Saturday, April 28, 2012

National Board exam this morning

I am caffeinating and convincing myself I haven't caught a cold. In about an hour I take my exam ("Assessment Center" to those in the inner sanctum of NBC jargon).

Really the most demanding part of my journey, the portfolio, is over.

Last night I was talking to my brother who lives far away, who I don't talk with very often. His response to my efforts was "What, a Masters isn't enough?" I had a hard time condensing down what this is and what it means to fit into casual conversation. I am famous for my wandering, slightly self-centered tangents, and so my explanation sounded generic, prepackaged, like American cheese slices. And I sadly ended up pretty much equating it with the stipend I will receive each year I'm certified.

The conversation made me realize the select few folks who will recognize what those initials represent if I earn the privilege of putting them after my name. NBCT.

Well, I'd better jump in the shower. I'm out of coffee and it's time to go.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Dark Matter NaPoWriMo Day 27

Dark Matter

Something about dark matter
possibly not existing
the possibility of a theoretical probability
being hypothetically improbable
something about the theories
we hold about each other
the theoretical possibility
what we do when
we connect
the dots the same thing people did
before the stars were dimmed
by billboards and casinos
connecting the dots
making pictures in their
minds which assumed
equal distances of the lights from
our eyes, us, the center of it all
the lights placed in the sky
to tell us stories.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Sky Above Clouds NaPoWriMo Day 26

Sky Above Clouds

blue skies... with clouds, of course
the blue must be ocean, reflecting
sky, there must be oceans
of blue refracted
in tiny convex prisms
light as air, one hemisphere
of haze-filtered universe
another the blue
of clear sky twice reflected
until all she saw were rows of white
interrupting the continuous sea
not the rows of farm furrows
but the same apparent order
imposed by the eye, escaping
into its own horizon
Ekphrasis in response to Sky Above Clouds IV by Georgia O'Keefe.  If I was a billionaire I would wake up to this painting each morning on one wall, and a wide cool beach outside my wall of windows.  Meanwhile, I could look at this painting all day, even if I do only own the postcard from the Chicago Art Institute.  My breathing relaxes when I do.


You know what?  I'm dedicating this poem to my mom.  I didn't have a chance to finish the kind of poem I wanted to write for her for her birthday, but I realized that I don't need to.  I can write her more poems... there doesn't have to be "the" poem for mom's birthday.  So no pressure!  I can write as many as I want, as short, tangential and idiosyncratic as I want.  My mother loves wide open spaces where she can contemplate.  She's never told me this; I just have a feeling.  My mother is also an artist who lives in the desert.  And my mother put me on my first airplane by myself at seven years old, and oh, the clouds.  The thrill and child's joy I experienced the first time I saw them from above I will never forget.  I'm right back there every time I fly.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Senryu on SSR (NaPoWriMo Day 23)

I gave my juniors some time for sustained silent reading... I took a few moments to write.  Senryu are similar to haiku but usually deal with human nature, and can be dark or satirical, often humorous.  I don't know a lot about them, but I'm learning and playing...  At any rate, it's informative to watch teenagers read for fifteen or twenty minutes.

sustained silent reading
chewing, holding in gas
licking fingers

she looks at words
traffic past a still pond
teeming beneath

The Shining, Night,
War of the Worlds
Human(e) inhumanity

Man’s human(e)
leaves on a spine

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Pho Failure

We must be allowed the freedom to fail, yes?  That's the adventure in life.

Recent pho cookery learnings:

Rule 1:  Don't try to make semi-vegetarian pho by making a homemade vegetable stock using a completely indiscriminate combination of vegetable scraps you've been stashing away in your freezer as your wise father has taught you to do as an exercise in both economy and deliciousness.

Leftover parings of fennel and asparagus might make delicious vegetable soup, but combined with the cinnamon, anise, cloves and ginger of pho broth, the combination is fairly weird...  kind of like artichoke flavored mulled cider.  Blech.  It can be overcome with lots of lime, herbs, and other goodies as garnishes, but not the best move. [p.s. using the whole spices was really fun for a change.]

Rule 2:  When your husband has two fingers on each hand, do him a favor and chop the garnishes smaller so he can scoop them up with a big soup spoon.

I personally enjoy the big sprigs of cilantro and using chopsticks to pick through the tangled mess of snappy bean sprouts, noodles and large torn leaves of basil, but it's not a sportsmanlike offering if my life partner has to pick up a spoon to sip the broth, and put that down and pick up a fork to get the goodies.  Too complicated.

Rule 3:  Make sure the noodles, tofu and cabbage/bok choy are warmed up before putting the broth on them.  Otherwise the broth is too cooled to wilt the herbs and everything is really crunchy.  Still good, but tougher.

Rule 4: If you put a couple of slices of jalapeno in your broth to lend spiciness, don't forget they're there and go to drink the rest of the broth out of the bowl and take them into your mouth thinking they're cabbage, then chew thoughtfully on them until you wonder why the roof of your mouth is going numb.  Especially if it's hot jalapeno season.

Rule 5: It's okay to serve fortune cookies even though pho is Vietnamese food.  But only if you explain to your children that they were invented in California in a Chinatown and we're just being silly.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Mom's Party

I'll add more later. Keep checking! Mom had a big birthday and we all painted mini watercolors for her. Love you Mom!

Friday, April 20, 2012

The End of April (Or, the middle of January)

The other day on my "O.P.P." blog (Other People's Poetry), I posted the poem "The End of April." Today I was reflecting on why that poem tore my own heart out.

Ten years ago this January, I was five months pregnant, teaching high school, and wearing maternity clothes. All my students knew I would be having my first child in May. I was seeing the midwives regularly, and was hoping to try for a birth center birth (instead of the hospital). I still remember when I discovered I was pregnant. A couple of weeks after September 11, 2001, I was coming home after school each day exhausted. I kept thinking to myself, "What's wrong with me? Wow, these terrorist attacks must have really affected me more than I thought." Well, right after my birthday I took a test and realized why I had been feeling so sleepy.

In mid-January, my husband and I went for the five-month sonogram. So far I had had a healthy pregnancy and hadn't had any problems besides staying awake at 4 in the afternoon. His mother had wanted to accompany us, fascinated as she is by any kind of medical procedure, but we had refused. This was our first baby and we wanted to share these times just the two of us. I lay in the dark on the examination table, and Rich sat beside me. The technician placed cold jelly on my belly, and then the ultrasound, slid it around looking here and there, we heard the heartbeat and saw the heart beating, and very soon with the technician's guidance we could recognize on the screen in front of us limbs, a spine, hands and feet... the head. "It looks like ET!" I said lightly. The technician was somewhat quiet, and searched around some more. Then asked us to wait a moment while she went and found the doctor.

Rich and I wondered if anything could be wrong. I think we sensed something was wrong. A thousand years later the doctor entered what suddenly felt like a very claustrophobic dark space. I don't even remember whether the doc was a man or woman, but he/she showed us the baby's torso, spinal cord and head again, and showed us that the top of the head was not shaped correctly, that it should be rounded.

The baby had no top of his skull. He had a condition called anencephaly, which means that part of the spinal cord does not close up at all. No skull would form around the crown of his head, which meant the baby was, according to the doctor "100% incompatible with life." He/she said that this was a certainty-- there was no guesswork about whether the baby might live outside of the womb, only guesswork about whether the baby would go full term... what decision we should make next... the knowledge that the wriggling life inside me was... well, there is so much that I've written about this, finally, ten years later. It's only been in the last year I could bring myself to do it. My feelings seemed so maudlin (because they are), too maudlin for good poetry. I'm trying, though. But I'm very uncertain about sharing it here.

The rest of that story, at least right now in my life, is not for this blog. However, when I read "The End of April" those little wings, for the thousandth time, tore me apart. Such a sad poem for a springtime poem. In the poem, I imagine that the baby bird has simply grown out of its shell and left the nest, but the missing crown of the shell... ouch.

More O.P.P. (Yeah...

... you know me.)  One of my own again soon.

Kind of a depressing poem for a Friday, but I really like the structure, the cleverness of the moves.  I'm just learning about ghazals, and they are a fascinating form.  Maybe I'll create a ghazal blog entry soon.  I tried writing one, realized I'd done it wrong but of course am really attached to the poem I wrote after heavy revision... writing in forms is challenging, motivating, educative.  It's not something I feel compelled to do all the time by any means.  Each poem finds its own form most of the time.  But each time I learn more about a new form and attempt it, I learn more about writing.  Anyway...

Ghazal of the Better-Unbegun by Heather McHugh

       A book is a suicide postponed.

Too volatile, am I? too voluble? too much a word-person?
I blame the soup: I'm a primordially
stirred person.

Two pronouns and a vehicle was Icarus with wings.
The apparatus of his selves made an ab-
surd person.

The sound I make is sympathy's: sad dogs are tied afar.
But howling I become an ever more un-
heard person.

I need a hundred more of you to make a likelihood.
The mirror's not convincing-- that at-best in-
ferred person.

As time's revealing gets revolting, I start looking out.
Look in and what you see is one unholy
blurred person.

The only cure for birth one doesn't love to contemplate.
Better to be an unsung song, an unoc-
curred person.

McHugh, you'll be the death of me -- each self and second studied!
Addressing you like this, I'm halfway to the
third person.

I found the above poem on the Poetry Foundation website.  And here's another I just heard read by Natasha Trethewey on the Diane Rehm show.  They did not mention that it is a ghazal, but the form is so recognizable...


Tuesday, April 17, 2012


You and your dirty minds.  Other People's Poetry.  My last blog entry featured a poem by Robert Bly.  Although I have friends who regularly share O.P.P. on their blogs, I haven't really done that.  I prefer to use this as a space to share my own work.  For some weird reason, it's motivating, and I write when I otherwise might not.  It's actually led to a lot of writing that doesn't end up on the blog as well, which is great.

Anyway, here's a little O.P.P. to help you get through the day.  It is National Poetry Month, after all.

The Origin of Order   By Pattiann Rogers

Stellar dust has settled.
It is green underwater now in the leaves
Of the yellow crowfoot. Its vacancies are gathered together
Under pine litter as emerging flower of the pink arbutus.
It has gained the power to make itself again
In the bone-filled egg of osprey and teal.

One could say this toothpick grasshopper
Is a cloud of decayed nebula congealed and perching
On his female mating. The tortoise beetle,
Leaving the stripped veins of morning glory vines
Like licked bones, is a straw-colored swirl
Of clever gases.

At this moment there are dead stars seeing
Themselves as marsh and forest in the eyes
Of muskrat and shrew, disintegrated suns
Making songs all night long in the throats
Of crawfish frogs, in the rubbings and gratings
Of the red-legged locust. There are spirits of orbiting
Rock in the shells of pointed winkles

And apple snails, ghosts of extinct comets caught
In the leap of darting hare and bobcat, revolutions
Of rushing stone contained in the sound of these words.

The paths of the Pleiades and Coma clusters
Have been compelled to mathematics by the mind
Contemplating the nature of itself
In the motions of stars. The patterns
Of any starry summer night might be identical
To the summer heavens circling inside the skull.
I can feel time speeding now in all directions
Deeper and deeper into the black oblivion
Of the electrons directly behind my eyes.

Flesh of the sky, child of the sky, the mind
Has been obligated from the beginning
To create an ordered universe
As the only possible proof of its own inheritance.

Pattiann Rogers, “The Origin of Order” from Firekeeper: Selected Poems. Copyright © 2003 by Pattiann Rogers. Source: Poetry (December 1982).

End of April  by Phillis Levin

Under a cherry tree
I found a robin’s egg,
broken, but not shattered.

I had been thinking of you,
and was kneeling in the grass
among fallen blossoms

when I saw it: a blue scrap,
a delicate toy, as light
as confetti

It didn’t seem real,
but nature will do such things
from time to time.

I looked inside:
it was glistening, hollow,
a perfect shell

except for the missing crown,
which made it possible
to look inside.

What had been there
is gone now
and lives in my heart

where, periodically,
it opens up its wings,
tearing me apart.

from The Afterimage, 1996
Copper Beech Press, Providence, RI
Copyright 1996 by Phillis Levin. All rights reserved.

Did I Miss Anything?   byTom Wayman

Nothing. When we realized you weren’t here
we sat with our hands folded on our desks
in silence, for the full two hours

   Everything. I gave an exam worth
   40 percent of the grade for this term
   and assigned some reading due today
   on which I’m about to hand out a quiz
   worth 50 percent

Nothing. None of the content of this course
has value or meaning
Take as many days off as you like:
any activities we undertake as a class
I assure you will not matter either to you or me
and are without purpose

   Everything. A few minutes after we began last time
   a shaft of light suddenly descended and an angel
   or other heavenly being appeared
   and revealed to us what each woman or man must do
   to attain divine wisdom in this life and
   the hereafter
   This is the last time the class will meet
   before we disperse to bring the good news to all people
   on earth.

Nothing. When you are not present
how could something significant occur?

   Everything. Contained in this classroom
   is a microcosm of human experience
   assembled for you to query and examine and ponder
   This is not the only place such an opportunity has been

but it was one place

And you weren’t here

From Did I Miss Anything? Selected Poems 1973-1993, 1993. Harbour Publishing   Copyright 1993 Tom Wayman.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Blarghety Blog.

A blog to warm up my foggy brain for a few minutes... then back to work.

I just made the mistake of choosing a new template for my blog... while using a browser that is "no longer supported by Google," whatever that means.  Our district refuses to upgrade to the new Internet Explorer or to allow us to load a different browser on my school laptop, so here I am. My blog was not very beautiful, but now I'm not even sure what it looks like because my computer won't display the template properly.  The technology gap.  I face it each day... don't even get me started.  I'll reformat this page when I get on a computer where I can see what I have wrought.

Here's something I've read before, probably forwarded around on the internet bajillions of times, and though cliche, and in some cases philosophically unsupportable, the attitudes reflect what we must do to continue teaching each day and not lose our minds.  There is an element of faith to teaching that is unavoidable... we must believe even in the face of the pain of failure, in the possibility of success.  If our failures as teachers have such strong impact on student lives, then surely our successes have impact.  Teaching requires extending ourselves, and extending ourselves daily inevitably results in a multitude of failures and backlashes, but also in a multitude of successes.  Many of these successes are visible; however, many are invisible.  A teacher must be schooled in the discipline of accepting delayed gratification... or no gratification.  The gratification may come from remembering the impact of teachers that we had as young people, teachers we abused in our adolescent narcissism, and who still sent us wedding gifts.  And whom we loved, despite ourselves.  These memories of our own flailing teenagerhood reassure us that in the end, doing the best we can do is at least sometimes good enough, though nobody may understand how for years to come. And so, the cliched, over-forwarded...

People are illogical, unreasonable, and self-centered.
Love them anyway.

If you do good, people will accuse you of selfish ulterior motives.
Do good anyway.

If you are successful, you will win false friends and true enemies.
Succeed anyway.

The good you do today will be forgotten tomorrow.
Do good anyway.

Honesty and frankness make you vulnerable.
Be honest and frank anyway.

The biggest men and women with the biggest ideas can be shot down by the smallest men and women with the smallest minds.
Think big anyway.

People favor underdogs but follow only top dogs.
Fight for a few underdogs anyway.

What you spend years building may be destroyed overnight.
Build anyway.

People really need help but may attack you if you do help them.
Help people anyway.

Give the world the best you have and you'll get kicked in the teeth.
Give the world the best you have anyway.

- Dr. Kent M. Keith or Mother Theresa, depending on which source you believe... any others?

Also, I just remembered this great little poem from Robert Bly.  I love how creepy it is, in a way, yet what a fitting metaphor in so many ways, a metaphor that sneaks up on you a little.  I love the last word... the stillness of possibility, of the unknown, the world on one's own:

Gratitude to Old Teachers

When we stride or stroll across the frozen lake,
We place our feet where they have never been.
We walk upon the unwalked. But we are uneasy.
Who is down there but our old teachers?

Water that once could take no human weight--
We were students then--holds up our feet,
And goes on ahead of us for a mile.
Beneath us the teachers, and around us the stillness.

from Eating the Honey of Words, 1999
HarperCollins Publishers, New York, NY
Copyright 1999 by Robert Bly.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

More Facial Injuries per Capita

... Caused by overexertion of facial muscles at Dave and Busters than other American pastimes

Starbucks in Hot Water

Wow-- bottled water is one thing but now Starbucks has branded carafes of hot water at conference centers? I needed a laugh.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Fennel Orange Celery Salad Recipe

Fennel Orange Celery Salad (wish I had a decent camera.)
1 large bulb fennel, very thinly sliced against the grain.
4-5 stalks of celery, very thinly sliced on the bias
two navel oranges, supremed (cut off ends, cut off peel and white pith with your knife by working your way around the outside of the orange, hold the orange in your hand and carefully slice out the natural wedges leaving behind the membrane).
1 small/medium lemon
1-2 tsp. honey
1-2 tbsp. olive oil

Combine the veggies and orange supremes in a larger bowl.  Use your clean hands to squeeze the leftover orange membranes for all they're worth into a small bowl.  Add also the juice of one lemon (or to taste).  Add honey, salt and pepper to taste. Drizzle olive oil in while whisking.  Go light on the olive oil or the dressing is too heavy.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

I'm no Georgia O'Keefe

...but this is fun and not bad, really, considering I'm using L's "Kid Paint" and Rose Art plastic brushes. More sick days, please, but without the illness. Come on, summer!

Monday, April 9, 2012

NaPoWriMo Day 9 Bone China

bone china

more brittle than bone
more permanent

the heavy crystal stemware
she tries to stem
the tears
she’s tired

baby’s bones bend
they sway
and give
or die
and burn

but hers are porous
they absorb
they filter
sometimes the wrong things
stay behind
sometimes the right
she can’t tell which
after the lead crystal
smashes, her ankles
splashed with red wine
then she is confused
she is sure
she is certain

she is lost

she is bone
she is sponge
she is wine
she is shards
distorted light
passed through
the incandescent
moon glow
of a bone china
bread plate
not orbiting
not reflecting
only half-opaque
the light glowing
through her where
she can’t see it
but the one
holding her
up to the bulb
over the sink can

hold her
hold her tight
dry her delicately
place her in a gentle
cabinet out
of the light

Recommended Reading List from Poet Colleague Christopher Nelson

Chris and I used to teach together at Catalina Foothills High School.  His passion for poetry sparked many young minds there.  He took time off to pursue his MFA, and is currently teaching at University High School in TUSD.

I'm happy to get my hands on this list:
Christopher Nelson's Recommended Readings

And while you're at it, check out his impressive blog, including interviews with many contemporary poets:
Under a Warm Green Linden

His web presence is so much more focused than mine...  :)

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Friday, April 6, 2012

NaPoWriMo Day 6 The Drunk Rails

This seems like it could be expanded, especially if I get a copy of Eduardo Corral's poetry collection.

The drunken tirades
on the porch of Starbucks
turn our heads

he rails through
the poetry reading 
over to the west
just round the corner

we turn our heads away
from the feature
to make out the words
of the freakshow
a chorus to the culture on stage
reminding us
to contribute to the cause
and save what we can.

P.S. Is tirade a verb?  I need to look that up. 
P.P.S.  Okay, I looked it up.  Not a verb.  Revisions made.

Hiking Sycamore Dam Trail with the Kiddos & Friend & Friend.

My Blackberry camera really stinks and our real camera is broken.  I wish these were a bit better, but at least they capture the day a bit.

Desert Mariposa Lily... possibly my new favorite wildflower.  Wow! The bloom was over 2" in diameter. 
The downhill side toward Sycamore Dam.  It was very dry (you can see).

Terrible shot of a beautiful blue dick with a ladybug crawling around.

Froggie friend scampering vertically up a boulder, near the dam.

Kids at the dam.  Awesome hikers!

Right before snack time-- they look pleased.

Goofy shot of me and Heather.  I think I was saying something.
Hiking back up toward the Arizona Trail marker.  Still lots of fire damage-- very sun-exposed.  Is that from 2005?

L. posing.  So demure.  Tougher than she looks.  She was a great hiker!

L. shows me her strawberry she's eating.  Thanks!

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Mmmkay. NaPoWriMo Day 5


Below is a watery
grave for two fish
dissolving in the
water plants,
two inches
of pebble hell
and a hungry snail
who slurps up
the decomposure
of the goldfish

In the middle is an earthy filter
helped by paper towels
to drain the remains of
what is above.

Above is a cricket
leaves of beleaguered
grass, bark shreds,
sticks and moisty
soil, a dead cricket
and a live one.

Above them a heaven
of sliced and inverted
polyethylene, its
bulbous underside
dripping with condensation
stealing the sun’s rays
and trapping them
to feed sparse spikes
of grass below,
what is left from a plague
of two crickets
ecologically determined
to be just one,
the other moldering
in a corner of the cylinder
with a bit of apple
thrown in by a child.

There are no clouds in heaven.
And this world’s god is deemed proficient
and sent onward and upward.

This is my first April poem here, third in my collection for the month, so I'm only two poems behind.  I'm not sure if it has much more potential, but what matters is keeping on going, right?

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Dangit! NaPoWriMo time again

Already April 4 and I haven't written any poems this month.

I have decided that this year, in order to give myself more freedom, I will not put all my poems on my blog right away like I did last year.  That way, if they're terrible, embarrassing, frightening, silly, fictional or just plain weird I don't have to worry.  I just won't post the ones that are not for all the world to see. 

So... hmm... where to start?  Stay tuned...