If the cat’s a stranger

Begin by bowing low.
Extend a single paw,
Respectfully and slow.
Allow the cat a sniff
And a turn in the sun,
So she can be the judge
Of all that you have done.
If she lies before you,
You may stroke her fur.
But do not be confused.
She is still superior.
If she slips away,
Like a silent wisp of fog,
Do not try to follow.  
Go and find a dog.

© 2012 Elizabeth Ehrenfest Steinglass, all rights reserved

An Army of Daffodils

Masses of daffodils have taken the hill.
On high they stand in search of enemies.
Whom do they imagine has the will
To move them? Tulips? Hyacinth? Pansies!
And whom on earth do they think they defend?
The house is Tudor, the oaks look fine.
Of course the forsythia count as friend.
They wear the same color, guard the same line.
I pause in the garden across the street,
Unafraid my motives will be mistaken.
Noting the crocuses fallen by my feet,
I open my notebook, raise my pen.
No match for the glaring army before me,
I take a flailing shot, give up, and flee.

© 2012 Elizabeth Ehrenfest Steinglass, all rights reserved

It’s not always easy
To tell whether something is
Alive. Your teacher will give you
A wind-up toy. Observe.
Bring a slice of lemon
To your mouth. Describe.
The mildew in your bathroom
Will grow. Experiment.
Flies do not arise from
Rotting meat. Consider barnacles.
Obtain your teacher’s permission.

© 2012 Elizabeth Ehrenfest Steinglass, all rights reserved

Last week Laura’s posts and original poetry at Author Amok inspired me to look at found poetry again. http://authoramok.blogspot.com/2012/03/poetry-friday-celebrity-found-poems.html This time with a lot more interest. I started looking around the internet and discovered some amazing found poetry written by students all over the country in response to the New York Times Found Poetry Challenge. http://learning.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/04/22/reflections-on-our-found-poem-challenge/  Of course I had to try. My first attempts were awful. Finding a poem is a lot harder than it might seem. Then I got out my son’s eight grade biology text book. Aha. I think I found something.

Be brave
Be first
Burst out of the ground
Before anyone expects you
Catch the light
Stop people
Make them notice
Pretend its warm
Pretend you’re tall
Pretend spring is the only season
Bow out
Give the others a turn
Dissolve into tissue paper

Come back

© 2012 Elizabeth Ehrenfest Steinglass, all rights reserved

At Wild Rose Reader (http://wildrosereader.blogspot.com/) Elaine Magliaro has a wonderful poem, “Things to Do If You Are a Grandfather Clock: An Original List Poem.” Before reading her poem, I had always thought of list poems as lists of items, like a list of groceries or a list of things in a pocket. Elaine’s poem expanded my horizons and inspired today’s poem.

Darling, for you!

I’ve built this nest.

For you, my starling,

Deserve the best.

I started with mud

To mortar the sticks

To make it strong

Like a house of bricks.

I’ve shaped it round

To comfort your end

As you sit and sit and

Our chicks you tend.

To soften your seat,

I’ve lined it with fur

From our neighbor the cat

With the deafening purr.

But that’s not all.

For you, there’s more.

I’ve added front steps

And a solid oak door.

I’ve found blue ribbons.

And woven them in

To match the feathers

Beneath your chin.

Darling, for you,

I’ve built this nest.

I hope you’ll agree

It’s by far the best.

© 2012 Elizabeth Ehrenfest Steinglass, all rights reserved

Feet go thumping
To the heart’s strong drumming.
I make my own beat when I go



all the time.
I am growing like
a vine. I am climbing to the
space above the house, the ground, the clouds, and even you.

© 2012 Elizabeth Ehrenfest Steinglass, all rights reserved

Today I have two additional forms that follow specific syllable patterns. Both were invented in the US. I wonder if that makes them more suitable to English somehow. The first is a cinquain which was invented by Adelaide Crapsey in the early 20th century. The syllable pattern is two, four, six, eight, two. Sometimes the first and last lines are the same; sometimes they are not. The second is a Fibonnaci poem which means that the number of syllables in the lines of the poem follow the sequence of Fibonnaci numbers: 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, etc. Do you see the pattern? You add two numbers in sequence to get the next one. Fibonnaci numbers describe the spirals in many things from the natural world, like pine cones, flowers, and nautilus shells. I wrote this in response to the Tuesday Poetry Stretch at the blog The Miss Rumphius Effect. There’s also a great video about the Fibonnaci sequence on the blog.


she says to copy

the night’s assignment

in my diary

a girl flies off

the point of my pencil

she says to read

the next twenty-eight pages

in the book

he tips on the edge between

tables in the lunchroom

leaving the orbit

of desks, white boards, and coat hooks,

he waves, explaining

black holes are extremely dark

but you can still survive them

raindrops spot the glass
with tiny gray-skied planets
one by one they fall
my outdoor voice is too big
for recess in the lunchroom
© 2012 Elizabeth Ehrenfest Steinglass, all rights reserved
I’ve spent the week exploring tanka. I’m drawn to the idea of two resonating images. I think perhaps tanka lend themselves to expressing some of the dilemmas of being a kid in a grown-up world.

I think it might be fun to do a tanka activity in a class of older elementary or middle school students. I can imagine giving everyone the same first three lines (maybe the first three of the last tanka above) and asking the kids to write the last two. It would be so interesting to see what everyone came up with.