Thursday, April 27, 2023

Poetry Friday: Pull Up a Chair, the Roundup is Here!


It's been sort of a poetic week around here. Tuesday I added my line to the Progressive Poem, and Sunday was my blog birthday. Seventeen years old, my little corner of the Internet. I looked up the appropriate gift for a seventeenth anniversary, and it's furniture. So below you'll find two poems with chairs in them. The first one came to my mind immediately and the second one showed up on the Poetry Foundation when I went looking for another chair. 


This is my second time hosting Poetry Friday from Uganda, and the last time I had poems about tables. Today I'm inviting you to pull up a chair and sit a while. My porch is quite small, but some people can sit there, and the rest can cram into my tiny living room. Come to think of it, you might want to bring a chair with you, maybe one of those camp chairs people keep in the trunk of the car, just in case. My husband will whip us up something to eat, I bet.

Just a word about the time zone: we're seven hours ahead of Eastern time here, so keep that in mind when it may seem as though I'm taking a while. I might be asleep! Just sit quietly, there in your chair, and I'll be up soon. Leave your comment and I will round up the old fashioned way, as fast as I can. I've enabled comment moderation, so you won't see your comment right away.

The Patience of Ordinary Things

by Pat Schneider

It is a kind of love, is it not?

How the cup holds the tea,

How the chair stands sturdy and foursquare,

How the floor receives the bottoms of shoes

Or toes. How soles of feet know

Where they're supposed to be.

I've been thinking about the patience

Of ordinary things...

Here's the rest.



Shaker Chair

by Jeffrey Harrison


To make a chair an angel would want to sit on 

is an intimidating proposition,

even though a jewel-encrusted throne

or wingback armchair with cloud-soft cushions

is not called for, only a simple rocker.

Besides, most of the work is done: I bought a kit.

But I still may not be equal to the task.

Will I be patient enough? Or will I splinter,

in haste and frustration, some crucial element?

Will I be able to make the chair a form

of worship, as the Shakers did, even though 

I'll only be fitting pre-made parts together?

If I fail at this it's even worse

than if I'd tried to make a chair from scratch

and failed. Afraid to begin, I avoid the box

where it's learned against the bookshelf for a week.

Click here for the second stanza.



In Uganda, I think the most commonly used sentence is: "You are welcome." Everybody says it, even the security guard who's searching your car. You are welcome, friends! I'm so glad to have you here! And I'm looking forward to a whole bunch of great poetry! (And it's also Poem in Your Pocket Day on Poetry Friday this week - tell us if you've got a poem in your pocket!)


Jama has an interview with Charles Ghigna about his new book, The Father Goose Treasury of Poetry. This link will go live at 6 a.m. EST on Poetry Friday. Can't wait to read it, Jama!

It's Friday morning in Uganda, and I just woke to an inbox full of links! Happy day! 

Anastasia's in with a haiku asking a question to which I'd really like an answer. 

Michelle has a poem in her pocket today, and it's a beaut! She even has instructions on a good way to fold your pocket poem. Plus, she's written a poem in imitation of Pablo Neruda, and since that's the Poetry Sisters' challenge for this week, I'm sure it's the first of many! Looking forward to reading them all! 

Ramona's written a poem called "Adoration," and it's illustrated with a bounty of gorgeous spring photos. Ahhhh, lovely! 

Laura has been having a busy NPM, but she's in with a poem about Smaug (shiver!) and a challenge. 


Janice  is sharing a haiku and a video of the moment that inspired it. It's a breath of spring!

Linda sent a lovely surprise! I had been regretting that today's roundup didn't have any feathers in it, since Feather is my OLW. I decided that I'd leave it that way, but now a Feather Letter has arrived from a friend! I had never heard of these, and I love the idea and Linda's gift. Thanks so much, Linda! 


If spring is here, summer must be on its way! Tabitha has news about this year's Summer Poem Swaps! I won't be participating this year due to distance (it takes approximately three months for a letter from the US to get here), but I have loved this experience in the past. Tabitha also has a Denise Levertov poem about a broken sandal, plus a great story about what happened when Levertov took a risk as a child and sent her poems to a famous poet.

Laura has a post full of riches, too. She's shared a link to a conversation on teaching poetry (sounds so good!), plus a read alike to go along with her new book, Welcome to Monsterville.

Once again I'm very sad to find that somehow my network won't let me visit Jone. But I hope you won't have the same problem! She has an interview with a poet who's just published a book of haiku about trees. I would love to read both the post and the book! (Edit: Jone thoughtfully sent me pdfs of her post, and it's definitely one you shouldn't miss!)

I finished posting everything that was in my inbox when I woke, and I was just about to go eat breakfast and watch some birds on the porch, but two more came in while I was posting, so here they are before I go!

Mary Lee's nailed the Neruda challenge, and she's even got birds! Welcome, Mary Lee!

And Karen's appreciating pencils today! Pencils are indeed wonderful, and Karen's going to use hers tomorrow to write the second last line of the Progressive Poem.


7:20, and I'm at my desk in the back of my classroom. I got eleven species this morning during breakfast, and then some parrots while I was heading out to work. I always think a bird checklist is a kind of poem, so maybe I'll share it later, but right now I have to update with the three posts that came in since Karen's.


Lou shared a post on the right to read. I'm with you, Lou, being grateful for the chance to get to learn to read, and the opportunity to read whatever I want. And she also wrote a lovely triolet called "You."

Linda is plaintively asking, "Is it spring yet?" She's also generously sharing the poetry postcards she's received this month!

Denise has written a powerful poem about gun violence, and she's also sharing a Carl Sandburg poem on the same topic. 

Well, I just got done teaching. The sixth graders and I were wrestling with that age-old question, where is the cat? (See photo.) Now the question is, where am I? I got evicted from my classroom for a math lesson (maths as we call it here), and evicted from my normal work spot in the library because they're getting ready for a poetry and music event this evening, so I've found a corner in the dining room and lugged my grading here to spend my free period. 

But before I start my grading, I need to share Bridget's link that came in while I was teaching. She's got a poem in her pocket, and she shares the poem - and the pocket! - with us.

Karin has today's line for the Progressive Poem! Only two more lines after today! 

Catherine is continuing her hope alphabet, and today T is for Hope. And T is also for Taproots. Lovely, Catherine!

Molly has been thinking about Shel Silverstein and idioms, and she's got a limerick to share that came from those musings.


Rose's NPM didn't go quite the way she had planned, but she did end up making some progress on a writing project. She shares some poems from her work in progress.

Margaret says, "My students, when they hear the word poetry, breathe a sigh of relief and joy. I am lucky they are young and haven’t been stained by the bee that says poetry is hard." I always love it when she shares her students' work!


Irene's in with a wonderful interview with Zaro Weil, a French poet, as well as one of her poems. She also has an original poem based on a painting. It leaves me singing a "blue-sky kind of tune"!

Carol has a whole lovely collection of spring poems for us! Head on over to enjoy the bounty.

Amy is continuing her NPM project. She's been writing hourly poems in the voice of an old barn. Today's is 11 PM, and the barn is remembering moments from the past. So vivid and beautiful! 

Heidi is Neruding (she invented that verb and I like it!). Writing in the style of Pablo Neruda, she's produced an "Ode to Resistance." My favorite line is "disturbing the path/ of the ants/ on their way/ to the honey." What a perfect image! 


Liz is Neruding too, plus she has a haiku for us. Her Neruda poem asks the great man a whole bunch of questions (like "Is exile a way to be lost?/ Is exile a way to lose yourself?"), and I sure wish he were still around to answer them!

I always like to share a Tiel Aisha Ansari poem whenever I host. Here's one she posted in February called "Sleep." I can't decide which of the metaphors I like best!

And now that I'm done teaching and meeting with students and posting all the links that have come in so far, here are the birds I saw at breakfast and while leaving for work this morning. I think their names alone are a poem:

Red-eyed dove

Eastern Plantain-eater

Hadada Ibis

Black Kite

Woodland Kingfisher

Broad-billed Roller

Fork-tailed Drongo

Pied Crow

Rüppell's Starling

African Thrush

Northern Gray-headed Sparrow

Meyer's Parrot

Patricia has written a yarn (Y is for Yarn) about Huck and Gila and their encounter in the desert. Check out Patricia's NPM project: 30 poems in 30 days with 30 forms! 


Sarah has a giveaway today of the book My Paati's Saris, by Jyoti Rajan Gopal. Head over and leave a comment to be eligible to win.

JoAnn's sharing pictures and a poem about milkweed. Like others in the roundup, JoAnn has been doing an NPM project with a daily poem! Way to go! 

There's more Neruding from Tanita, who wrote a sonnet to her upper arms. What a fabulous topic, and I think I'm going to be reading this poem to my upper arms. Wow! 

Susan has a bird haiku, and it's not just a generic bird, but a Louisiana Waterthrush. Inspired by Susan's poem, I went to eBird and listened to its sound.

I just got home from our evening poetry and music event at school, and now that I've rounded up the rest of this evening's links, I'm pretty tired. It's been sixteen hours since my alarm woke me, so I'm going to close down for the night, but don't worry -- you can keep sending links, and I'll post them in the morning!

Good Saturday morning! I slept in (it's 8:30 now), but here I am to add more links!

Tricia has an "Ode to a Basket of Trinkets" in the style of Neruda. I've really enjoyed all the Neruding!

Carol is in with a subject close to my heart: miscarriage. Her poetry post is here and it links to her touching prose narrative here. She's also celebrating her 1900th post!

Matt's joining in on Poetry Saturday. He's at a conference and hasn't been able to post, but he has an interview with Ryan Van Cleave about his new book The Witness Trees.

Monday, April 24, 2023

The Progressive Poem is Here Today!

It's the beginning of my work day here in Uganda, and I'm sitting in the library with a pile of grading on the table in front of me. But before I do any of it, I have to add my line to the poem! It's been raining all night here, and as I look out the window, I can see the flag on the flagpole and the kids kicking a soccer ball in the yard. 


I'm wondering if there's something slightly menacing about the party waiting for our protagonist. Oh my, indeed. The note said "Enter if you must," which isn't exactly a delighted welcome. Was the note for someone else? I don't think it's necessarily wise to just sit down and start consuming. Remember Alice in Wonderland? Remember Titania and Oberon?

Fortified with a cup of tea (Mukwano, not apple blossom, and on a table, not a mushroom), I wrote my line.


The poem so far is below, and my line is in bold at the end.


Over to you, Patricia!

Suddenly everything fell into place
like raindrops hitting soil and sinking in.

When morning first poked me, I’d wished it away
my mind in the mist, muddled, confused.

Was this a dream or reality, rousing my response?
The sun surged, urging me to join in its rising,

Rising like a crystal ball reflecting on morning dew.
I jumped out of bed, ready to explore the day.

My feet pull me outside and into the garden
Where lilies and bees weave…but wait! What’s that?

A bevy of bunnies jart and dart and play in the clover.
A dog barks and flash, the bunderstorm is over.

I breathe-brave, quiet. Like a seed,
as the day, foretold in my dream, ventured upon me.

Sunbeams guided me to the gate overgrown with wisteria
where I spotted the note tied to the gate.

As I reached the gnarled gate, pollen floated like fairy dust into my face.
Aaah Choo!
Enter, if you must. We’ve been waiting for you.

Not giving the curious note a thought, I pushed the gate open and ran through.
Stopped in my tracks, eyes wide in awe- can this really be true?

Huge mushrooms for tables, vines twined into chairs,
A flutter of fairies filled flowery teawares. 


With glazed nut cakes and apple blossom tea,
I heard soft whispers from behind a tree. Oh my! They had been “waiting for me!”


Still brave, but cautious, I waited for them.



Thursday, April 20, 2023

Poetry Friday: Eid Mubarak!

In Kampala we are waiting to see if we're celebrating Eid, the end of Ramadan, with a day off tomorrow or Saturday. If it's Saturday, you understand, it's not really a day off in quite the same way. But we don't know yet because there were confusing communiqués that went out today, and the way it stood when I came home was that we'd know by 8pm. We're waiting to see when the moon gets spotted. I'm not really clear if it needs to be spotted in Saudi Arabia or here, because I read a couple of different versions of what happens. Eid is always a public holiday here, but the date isn't set ahead of time, and apparently every year there is this waiting.

In Haiti we were often not sure if we'd have school the next day, though the reasons were different there. But that part feels familiar, the uncertainty. I came home with all my books just in case it was for the weekend. We used to do that, and tell the kids to, all the time in Haiti just in case the next day's classes got canceled. 


As I was writing the paragraph above, and wondering whether I really even know where or who I am, as I think about whether or not I will have to work tomorrow, the WhatsApp message came through: no school. 


I didn't fast, not being a Muslim, so the end of Ramadan doesn't mean a return to normal for me. But for so many around me, that's exactly what it means, the end of this special month.  I went looking for an Eid poem and I found one here from 2009, when it fell in April, like this year.

Eid Mubarak! And check out the roundup here.

Friday, April 14, 2023

Reading Update

Book #15 of the year was Glittering Images, #17 was Glamorous Powers, and #21 was Mystical Paths, all three by Susan Howatch and all three part of the Starbridge series. I wrote more about the series, which I've read several times, in this post from 2009.


Book #16 was Henri Nouwen's The Inner Voice of Love: A Journey from Anguish to Freedom. This is Nouwen's spiritual journal of a difficult time in his life, and while it doesn't go into the details of what he himself was going through, it does provide many deep insights into how to proceed through such a struggle. 


Book #18 was Extraordinary Birds, by Sandy Stark-McGinnis, the story of December, a foster child who's coping with her difficult past by believing she's a bird. Because of her own struggles, December is able to connect with Cheryllynn, a trans girl at her new school. December is put under pressure to join in with the bullies who are making Cheryllynn's life miserable, and at the same time she's trying to keep from getting too close to her new foster mom, because foster placements always end and December has too much experience with being abandoned. I found December a believable character, and of course what I liked best about this middle-grade novel was the information about extraordinary birds on every page. 

Book #19 was Tooth and Claw, by Jo Walton. I had read this book before (here you can read what I wrote about it in 2013), but this time I read it aloud to my husband. We both enjoyed it immensely.

Book #20 was Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus, by Dusti Bowling. Aven is a 13-year-old with no arms, and she's just moved to Arizona so her dad can take a job running a cowboy amusement park. While she was well-known at her previous school and didn't have to deal with being stared at, it's not quite the same in the new place. She has to make new friends and solve the mystery of what's going on at Stagecoach Pass. And she has to do it while facing treatment like this: "As Connor, Zion and I walked together down the sidewalk, I heard someone do that coughing thing when they sneak a word into the cough, but they're not actually being very sneaky about it at all. And the word was freaks."

Poetry Friday: Invisible Birds

This is the least involved I've been in National Poetry Month in many many years. I will have a line in the Progressive Poem, and I am signed up to host Poetry Friday at the end of the month, but other than that I have hardly had any poetry-related activity. I'm not teaching English these days, but French, and while we do have an occasional poem on the agenda, it's just not the same as my daily poetry habit of the past. I hardly have any poetry books with me here in Uganda, either, so I'm very thankful for the Internet! And I'm hardly writing at all, except for emails, texts, and lesson plans, as I go through the adjustment process to a new place and a new job. I keep telling myself that next year will be easier, but it seems as though I've been saying that for a while now.

One of the things I like least about living here in this gorgeous country full of amazing birds is the time difference. We are seven hours ahead of Eastern Time right now, so it's very hard to get together with people in the US, what with work and sleeping and stuff. But one good thing about it is that as I'm puttering about at mid-morning on this Friday of my Easter break, it's still barely even Friday on the east coast of the US, and there's still plenty of time to post something.

What's keeping me going these days is watching birds, in my yard for a few minutes in the morning before work, or sometimes -- like yesterday -- hours of fabulous birding in a place full of species I haven't seen before. So here's a Craig Arnold poem about Central America that gets at kind of the same thing, except that in this poem he's just hearing instead of seeing, and I get to do both. You can read the rest of it or listen to it at the link below.

The Invisible Birds of Central America

by Craig Arnold

For Alicia


The bird who creaks like a rusty playground swing

the bird who sharpens the knife         the bird who blows

on the mouths of milk bottles          the bird who bawls like a cat

like a cartoon baby         the bird who rubs the wineglass

the bird who curlicues     the bird who quacks like a duck

but is not a duck

Here's the rest.


Jone has this week's roundup! 

Friday, April 07, 2023

Poetry Friday, Good Friday

I shared this Emily Dickinson poem for Good Friday in 2017, and here it is again.

To know just how He suffered — would be dear —
To know if any Human eyes were near
To whom He could entrust His wavering gaze —
Until it settle broad — on Paradise —

To know if He was patient — part content —
Was Dying as He thought — or different —
Was it a pleasant Day to die —
And did the Sunshine face his way —

What was His furthest mind — Of Home — or God —
Or what the Distant say —
At news that He ceased Human Nature
Such a Day —

And Wishes — Had He Any —
Just His Sigh — Accented —
Had been legible — to Me —
And was He Confident until
Ill fluttered out — in Everlasting Well —

And if He spoke — What name was Best —
What last
What One broke off with
At the Drowsiest —

Was He afraid — or tranquil —
Might He know
How Conscious Consciousness — could grow —
Till Love that was — and Love too best to be —
Meet — and the Junction be Eternity


Margaret has today's roundup, and today's line for the Progressive Poem, here. Thanks, Margaret! 

Wednesday, April 05, 2023

Spiritual Journey Thursday: Origins


When I looked at the calendar at the end of last year, I saw that SJT would be on Maundy Thursday in April. This day is very important in Christianity because it's the day when Christ instituted both the Lord's Supper and the tradition/concept of footwashing, which some denominations do as part of a worship service. Here's some information on Maundy Thursday in case this is not part of your background:

What is Maundy Thursday?

All About Footwashing

The Timeline of Holy Week 

Because this is a day of origins, I thought of expanding the prompt to ask: What are the origins of one of your spiritual practices? (This could be the historical origin of the practice, or it could be how it came to be important in your own life.) You can write about Maundy Thursday or something totally different. And as always, feel free to ignore the prompt completely and write about something else entirely! Leave your links in the comments and I'll round them up! 

Origins: Maundy Thursday

A busy week,
full of
riding a donkey into town,
knocking over tables,
prophesying at the Mount of Olives,
praying in the Garden of Gethsemane,
getting betrayed,
and buried.

A busy week,
but still
Jesus made time
for dinner with friends,
during which there was awkward foot washing
and some confusing commentary
about eating a body and drinking blood.

Later, they got it.

And that’s what amazes,
all these centuries later,
that in the middle of such a busy week,
Jesus thought of later,
gave us language,
in the middle of everything,
of us.

©Ruth Bowen Hersey

April 2023

Karen shares about breath prayer, with a traditional one and one she created herself. (I really love yours, Karen!)

Margaret reflects on Maundy Thursday. She has a recording of her choir singing, and a poem about footwashing. A nourishing post!

Arjeha's post is full of details of Byzantine Catholic Easter traditions. It's interesting and beautiful!


Patricia is thinking a lot about how her faith has grown and changed over the years. "To make present – memorial – ," she writes, "is something Jesus asks of us every day. Do this in memory of me. Feed the hungry. Clothe the naked. Aid the sick. Visit the imprisoned. I am searching for how to adapt my life so that these become a regular and treasured part of my days."

Chris, too, has experienced change in her faith, and her post reflects on what she's left behind and what she's kept.

Carol has chosen a couple of traditions from this time of year: Palm Sunday (what happens to those palms afterward?) and the washing of feet. She's written a lovely post!

The spiritual practice that Ramona chose to write about is singing hymns. She shares some of the hymns and the person who helped make them part of her heart.



Saturday, April 01, 2023

Progressive Poem 2023