You sit by the door
Two old Labradors,
Two rabbits hunched in the grass
To hop after mama,
Happy to welcome
These foul, wandering feet,
Never complaining
You’re not the ones
To go out.
Circled in fur,
Two open sacks folded back,
Two manes without their lion heads,
Without their thoughts,
Without any idea
Where to go
Without me to say
Time for the kitchen,
Time for the office,
Time for bed.
So little do I think of you,
I’ve worn you
Out the door.
It was the feeling of something wrong
That made me notice
You’d gone too far.
I’ve flattened your fur,
Bored a hole in your toe,
But you never complain.
Happily you swish swish across the floor,
Singing a song
Of someone returned



I’ve been preparing to visit a middle school writing/drawing elective. Because some kids are writing and some are drawing, I thought I would bring some odes. My plan is to ask the kids to choose something in the room to draw or write about so they can really examine their chosen subject. I know that when I have my subject directly in front of me I can come up with ideas that would never occur to me if I were simply picturing it in my head. To prepare for my visit I’ve been reading Odes to Common Things by Pablo Neruda and because I’ll be working with kids I’ve also been reading Neighborhood Odes by Gary Soto. I’ve also been inspired by Laura Shovan’s lesson plans for odes.

I love my copy of Neruda’s Odes to Common Things. It has the original poems in Spanish on one side and the English translations by Ken Krabbenhoft on the other. It also has beautiful pencil drawings by Ferris Cook at the top of each page. Even the drawings make interesting pairs—a violin on one page and its case on the opposite, closed scissors on one page and open scissors on the opposite.

Here is the opening of Neruda’s “Ode to a pair of scissors:”


(looking like
birds, or
you are as polished as a knight’s
shining armor.

Two long and treacherous
crossed and bound together
for all time,
tiny rivers
thus was born a creature for cutting,
a fish that swims among billowing linens,
a bird that flies


Gary Soto also uses beautiful and surprising imagery in his odes. Here’s the beginning of his “Ode to Los Chicharrones” (fried pork rinds):


They are shaped
Like trumpets,
The blow of salt
On your lips
When you raise
One to your mouth.
The music is a crunch
On the back molars,
A hard crunch that
Flushes the ears
And tires the jaw.


One thing I hope to discuss with the kids is the language the poets use to describe the objects—how they look, sound, and even taste. I love the images of scissors as fish swimming among billowed linens and of chicharrones as salted trumpets. These images feel new and unfamiliar. One thing we can talk about is how to get past the old and familiar to discover the new.

I also hope we can talk about how odes are about familiar objects and something more. Neruda’s scissors cut fabric and hair, but they also cut happiness, sadness, and poetry. Soto’s chicarrones are so good, ants drop their breadcrumbs in hopes of a salty flake.

I’m looking forward to my visit and to hearing and seeing what the kids come up with.

For more Poetry Friday visit Sheri Doyle.



This isn’t a place
I want to go—
It’s where I’m put
Or sent
Before I’m ready,
When I’m too busy
To stop my game and say good-bye
To the day.
I’m scared when I’m here
With my ears hearing
All around me,
My thoughts thinking
What might be making
Those noises.
I pull my blue blanket,
My old blue blanket,
Up over my head,
Over Armadillo and One-Eyed Gorilla,
Little Blue Ostrich and Theo the Bear,
And there in our tent we tell stories,
Until our whispers



Whose woods these are I think I know,
Which is why I think I better go.


Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?
All I can say is you’re hotter than May.


Do not go gentle into that good night,
Scream and cry and beg for light.


How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
One for the nights. Two for the days.


Because I could not stop for Death—
He sent a snake to steal my breath.


Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary,
Beastly creatures sat beside me, hissed my verse, and left me teary.


I ask them to take a poem,
Ball ‘em up and throw ‘em.


The art of losing isn’t hard to master—
All you have to do is race someone faster.


Earlier this week J. Patrick Lewis posted a poetry challenge on David Harrison’s blog. The challenge was to write a “tailgater,” a couplet that begins with the first line of a famous poem and ends with an original second line, in the same meter, which puts a quick end to the poem. The form would appear to take its name from the metaphorical slamming of the back gate of the pick-up truck before any more words can get in. A number of us found the challenge both fun and addictive.

For more Poetry Friday, please visit A Teaching Life at

As you can see, I’ve moved to WordPress and reinstated the name my parents gave me. Thanks for following me over here and for bearing with me while I get used to my new home.

petits fours by Erica


The Sparrow at the Store

I saw a sparrow at the grocery store.
I offered to show him the way to the door.
“Thanks,” he said, “but there’s one thing more.
Do you know where they keep the petits four?”




The Secret of the Cat

What’s the secret
Of the domesticated cat?
She understands you perfectly,
But doesn’t care to chat.

Goodness, I’ve been grumpy. I hope it’s just the weather and the gray skies. I thought I’d use this week’s post to try to improve my mood. I got out my Ogden Nash poems. They always do the trick. Then I decided to write some of my own silly animal poems. I’ve posted yesterday’s work above. I hope it brings a little warmth to your winter.


For more Poetry Friday, go to Teaching Authors.

(c) 2013 Elizabeth Ehrenfest Steinglass, all rights reserved