Thursday, March 31, 2022

Poetry Friday: NPM Day 1

For the last three years, I've posted daily during National Poetry Month. Looking back at my first post from 2019, 2020, and 2021, I see that every year I resist promising daily posts, saying that I probably won't manage, but each of those years, I have. (Other years I have posted daily, too, even if it was just to link to the Progressive Poem line of the day.) My theme was cleaning up open poetic tabs (posting about them, so I can close them), and sure enough, I have a bunch of tabs this year as well. Once again I feel obliged to manage my own expectations: I may not get around to posting every day, what with moving into a new place this weekend, adjusting to a new job, teaching everybody in our school from Pre-K through eighth grade, learning Spanish, and other assorted whatnot. (Will I even have internet every day in my new apartment? Stay tuned!)

Last year I chose a Haitian broom as my picture to symbolize my spring-cleaning ambitions, and this year I have a photo of a box. It's a box of things that got broken during their trip here. We put the shards in the box prior to throwing them away, and I snapped a photo because it seemed like a metaphor, all those broken bits that traveled so far only to get tossed. Not pictured: the great majority of the things we brought, which did not get broken, and which continue to be beautiful and useful in their new setting. It's all fragile, though; it's all perishable. Moving to a new country reminds you of that. So if I have a theme this year, it's Shards. Little broken bits, swept up and displayed. Maybe they'll then be thrown away, and maybe they'll be turned into something new. Who knows?

So I'm starting this year with a poem I wrote and posted back in 2017. Here's the original post, where I explain how it came to be. And here's the poem:

How to Mend a Broken Vase


First, gather up the shards.
Don’t forget that the shattering sent them in all directions;
There’s one, under the fridge,
And over there is another.
You’ll probably be finding pieces for quite a while.

Once you have them all picked up,
Put them in a pile,
And stare at them.

Think about whatever possessed you
To pick up that vase full of dead flowers
With butter on your hands
And scold yourself roundly.

When you’re ready, get to work with the glue.
Make a smeary mess.
Peel glue off your fingers and try again.
Cut yourself on pieces of glass,
Drop some on the ground and step on them,
Generally fail to mend the broken vase.

Give up.

Leave the pile where it is
And get irritated with it every time you see it.

Start enjoying the way the slivers of glass
Shine and sparkle as the light hits them.
Think about what you could add
To make a mosaic.

If, by chance,
It is your heart instead of a vase that you have carelessly
Allowed to get broken,
The same procedure will work.


©Ruth Bowen Hersey


The incomparable Heidi is hosting today. Maybe I'll even make it to everybody's post this week, unlike most weeks lately! We'll see!

Thursday, March 24, 2022

Poetry Friday: Rain

Sometimes here in Asunción, as we're heading into a South American autumn, it rains all day and all night. The roof on the room where I teach is made of tin, and sometimes we just have to stop class and listen to the noise that drowns us out. "Drowns" is the right word, as I imagine the roof giving way and the water coming in and washing us all away.

One day I read "April Rain Song" with a group of students. I had misjudged my audience, and their main response was to giggle madly at the word "kiss." (I'll put a video of that poem at the end of my post.) And certainly the poem seems much too mild for the kind of rain we have here. Rather than "kiss," maybe we could say "batter." Instead of "a little sleep song" it's more like "a pounding cacophony." 

I went looking for rain poems that were more in tune with these rains. I searched "monsoon," but nothing seemed quite right. Then I found this one, "Rain Before Seven," by Vincent Starrett, published in Poetry Magazine in 1943. It's not talking about Paraguay, but it does capture that way that the rain erases everything else, and makes you think of oceans and the end of the world.

Here it is:


Rain Before Seven

Vincent Starrett


It was raining hard when I left my bed and stood

By the window overlooking the trees and street;

And the sound of the rain was the sound of the rain in flood:

There was only the sound of the rain in the steady beat.


I thought: there is rain like this on the farthest seas;

There is darkness over the earth, and rain must fall;

I heard its ceaseless drip in the leaves of trees.

And the busy race of water beside the wall.


I thought: at the very end it will be like this,

When the long last night comes on, and the only sound

Is the sound of the steadfast rain, its chuckling hiss

In the leaves of trees, its beat on the sodden ground.


But I thought: if I live a thousand years and a night

I shall not forget how the quick drops gleamed and shone

Like beads of fire on the leaves, and the secret light

Of a street lamp, waiting up for the laggard dawn.

And here's my haiku from yesterday's rainstorm:

On the soccer goal
Yellow birds in driving rain
Squawking, “Kiskadee!”


© Ruth Bowen Hersey

 Amy has this week's roundup at The Poem Farm.

Thursday, March 17, 2022

Poetry Friday Roundup Is Here: The Week's Collection

Welcome to this week's Poetry Friday roundup!


For those of you who don't know, I moved to Asunción, Paraguay, with my husband in January after many years living in Haiti. When I signed up for today, months ago, I thought, "By March I'll be settled into my new home, ready to welcome guests. Perfect!" Well, of course, I'm far from settled in, though I'm headed in that direction. And while I can't say I'm fully at home yet, I am finding lots to love in this new place.


I think of this weekly roundup as a collection of what everyone has been reading, writing, and thinking about throughout the week. So today I have a haibun about a collection from last Saturday.



Morning Collection

My brother picked me up at 5:15. We met a friend and his son in the pre-dawn darkness and drove out into the wild. We were in search of birds, and did we ever find them! A hundred and three species, collected one by one as the morning progressed: small, hidden among branches, or enormous, flapping overhead: familiar, or brand new to me. We peered through our binoculars and camera lenses, locating colors and shapes. My brother and his friend spoke the names in Spanish and English, some in Guarani. They said the scientific names, too, in Latin. The words flocked in my mind, abundant and spectacular like the hundred and fifty Wood Storks rising on huge black and white wings against the sunrise.

Morning collection:
Spanish words, photos, bird list,
Mud on my new boots.


©Ruth Bowen Hersey



Leave your collectibles in the comments, and I will round them up the old-school way as the day progresses. I can't wait to see what you've brought to share! 


Collection from Thursday Evening

Linda has a review of Amy Ludwig VanDerwater's new book (which looks fabulous, by the way), plus a new star poem on her padlet. Thanks for getting here first, Linda, and for these treasures! 

Jama is sharing Diana Hendry's "What is the Pond Doing?" and gearing up for National Poetry Month with a collection of links to poetry projects people will be doing. Yay, it's almost NPM!

Michelle, like many of us, has her heart in Ukraine these days. She's sharing some art, and then an ekphrastic poem she wrote to go with it. 

Sally lives in the southern hemisphere as I do, and her post this week is decidedly summery, with bees and a swimming pool.

Laura's thinking of Ukraine too, and also reminding us that everyone belongs.

Matt is sharing about Poetry Out Loud and has a poem from the National Youth Poet Laureate.

Catherine has a bird-related post this week, too!

Laura S. is thinking about birds, too, plus she has a giveaway! 

It's past my bedtime here, and I haven't even visited all these links I just rounded up yet. I've been out on a night bike ride in glorious moon-drenched Asunción! I'll be by tomorrow, folks, and I'll keep rounding up links in the morning. Bye for now! 

Collection from Thursday Night

Good morning! Here are the links that came in overnight.

Karen has a poem about time. She's wondering about the poet, and reflecting on time herself.

Janice is watching, photographing, and writing about pronghorn sheep in Wyoming.

Ramona had a serendipitous find yesterday. Enjoy, Ramona! 

Tabatha has heard the mermaids singing, each to each, and she shares their song with us! 

Patricia knows what the world needs now...

Linda is sharing Lawrence Ferlinghetti and thinking about Ukraine.

Alan has some wonderful song lyrics for us today.

Carol is recovering from cataract surgery and still finding time to write every day. She wishes us a happy St. Patrick's Day, with a poem! 

Once again, I've made only the briefest of visits to these links, so I look forward to exploring them more later. But right now, I have to go to work. I'm on morning duty this week, greeting kids as they come on campus starting at 6:40 AM! I'm a morning person, and that's still early. Back later with more links! Have a wonderful Friday! 

Collection from Friday Morning


Irene has a chameleon poem today! I'm loving her current series. Head on over and take a look!

Marcie is thinking about collecting too, and she shares how she does it. Really interesting, and welcome, Marcie! I don't think we've met yet! 

Mary Lee has a review of a new book of poetry.

Margaret has been writing triolets with her student, Chloe. (I love Chloe posts.)

Christie has a moment that took her breath away.

Heidi is thinking about metrics.

Amy has a poem about a secret cloud.

Rose wrote a color poem about yellow. 

Collection from Friday Afternoon


Anastasia is booktalking Laura Purdie Salas' new book We Belong.

I'm home from work now, and Friday has a few hours left! Keep those links coming! I may even put in a Saturday Morning section if need be. 



Collection from Friday Night

Denise and her husband are painting a house, and it's not exactly fun! She wrote about it, and while I didn't read it until Saturday morning, up early to go out birding again, it did technically come in on Friday night.


I'm off to collect some more birds for my list, and I'll round up any Saturday links later. It's been fun, friends! Hope you have a wonderful week, and see you next Friday! 

Monday, March 14, 2022

Reading Update

Book #7 of the year was the 2022 Newbery winner, The Last Cuentista, by Donna Barba Higuera. When I was going to have to wait 14 weeks to borrow it from the library on my Kindle, I broke down and bought it. I was glad I had; I enjoyed it very much. 

Book #8 was Everywhere Blue, by Joanne Rossmassler Fritz. This is a verse novel with a 12 year old protagonist, Maddie, whose older brother has disappeared. It feels to Maddie as though her family and the world are falling apart, and that's a feeling many readers her age may share. There's a realistic but hopeful outcome to her story. This book won the Cybils award for poetry this year.

Book #9 was The Echo Wife, by Sarah Gailey. I didn't predict the direction this novel about cloning was headed, and I certainly didn't get the deep metaphorical resonances revealed in an afterword that made me want to go read the whole thing again. 

Note: both of those last two books are available at very low prices on Kindle right now, as I'm writing this post. I have no idea how long the deals will last!

Book #10 was a graphic novel, When Stars are Scattered, by Victoria Jamieson. It's about Somali brothers, one of them with an intellectual disability, living in a refugee camp in Kenya. Wow, what a memorable and excellent book, an unflinching look at what it's really like to grow up in a place like Dadaab, and yet -- somehow -- never give up hope. I read in the reviews that it's very brightly colored. My copy, borrowed from the library on my Kindle, was black and white, but the art still blew me away, along with the story. Highly recommended.

Thursday, March 10, 2022

Poetry Friday: Thunderstorm

I'm a little bit overwhelmed these days, and not keeping up much online. There are so many new things to learn and so much work to do. I haven't even been around to read everyone's posts the past few weeks. And next week I'm hosting, so I need to get my act together!

This evening we had a summer thunderstorm here in Asunción, and I went looking for a thunderstorm poem. I found this one, by Judy Longley, published in Poetry magazine in 1999. It begins this way:

Thunderstorm the Day the War Ended

Arkansas, 1945


leaden heat explodes into quicksilver

a confetti parade the cottonwood flings

when the radio shrills     good news

chickens blossom like chrysanthemums

I love how this poem juxtaposes the ordinary summer evening with the aftermath of war. Even when it's over, it's not really over. Every stanza has some subtle reminder of that. The poem made me think of the terrible war going on now in Ukraine, and the ordinary lives disrupted by it. Click through to read the rest of the poem here.

This week's roundup is here.


Friday, March 04, 2022

Poetry Friday: Bicycles


It's been years since I've done any cycling. My husband rode in the Haiti years, but that was just a bit much for me. But now, in our new home, we are cycling together again. On a tandem. I'm in the middle of a very busy day, and have no time for more bicycling information right now. Maybe another time. But I didn't want to miss Poetry Friday today.

I was wondering last night whether Pablo Neruda wrote an ode to bicycles. Well, of course he did. Everything I found online uses the same translation, but nobody identifies who did it. This poem isn't in any of my three Neruda books.

Here are some lines from the middle:

A few bicycles

passed me by,

the only



that dry

moment of summer,





barely stirred

the air.

Here's the rest, or you could look here for the text in Spanish and English.


Kathryn Apel has today's roundup! 

Thursday, March 03, 2022

Spiritual Journey Thursday: Ashes


On the first Thursday of every month, a group of us join to blog about a spiritual topic. I'm hosting today, on the first Thursday of March, and since yesterday was Ash Wednesday, I chose the topic of Ashes. Feel free to join in and link to a post on your blog, whether you've ever posted with our group before or not! I'll round up the contributions as the day goes on.

For at least a thousand years, Christians have used ashes in their worship during Lent, and especially on Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent. Ashes are associated with penitence and grief as far back as the Old Testament. And in the modern observance, it's common to burn the palms from Palm Sunday and save the ashes to use the next year on Ash Wednesday. I love the symbolism of that, the way our joys can turn to sorrows in the blink of an eye, and then back into joys just as unpredictably.

In the Ash Wednesday service, the ashes are placed on the worshiper's forehead, and the words spoken are, "Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return." It's a reminder that you won't live forever, a reminder of frailty and impermanence. The ashes usher in the six weeks of Lent, when Christians prepare for Holy Week, the remembrance of Jesus' death on the cross on Good Friday, followed by His resurrection on Easter Sunday. Depending on where you were yesterday, you may have seen people going around with smudges on their foreheads, remnants of ashes. Maybe you had some of that on your own forehead. 

In Isaiah 61:3, we read: "…to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair." The ashes aren't supposed to be a permanent adornment. There are seasons of ashes, and seasons of beauty. And there are seasons when the beauty and the ashes are all mixed up together, joy and grieving coexisting in our lives inextricably. Whether or not you mark Ash Wednesday by having ashes imposed on your forehead, you've experienced the ashes of life. Maybe you're experiencing them right now.

Back in 2018, I wrote this poem for Ash Wednesday:



I’m here for the ashes.
I’m here for the dust,
for remembering that that is what I am,
and that that is where I will return.

I’m here for the ashes,
the remains of what I loved,
the palms from last year,
and carefully preserved,
precious dust.
Those palms mattered
too much to toss their remains away.
They became today’s ashes.
And that’s why I’m here.

I’m here for the ashes,
for the reminder that though my flesh is solid now,
it will die.
The smudge on my forehead
will wash away,
but I will still be mortal,
headed for my expiration date.

I’m here for the ashes,
so smear them on me,
whispering as you do,
remember that you are dust.”
Precious dust,
but dust nonetheless,
a temple filled with the Holy Spirit
that one day will fall

I’ll leave with the ashes,
and through my day I’ll see others
with dusty marks on their faces,
as they too have been reminded
of what they are.
Beautiful and impermanent,
valuable and temporary,
needing to be
swept up
with a broom.

There are other places to get
roses and accolades,
work and fulfillment,
conversation and snacks,
but this is the only place I know
where they are imposing ashes today
that’s why I’m here.
For the ashes.


© Ruth Bowen Hersey


During Lent this year, I have a lot to rejoice over, and a lot to mourn. It's one of those very complicated seasons. And the ashes remind me that neither the highs or the lows last forever. They both pass, washed away and replaced by something we won't even see coming. And God's presence will be with us through all of it, guiding and sustaining, saving and preserving. 

Chris is reflecting on ashes. What stays? What goes? What effect does the fire have on us?

Margaret is remembering that although she is impermanent, she is also enough.

Ruth Ayres is learning lessons from a season of enforced stillness.


Maureen shares powerful thoughts on a "time of ashes," from seeing President Biden with that tell-tale smear on his forehead to dealing with death in her own life. 

Carol is thinking about Lenten seasons in the past, and how this year will be different.


Denise, like me, just made a move to a different country. She's thinking about the ashes in her new home. 


Karen said she almost skipped today. You'll agree with me that it's great that she didn't!