money donated to help our employees, and all of their residences were surveyed; those who had earthquake damage received money for repairs. I don't know if the employee still living under a tarp chose to use the money for something else which he needed more, or if he lost his roof since then, or if he just feels safer sleeping under a lightweight tarp after seeing how many people were crushed under concrete roofs on January 12th, 2010.

You'd have to be a lot dumber than I am to miss the the contrast between the post-hurricane concerns at my house and those of my janitor. While I fret about internet access and solar panels, he drapes his home, containing all his possessions, with a tarp, and prays that this hurricane season won't bring any more unpleasant surprises.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Poetry Friday: Storm

Today, since Tropical Storm (formerly Hurricane) Isaac is bearing down on us, I will link you to my friend Robbie's poem about storms, and this one in particular. Here it is.

Today's Poetry Friday roundup is here.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Poetry Friday: An Ancient Gesture

An Ancient Gesture

I thought, as I wiped my eyes on the corner of my apron:
Penelope did this too.
And more than once: you can't keep weaving all day
And undoing it all through the night;
Your arms get tired, and the back of your neck gets tight;
And along towards morning, when you think it will never be light,
And your husband has been gone, and you don't know where, for years.
Suddenly you burst into tears;
There is simply nothing else to do.

And I thought, as I wiped my eyes on the corner of my apron:
This is an ancient gesture, authentic, antique,
In the very best tradition, classic, Greek;
Ulysses did this too.
But only as a gesture,—a gesture which implied
To the assembled throng that he was much too moved to speak.
He learned it from Penelope...
Penelope, who really cried.

Edna St. Vincent Millay

You can find a poem I wrote about Penelope here.

And here is today's Poetry Friday roundup.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Poetry Friday: The Junior High School Band Concert

This poem makes me laugh and cringe a little as I get ready for my middle schoolers to descend on my classroom on Monday. What a wonderful, terrible time of life those early teens are. I wouldn't go there again for any money myself, but I get to experience it vicariously every year through my students.

The Junior High School Band Concert
by David Wagoner

When our semi-conductor
Raised his baton, we sat there
Gaping at Marche Militaire,
Our mouth-opening number.
It seemed faintly familiar
(We'd rehearsed it all that winter),
But we attacked in such a blur,
No army anywhere
On its stomach or all fours
Could have squeezed through our crossfire.

I played cornet, seventh chair,
Out of seven, my embouchure
A glorified Bronx cheer
Through that three-keyed keyhole stopper
And neighborhood window-slammer
Where mildew fought for air
At every exhausted corner,
My fingering still unsure
After scaling it for a year
Except on the spit-valve lever.

Here's the rest, and you can also hear the author reading the poem at that link.

Here's today's Poetry Friday roundup.

Saturday, August 04, 2012


I got home to Haiti yesterday. Don't ask me how it's going for another week or two, please. Then I hope to have something good to say. In the meantime, working on fixing and setting up and getting going on a new school year.

Here's yesterday's Poetry Friday roundup.