Tag Archives: Poetry

(358)Christmas Eve, Lighthouse Beach



It’s all just water

this life

all aspects

coming, going

waves, ripples,

floods, waterfalls,

condensation, clouds,

humidity, dew, and frost.



Fort Myers Beach, a

phantom in the distance

a haze of buildings

blending to white

cloud sky.



On the ground

Healing in motion

comes up from the earth

through my spine

       to my mind and heart.

The waves sounds

constant and rhythmic,

coming through my

chest cavity

my ear cavity

       to my mind and heart.

The sun direct on me

warm, but not hot

drenching me in its

yellow goodness

       brightening my mind and heart.



How do I love

     that wave

Yes — the one

that happened

in the time it

      takes for a breath

     in and out.

How do I love it in

all of its white frothy

glory, saying to me,

I’m here,

I’m gone,

it was fun.

How do I love the next

wave, and the next?

Why is there so much to love?



(354)The Unspoken

42nd bday
My 42nd birthday, the last I would share with my father. I bought my first guitar about a month later.

Every Sunday I look forward to checking out the poem that is printed in the New York Times Magazine, because it often prompts a poem of my own.  I’ve gone several weeks now without being inspired, but then today I read a poem by Geffrey Davis called “What I Mean When I Say Chinook Salmon” (read it here) and I immediately wrote this poem:

What I Mean When I Say I Love Music

My father held the unspoken version

of how to be a musician. This is how we practice.

This is how we improvise when it’s our turn. He would

stand and play the solo and everyone would applaud.

We knew that sound already, having heard it after dinner,

over and over coming from his bedroom, his practice spot,


a memory of melodies, the tenor of the tenor saxophone,

as it revisits me at times, like at the end of Diana Krall’s version

of “Why Should I Care,” or at a Hall and Oates concert when the

sax player steps forward. I absorbed from my father the knowing

that to be a musician is to have music in your heart, it is collaboration

and occasional solos, it is standing on the shoulders of those who

came before and taught you all you need to know, and mostly


about not being distracted or displaced, but to know that the

only place the music truly resides is in you.


(350) Where the Light Shines Through

I took a lesson off the Writing Fix.com website that uses Run-DMC’s song “My Adidas” as a writing lesson on personification. My students have been writing poems based on the lesson. This morning I finally wrote mine to share at our Read Around Friday.


Where the Light Shines Through

I went looking for you on a rainy day, June

in North Carolina.

You were easy to find, perfect oval shape,

and deep color and graceful setting.

More than I ever dreamed.

You had a place in the back for the light to shine through,

for spiritual courage to find me.

My stone, my heart, my strength.


You have been with me, a partner,

through my many journeys.

After surgery, you were gently placed

back around my neck.

You held me through my father’s funeral.

You calmed me through our move from Ohio to Florida.

You were in every college class I took,

reflecting to me all I could be.

You encouraged me in those early days of my teaching career,

heart-wrenching and stressful and bewildering.

My stone, my heart, my strength.


Then November of 2014

I realized you were gone.

It was a time of anxiety and illness, and you went missing.

Hiding from me, unexpectedly.

I searched far and wide, asked around.

Yet somehow I knew, through the long months

you were gone, that you were still somehow nearby.

My stone, my heart, my strength.


I never doubted. I just didn’t

know when I’d see you again.


And then the magical day

You reappeared to my husband,

Who left you on the counter for me to find.

Joy filled me that day,

as you were mine again,

reunited to pursue more dreams together.

My heart.

My stone.

My strength.


(345) Recharge




Back to my Power Spot this morning, nestled in, 68 degrees and bright warm liquid sun. A few birds calling here and there — it’s a New Moon; I have come to ground myself in knowing I know the truth. To ground myself in trusting that truth.

Tall grasses sway

I turn my face to the sun.

Water still below


Allowing what is.

Oblivious to my thoughts,

two ducks troll by me.

P.S. It was a perfect day.

(340) Wood Stork

In the middle of the night a couple of evenings ago, I heard this line of poetry in my head:

There comes a time you leave a place…

I made myself get up and write it down because I knew I would forget.


wood stork
Photo via Sarah Kaizar’s blog, 2013

Yesterday morning on the way back from my music lesson, I saw a wood stork flying above the road over Harlem Heights. I felt there was a poem there. Ever since my workshop with Nick Flynn, I have been paying close attention to images that stay with me. This wood stork is one. Not only that, but my friend Laurie and I had a short conversation about wood storks yesterday.  Coincidence?  I don’t think so!

Today I combined these into a poem, which  includes a lyric from a song that naturally seemed to fit right in.

There comes a time

you leave a place

of knowing.

And instead

take time to just listen.


The energy swirling around you

has a purpose.

The wood stork wafts over the road

intent to fly against the draft,

and is pushed back.

Be one with the wind,

and let the spirit take you

where your heart wants to go.


(338) Teach to Reach

I had that moment yesterday

when I saw typically unengaged students

working together, writing, talking about their writing.

I want to teach to reach.

Had another meeting  where we were told

this is what you have to do,

and this as well.

All getting in the way of teaching to reach.

I sit here this morning, looking at all the have-to’s,

thinking about what could work,

watching the time shrink to

teach to reach.

And I come in here to write

nothing creative on my mind;

instead, my students — the ones who in a month

forgot what I had taught them before,

because I was following the mandates.

Over and over, we need time for the real work,

but what we get are demands for data-gathering

wrapped with the ribbon of “You’re a cohesive team, you can do this.”

And, “Thanks for doing what is best for kids.”

What is best?

Not these mandates.

What is best?

Teaching to reach.

(335) Step Lightly

Today I am inspired by what happened in my classroom yesterday and a poem that was on The Year of Being Here website called “Stepping Lightly” by Marilyn Peretti. The video below was suggested by a student in my first period block.

Nove 27 butterfly

Please step lightly

Your heavy foot has stomped

my tender green fragility.

It may be that

I am too heavy

I am too thin

that my feet are too big

that my forehead is too large

It may be a fact that

I am Haitian

I wear jeans every day

I fear speaking up for myself

How does that make me a lesser human being?

Step lightly, please

The name you just called me

(The one I can’t tell the teacher or she may write me up for profanity)

is beyond painful and mean.

How can you say “it’s just a joke”?

Why did you think that was okay?

Why did you think it was necessary?


Are you hurting…too?

(333) 18 Years Ago

Today is the anniversary of the day I opened up to a new adventure in my life.  It wouldn’t be until about a month later that I actually accepted the idea into my heart. November 29, 1997 still lives vibrantly in my mind. I wrote an essay about it in 2004 and it was published in a book called Sacred Waters in 2005.  Here is my essay to commemorate that day:


Under the Surface  (2004)

On a new moon Saturday in late November, the skies over northeastern Ohio were gray and the air had a chill.  I walked the trail through the woods near my home, a winding path through deciduous trees and pine forest.

I strolled along, kicking the leaves, taking in familiar sights and sounds. The trees were bare and the leaves were ankle-deep on the ground, pungent with the woodsy smell of rot as they returned to earth. In the distance, I heard the honking of wild geese as they migrated to a brighter place for the winter. I had only more gray days to look forward to, more cold, and probably plenty of snow.

At the end of the woods sat a lake surrounded by trees and picnic tables. My usual course was to walk right past the lake and straight to my car, drive home, and record in my journal what had transpired on my walk: usually a message from within, a creative thought, or a course of action I might want to take. On this Saturday, despite the cold, I found myself sauntering over to a table alongside the lake.

At age forty-two, I was beginning to feel the effects of midlife. The previous few years had been chaotic and demanding, and I now felt myself at a place where I could choose a new direction.

This was a solitary act if I ever knew one. I was certain I could figure it out, even though I had only a vague idea of what it might look like. I was convinced that whatever it was would come to me in a blinding flash, so I just had to wait for that moment. The wide expanse of lake reflecting the somber skies seemed to match the murkiness I felt about my own direction.

As I sat there, I watched six wild geese floating about randomly. They gathered together in a group and began to create a united voice, swimming from one lake edge to the other.

Listening to their calls, I was reminded of what poet Mary Oliver says about the sound of the wild geese — “harsh and exciting,” announcing their place in the family of things.

I felt a kind of communion with the geese as they toured the lake.  Once they reached the opposite edge, they turned around, again in unison, and it appeared they were going to swim back to where they came, like lap swimmers in a pool.

To my surprise, they suddenly took flight, in complete unison, the singing and calling continuing for several minutes afterward, as they flew toward new destinations, to warmer climates that would nourish them in the months to come.
I spent nearly an hour by Longwood Lake that day, coming to no conclusions about anything. Once home, I dutifully recorded my encounter with the geese, then promptly forgot about it as I got on with my day. I was a member of a local club and had some phone calls to make to members. One person I called, a friend named David, was home, and we got into a conversation on career matters.

“Helen, you should go back to school and become a teacher. You’d be so good,” he said.

I quickly denounced the idea as unworkable. After all, I had no college credits to my name, and with my current financial situation, the thought of attending college was completely outside the bounds of my imagination.

Yet, David’s suggestion didn’t leave me. For a month, I struggled with it, fought with myself over it, and loudly cursed him in the dark for mentioning it. Something under the surface was rising, something I could no longer deny.

One afternoon, desperate and alone, I found myself in my car, the heater running full blast, windshield wipers beating back wet snow, looking out across a frozen Longwood Lake. Snow lay on the surface and on the picnic table where I sat watching the geese just a few short weeks before.

I honestly don’t know what drew me to the lake — I don’t even remember deciding to go there. I shut off the car and made my way through the falling snow to a wooden fishing pier. I climbed the stairs slowly, methodically, marking my way in the snow.

I looked out across the white lake and thought about this thing bouncing around inside me, the long-held dream I never dared to dream: my desire to be a teacher. It was as if a thick layer of ice held it under the surface for more years than I care to recount.

With one swift stroke, David had broken through that ice. I had spent a lot of energy trying to fix the hole he made, instead of looking at what was seeping up to the surface. In a moment of surrender, with swirling snowflakes surrounding me, I softly said, “Yes.”
I live in Southwest Florida now. No wild geese visit me here. Instead, I am graced with great blue herons, snowy egrets, bald eagles, and common moorhens, all of whom come to the water for nourishment. Nearly seven years have passed since those days by Longwood Lake. Like the geese, I have found a warmer climate, a place that deeply nourishes my spirit. I have also found much more.

As I reflect on that November day in Ohio, I am convinced that mysterious forces were at work, causing a major change in my life. My time by the water created an opening, and along with the right words from a friend and a great deal of inner struggle, I found something that wasn’t lost, but was hiding.

I discovered this simple truth: finding one’s passion is a sacred act because it happens communally. No blinding revelations are required — just an open mind and a willingness to listen to that thing that calls to you from the depths.

This year I graduate from college with a bachelor’s degree, and I will begin teaching middle school. The lake on which I now live continues to teach me about the family of things, the life we don’t expect, the places at which we never thought we’d actually arrive.

Like the wild geese, we may seem to be floating randomly on the water of our lives. But our Calling calls to us, causing us to lift our wings and fly, singing in unison with others, beating our way toward our previously unimaginable dreams, and the pursuit of our fantastic passions.

(330) These Five



I saw These Five, creative and engaged, bringing out the True North in each other.

I saw them taking turns on the tightrope; the others a net below.

I saw the Roundtable of Solidarity that feeds and nourishes monthly.

I saw the Trail Brazin’ blog taking These Five to those dangerous woods, the places of discomfort and release.

I saw the Writing Marathons and Retreats, time in nature and extended conversations, wrapping a ribbon around their unity, re-establishing, reconnecting, transforming.

I saw the path to dreams coming true, higher purposes being realized, and stepping beyond the ordinariness of life, if even just for a micro moment, pen in hand.


This is another spin-off from the Sanibel Island Writing Conference.  I used a process from Nick Flynn’s book A Note Slipped Under the Door.  In fact, the poem by that title (by Charles Simic) is the mentor poem for this.

I first was inspired today by the Rumi poem on A Year of Being Here website.  I took one of the lines and thought I’d write from there.  I wrote this:

Thanksgiving carries us to the heart of the Beloved, and my writing friends have carried me to the heart of my writing soul.

But then I didn’t know anywhere else to go.

So I decided to find some images. The rest of this process is from Nick’s book. I used it this week with my 8th grades as their final exam for our One Book, One School novel with wonderful results.

The first step is to find the images and do little sketches:

image image

The next step is to “write long” about each image.  This is to get in deeper.  Then pull from there to create the poem.

Trail Brazin’ friends — my sister writers — Happy Thanksgiving from the depths of everything you have helped me to become over the last 30 months.  I am grateful for every moment we have spent together, and look forward to all that is to come because of our relationship. You have helped me find the joy my heart desired.