winter morning
walking to school we see
our words

a sudden accumulation
at the window

winter storm warning:
ninety percent chance
of freedom!

I’ve been drawn to haiku again this week. It’s like standing by the door frame in the kitchen to be measured. Maybe if I go back to the same place, I’ll be able to see how much I’ve grown. This time I’ve been thinking about the challenge of writing haiku that are both surprising and meaningful. Sometimes I come up with interesting images and words, but even I’m not sure what they add up to. Other times, the meaning is too clear and too familiar. The trick is to set up fresh images that give the reader an experience of unfolding understanding. And, as always, there’s the question of audience: will these images, these words, these meanings speak to kids?

For more Poetry Friday go to Tabatha Yeatts at The Opposite of Indifference.

(c) 2013 Elizabeth Ehrenfest Steinglass, all rights reserved

Dear Teacher,
Please, never
The red
Of stop and blood.
How about blue?
The color of endless skies…
Be sure to write
So I can read.
Read so I can write
Better the next time.
Tell me,
How did I do? Not
Did I do
What I was supposed to do. Not
Did I write
Your point of view.
What effect did my words have on
You? Did I
Amuse? Did I
Confuse? Did I
Persuade you to think another way or lose you
When I took a sudden
Turn? Show me where
I went right
So I know
To do it again.
Yes, I want to spell and punctuate
But not until
My story’s straight.
Remember, I’m learning.
Remember, this is hard.
Ask yourself
How would you like me
To grade you?


Last Friday, Tara at A Teaching Life wrote about the devastating effects that unsupportive comments and grades can have on young writers. I was really touched by the crumpled student paper she found on the floor. Only days before, my son had brought home a paper with a confusing grade and comments he needed help to decipher. I did appreciate that the comments supplemented the circled numbers on a rubric. I can see the advantages of rubrics, but even as a parent (and not the actual writer) they seem unsatisfying, and a very different approach to student writing than I was taught when I went to graduate school years ago. All of this mixed together inspired the poem above.

For more Poetry Friday, visit Violet Nesdoly.

(c) 2013 Elizabeth Ehrenfest Steinglass, all rights reserved

Photo: Jerome Liebling, Mt. Holyoke Art Museum

Your dress hangs
At the top of the stair
A ghost
Without a soul
So we can compare
Your pleats and stitches
To the dress of the day
With its bunches and bulges
And know your every day
Was your own


In the next room
The docent locks the door
With an imaginary key,
“Ah, Maddie—“
She recites,
“Freedom is here!”
Then she points
To the bare table,
The made bed,
The empty basket,
The Franklin stove
Pulled from the wall.


Making my excuses,
I slip
Through the door and stare
At the place
Where you aren’t
I want to grab
Your gown
Run to the garden
Let it fly—
But in my mind
I find it
Hooked on a branch
Floating, going
I stuff my ticket stub and the nub
Of an old pencil
In your pocket
Before going


In December while visiting friends in Amherst, I went on a tour of the Emily Dickinson Museum. Our guide was lovely and incorporated Dickinson’s poetry into her description of the home and Dickinson’s life and times. The contrast between the living woman and the lifeless house was disconcerting, yet it seemed somehow resonant with the poet’s feelings of being most free within the confines of her home, her room, her words.
If you’re ever in Amherst, I highly recommend the Museum and the tour.


For more Poetry Friday, visit Renee at No Water River.

(c) 2013 Elizabeth Ehrenfest Steinglass, all rights reserved

All day long
He hides
From view,
In the darkness
Under beds,
In the corners
Children dread.
Then at night
He skims
The walls,
The shadow
Of a cat
Long gone.

Three of the best things about visiting Grandma are her two large dogs and her cat, Houdini. Unfortunately, Houdini doesn’t seem to enjoy our visits. He hides day and night, so seeing him is a special treat.

For more Poetry Friday visit Matt at Radio, Rhythm & Rhyme.

(c) 2013 Elizabeth Ehrenfest Steinglass, all rights reserved