Thursday, November 30, 2006

If Walls Could Talk

Photo: Window of Giles Mandeville House
Pomtpon Plains, NJ,
built 1788.

Giles Mandeville House
Field and quarry construction
Pequannock Township

Years earlier war
Patriots and Washington
camped and fought nearby

War veteran builds
home, stacking stone upon stone

Raises his family

Years pass, children grown
War Between the States erupts
House holds secret places

Quilt squares showing way
Rooms above kitchen for slaves
Underground Railroad

Whispering prayers
Following the north star
New life new freedoms

First Reformed Church Manse
Stories seep from stonewalls
Hundred years later

Tuesday, November 28, 2006


One Deep Breath suggested to write about person who has imparted a legacy to you...or a legacy that you hope to pass on to someone else.

My grandmother, Sadie Rush MacCulloch, was such a person. She taught until she was in her eighties. She travelled each summer to visit her two grandchildren.

Laughter infectious
a lap for curling up in
story time begins

She had hobbies: needlework (she taught me how to do French knots), played solitaire and other card games. I turned down one of her legacies.

Knotting thread half-loops
Nimble fingers push shuttle
Delicate doilies

Each one left handed
Granddaughter turns up nose
At offer to learn

I was always curious at some of her sayings, "After three days, company smells like fish" and "I am going to put some "ippy" on." (ippy is lipstick). But what was more curious to me was what she did with cucumbers ( something I still do today)

Snipped cucumber end
Circular motion on rest
Getting poison out

I visited her daughter, my aunt, earlier this month. I read some of my poetry to her. Her comment? "You get that from your grandmother." A wonderful legacy to be imparted.

Reader, journals kept
Brittle pages aging now
Memory keeper

Monday, November 27, 2006


Sunday Scribbling poses the question "Have you had a nemesis in your life"? I didn't think I did until I started writing.

Dear Nemesis,
Someone asked me recently, “Who is my nemesis?” I did not think I had one at first. Then it hit me, my nemesis is you: the family disease of alcoholism.

Dad will be gone three years in January. If I could have one wish granted it would be to have knowledge, I have now about this insidious disease. I would have handled his passing and its aftermath in a much different way. But that’s hindsight for you, isn’t it?

I struggle admitting that I grew up in an alcoholic home. I know my parents loved me and I did not want for much. They made sacrifices for me in order to send me to France for a summer and to the college of my choice. Yet, there were times, I felt alone and unheard.

Our house was the “party” home, where grown-ups gathered, drank and were jovial for the most part. I will tell this, it made me uncomfortable. I did not like watching the adults being loud and crazy.

It was one reason for going away to college. And the funny thing is that I could be a party girl when I was not at the “party house”. I mean, did you ever see me drink beyond my limits in front of the parents? I am thankful for untangling myself from your grip, as I grew older but not without side effects.

I now understand where I got my control, anger, and mistrust. They are by-products of this disease. They have clouded my thinking a lot of my life. Some people see me as that “take charge person, the one who gets things done” but many times, it was to control my environment. Others see me as a trusting soul, yet I trust few and sometimes not myself.

The day Dad died, I was angry. Angry he died so suddenly and there was still so much to say. Angry with myself for not calling him at lunch. Angry for the chasm created among the remaining family. Angry with myself for the manner in which I handled his affairs.

I am standing on the precipice of recovery. I wish I could redo those months after his passing. I would do things differently. I am walking on the recovery path; learning to let go of the anger, learning to trust myself. It is painful. My heart aches but I understand you, my nemesis: the family disease of alcoholism.


Saturday, November 25, 2006

Poetry Speaks to Children

The prompt over at Poetry Thursday asked us to go to a poetry reading or listen to to poets read. This provided a wonderful opportunity to look (and listen to the accompanying CD) Poetry Speaks to Children. There are 95 selected poems in the book and an audio cd with about half of the poems being read.

I knew I would love this book when I saw that poems from Naomi Shihab Nye, William Stafford and X. J. Kennedy were listed. But what I really love is the audio CD and being able to hear Roald Dahl read his "The Dentist and the Crocodile", Langston Huges read "The Negro Speaks of Rivers" and Robert Frost read "Stopping by the Woods on a Snowy Evening" along with the many other poets who read their work. What a gift to hear these voices, the dialects, and the intonations. It is like having a private poetry reading where ever you can play a cd. I am very sorry however that students will not be able to hear William Stafford read his poem "First Grade." Somewhere I have a tape of him reading other poetry. Can't wait to use it with my students.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Come to Your Senses

Green turns bronze yellow
Decaying veins brewing tea
Garden vitamin

Winter's leaf blanket

Worms traveling underneath

Dream garden of spring

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Sunday Scribblings: Heroes

This week's prompt: "heroes" evokes first, a song from the 80's, then repulsion of idea that some people think a hero is someone famous or has money. I don't like the word hero; it's a loaded term filled with lots of expectations.

If I have to use the word "hero", it goes to the people on this earth, working to make the world a better place. They go about their days, quietly and humbly.

It is my friend/colleague at work who lost her oldest son to Fanconi Anemia two years ago. Of her two remaining sons, the youngest is also struck by this awful genetic disease. And how does a mother who's lost a child before their time and has another staring the disease in the face deal with life? The first year of his passing, she organized dinner/auction and raised over $100, 000 for research. She's organized a run/walk event each February to raise money for research. It is now in its third year and growing in size. She trained for the Portland Marathon, running in his memory to raise money for gene research. She had an idea and made it happen. This is a hero. Quiet and determined.

It is also my college roommate and friend, diagnosed with breast cancer two years ago. She decided to walk in the "Weekend to End Breast Cancer" in Vancouver, BC. She's been walking and raising money for breast cancer research ever since; doing the 2005 and 2006 Susan G. Komen 3 Day Walking Event. And her husband has been a hero also, training with her in 2004 and then walking with her in the last two walks. Both heroes. Quiet and committed.

I teach. Everyday, there are little heroes coming to school. It's students who arrive at school, ready to learn, resilient despite their home life. It's the students who will bring presents for the giving tree or food for the food drive and yet, their families are just as in need. Not so quiet, their laughter and words speak hope.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Poetry Thursday: Lies

This week's prompt: "Liar, Liar Pants On Fire". T ake ten things and create lie about them. Hmmm, I assembled ten things and placed them so I looked at them frequently. Three spoke out loud.

Seven Twenty

Grandfather's pocket watch
held his travels 'til
7:20, Calcutta, India, 1883
Banished forever

Grandmother's beaded coin purse
held her secrets 'til
7:20, Lodi, New Jersey, 1905
Scattered forever

7:20, Portland, Oregon 1974
Travels banished
Secrets scattered
Only a skeleton key remains

Monday, November 13, 2006

"Friends and Companions"

This week, One Deep Breath suggests writing about "Friends and Companions".
A great prompt. I was looking for a way to write about my weekend in New Jersey with my aunt and her friends.

niece journeys by plane
lightning delays flight 'til
morning losing time

artist, principal
friends, early days of teaching
laughter surrounds them

niece's pace faster
turning, sees, aunt walking slow
lessons on aging

sitting side by side
back church pew, Thanksgiving prayer
friends many decades

niece asks "remember"
looks up, sees her nodding off
dreaming of yesterday

women walking slow
raindrops slipping off slickers
wind blows words a far

movie, concert, meals
conversations in-between
wishing for more time

bridge, laughter, trips, art, tea
witnessing life’s transitions
friendship paints pictures

aunt, niece attending
historic church, singing hymns
praying together

niece returning home
a single tear slides down cheek
memories hold fast

Monday, November 06, 2006

Weather Haibun

"If a haiku is an insight into a moment of experience, a haibun is the story or narrative of how one came to have that experience." -Bruce Ross
This is the prompt from One Deep Breath this week. My first in trying this type of haiku and that's what I like about the weekly experience.


November doesn't march in like a lion, that's reserved for another month. But November arrived in full gale; winds, rain, the sputtering remains of a typhoon. Weather did not to dampen my plans for the weekend.

Northwest hills in view
Brisk walkers escaping wet
Enter the bead show

Cloud blanket comforts
Trees weeping for the fallen
leaving skeletons

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Poetry Thursday: Lines that Dance in Your Head

From the blog site, Poetry Thursday, comes this prompt:
"Share a favorite line of poetry. You might decide to explain why the line resonates, why it speaks to might want to let your favorite line spark your own poem. A favorite line written by someone else becomes the springboard for a new poem."

It is funny that the poems that come to mind immediately, without hesitation, are from Yeats:

"I will arise and go now, and go to Innisfree..." (The Lake Isle of Innisfree, 1890)


"When you are old and grey and full of sleep.
and nodding by the fire, take down this book..."(When You are Old, 1892)

It is not like I quote him often. In fact, it is difficult for me to recite much poetry from memory. But there is something there, deep in me that I think: Yeats. It takes me back to college and the spring term that I took this English Poets' class. I don't remember much about the class. I do remember the sitting outdoors and discussing this fine literature; being horribly intimitated by the professor. And yet the intimidation I felt did not lead me away this particular era of poetry.

I love these two particular poems. I love the rythm of Yeats' words read aloud. There is such a cadence in his poetry. I have always been fairly strong willed. The inner independence alluded to in Innisfree always appealed to me. Tonight, rereading "When You are Old" I have to laughed because now I am there; old and full of sleep.

It is funny how the world works. I went to the college that had one of the greatest poets of all time, William Stafford, teaching there. But I missed his undergraduate classes. It wasn't until I graduated from Lewis and Clark, that I discovered what I had been missing. He was a quiet teacher, one who gently led you into writing.

Here's a one of my poems, inspired by a line from a William Stafford's poems:

When To Say Good-bye

"Our days together were the ones we already had."
--William Stafford

Looking at her
lying on the kitchen floor. My eyes
watching, waiting
for movement of her wavy, black fur.
Is she breathing?
Will I know when it's time?

A relentless beggar
every meal at my feet
unaware pheasant season has begun
Reminds cats, she's "The Queen" but
no longer howls at passing sirens
Remembers the signal for car rides then
forgets her way

Sitting on the kitchen floor
Hand resting on her fur
Feeling the rattle in her rising breath
Noticing its shallowness
Smelling her age
A centenarian were she human
Companion loyal all the years
Her eyes speak
It's time.

(written for Ashleigh, my 16+ year old cocker spaniel. 1996)