Today would have been my father’s 82nd birthday. He died almost twenty years ago from a sudden heart attack. Dad joined the Air Force after high school, although he always said he wanted to go into the Navy. I think he dreamed of being a naval pilot, but the closest he came to that dream was building Sikorsky helicopters during the height of the Vietnam war.
My father wasn’t a “reader,” although he knew a lot about history and did read nonfiction about World War II. Reading poetry definitely wasn’t on his list of favorite activities. But when he died, my sister found this poem, which we agree he would have loved, to read at his funeral.
by John Magee
Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of earth
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
Sunward I’ve climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth
Of sun-split clouds – and done a hundred things
You have not dreamed of – wheeled and soared and swung
High in the sunlit silence. Hov’ring there,
I’ve chased the shouting wind along, and flung
My eager craft through footless halls of air.
Up, up the long, delirious, burning blue
I’ve topped the wind-swept heights with easy grace
Where never lark, or even eagle flew –
And, while with silent lifting mind I’ve trod
The high untrespassed sanctity of space,
Put out my hand and touched the face of God.
To pray you open your whole self
To sky, to earth, to sun, to moon
To one whole voice that is you.
And know there is more
That you can’t see, can’t hear,
Can’t know except in moments
Steadily growing, and in languages
That aren’t always sound but other
Circles of motion.
Coincidentally, yesterday was American Eagle Day. This day commemorates the adoption of the Great Seal of the United States and its iconic bald eagle by the Second Continental Congress on June 20, 1782.
Please be sure to visit my friend Linda Mitchell at A Word Edgewise for the Poetry Friday Roundup!
Last weekend, I found a beautiful box turtle while I was out for a walk. She was on the edge of the road, headed for a busy intersection, so I walked along beside her, ready to help her if needed. She found her way without my help, but I enjoyed our time together. Of course she was an inspiration but I haven’t had much writing time this week, so I “found” a poem by gathering lines (with a few minor alterations) from poems about turtles by a few of my favorite poets.
The turtle hides Inside her bony dome; her mobile home She trusts that shell. She seems to relish solitude In a world of glimmering green: A turtle in July.
In order, these lines are from:
“The Turtle” in Flutter and Hum by Julie Paschkis “The Box Turtle” in Lizards, Frogs, and Polliwogs, by Douglas Florian “Desert Tortoise” by Byrd Baylor “Three T’s” by Mary Ann Hoberman “A Bale of Turtles” by me “Turtle in July” in Turtle in July by Marilyn Singer
During my search, I also came across “Meditations of a Tortoise” by E.V. Rieu.
MEDITATIONS OF A TORTOISE DOZING UNDER A ROSETREE NEAR A BEEHIVE AT NOON WHILE A DOG SCAMPERS ABOUT AND A CUCKOO CALLS FROM A DISTANT WOOD
So far as I can see
There is no one like me.
Please be on the lookout for turtles as you drive! Learn how to help them here. (Thank you, Margaret Simon!) Don’t forget to visit Michelle Kogan for the Poetry Friday Roundup.
I’ve been scouring my books and the web, searching for just the right poem to share today. I’ve shared many of my favorites previously, and I didn’t have a lot of time to write this week. As usual, though, inspiration came through at the last minute from Mary Lee Hahn, this week’s hostess for Poetry Friday and today’s Naomi Shihab Nye celebration. She directed me to Colby Sharp’s The Creativity Project, where Nye encouraged writers to “Write a list of ten things you are NOT (not an astronaut, a perfectionist, a wool spinner, a butterfly, a name-caller). Then pick your favorite lines and develop, or embellish, them, adding metaphors, more description, whatever you like.”
Here is a draft of my response:
I am not someone who speaks
the language of birds.
But at dawn, when they sing a tune
from the distant past,
their chirps and whistles ripple
into the silence
of the sleeping house,
reaching into my dreams,
recognition stirs inside me
and their melody carries
me into the day.
Last weekend I went to an estate sale and bought this bookcase for $10. What a deal, right? I didn’t even think twice. It clearly needed a little TLC, and as soon as I got it home, I got to work. As I was sanding, I realized a bookcase was the perfect topic for this month’s ditty challenge from Elizabeth Steinglass over at Michelle Barnes’s blog. My new bookcase needs another coat of paint before it will be ready to follow these instructions, but I know it will carry them out beautifully.
Instructions for a Bookcase
Stand up straight. Keep your shelves long and strong; Don’t let them sag! Hold each book in a gentle hug, Protect covers from fading, Prevent dust from settling on pages, Preserve words, ideas, stories. Welcome every reader; Generously share your treasures.
This year, our school has a single teacher for elementary science. He coordinates with classroom teachers, and has his own room where instruction takes place. For the past week or so, he has been incubating chicken eggs. The incubating process wasn’t too interesting, but all that changed when the eggs began to hatch. Everyone in the building has been visiting the newly hatched chicks. Of course I wrote a poem about them.
Bundles of damp down Tumble into the world, Cheeping and chirping. Chicks rise, stumble On brand new legs, Spindly and pink. They wobble back And forth, Unfold tiny wings Then fall flat, Worn out with effort. They rest, gather strength, Then rise again, Pause, find their Footing. Transformed into Puffs of smoky down, They scurry forward, Ready to greet the world.
Last weekend, I kept pinching myself to make sure I was awake and not in a blissful poetry dream. I was indeed awake and sitting at a table with Georgia Heard, Rebecca Kai Dotlich, Janet Wong, and several other amazing poets. Oh, did I mention this table was at Poet’s House in New York City? And that there was a stunning view of the Hudson River right outside the window? It’s all true, but I still have to keep pinching myself.
I can’t begin to share all the wisdom and advice that Rebecca, Georgia, and Janet shared, but here are a few pointers I found helpful and inspiring:
Let the image be your guide
Your memory is a poet-in-residence in your mind
Find wonder in everything you look at
Write about what takes your breath away
We drafted many poems. Most of mine aren’t ready to share, but this almost-haiku, inspired by the empty playground in Rockefeller Park, makes me happy.
on a rain-splashed day
puddles tromp through the playground
for their turn on the slide