IMG_4497 (1)

 

 

Fog

As I sit down to write,
a cat creeps in
and sits on my head.
She circles once,
before settling
on the hummock
of my brain,
tucks her head
beneath her feet
and purrs herself
to sleep.
I can’t think of anything
but fur.

 

Buffy Silverman and I are doing a month-long poetry swap. Every day we exchange poems and critiques. The accountability makes the process very motivating, as do the friendly and helpful replies. I feel very lucky to have such a wonderful partner. On the first day of the month, Buffy sent me a poem about fog (inspired by her gorgeous photographs) with the preface that she wished she’d written Carl Sandburg’s poem. Don’t we all? I thought, and how brave she is to write about fog when every time anyone sits down to write about it, that damn cat shows up and blocks the view. Did I mention that the swap is also inspirational?

Next Friday I’ll be at the SCBWI Conference in NYC. Will any of you be there too?

For more Poetry Friday, visit the Miss Rumphius Effect.

All the best,

Liz

IMG_4712

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

26°

Like a virus it crawls
along your skin
casting about for an easy
way in, like the holes
in your nose, which it finds
like a door you’ve oddly forgotten
and left unprotected.
It travels your length
on a highway of bones,
freezing your insides
down to your soul,
until all you can do
is shiver and moan
and retreat to the bed
you should never have left.

 

I’m heading to a soccer tournament today. Can you guess how I feel about the cold? I hope you’re keeping warm and don’t have 9 feet of snow outside your door.

For more Poetry Friday visit Becky Shillington at Tapestry of Words.

photo-309

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Pumpkin’s Plea

I sit on the stoop,
meditating and waiting.
I don’t know who I am
or which way I’m facing.

I hope you’ll come soon
with a sharp silver blade
to hacksaw my head
and muck out my brain.

I’m desperate for eyes
like sad gaping moons
or slightly tipped triangles
threatening doom.

I crave a bright smile
and maybe some teeth—
a couple that dangle
or a set to mince meat.

A nose might make sense,
centered and friendly,
though a smooth empty space
looks disturbing and deadly.

Come, bring your knife.
Don’t make me wait!
I’m scared that you’ll leave me
without any face.

Last year I wrote a poem about my strong desire not to carve my pumpkin. My pumpkin was so perfect, I couldn’t imagine changing it. This year as I sat down to write my annual Halloween poem, I wondered about my pumpkin’s point of view. I suddenly worried: what if my pumpkin had really wanted to be carved?!

© Elizabeth Steinglass, all rights reserved, 2014

photo-306

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Note to the Teacher

Dear Miss Sinclair,
I’m sorry
I made that loud farting noise
after you’d told me
to stop
three times already.
I’m sorry
I fell out of my chair
and everyone laughed
so hard
that Louis and Elijah
fell out of their chairs too.
I’m sorry
everyone stopped listening
to you
explain about our new
spelling words.
It’s just that I suck
at spelling
and I don’t understand why
an O makes
so many sounds.

 

This summer we realized that one of our kids has dyslexia. We just couldn’t understand why our bright boy was so stressed about school. Now we know. We didn’t realize he has dyslexia because he reads. That’s one of many common myths about dyslexia. Once we heard the news I started studying. I quickly realized our son had many common signs of dyslexia–shockingly poor spelling, a terrible time with handwriting, writing far below his abilities, and low self-esteem. If I’d known a little more, I could have saved our boy from years of feeling badly about himself. So today I want to share this poem, and I want to share this link to a list of a wide variety of symptoms. Please take a look. It’s worth knowing the signs.

For more Poetry Friday, visit Cathy at Merely Day by Day.

Cherry Tomato, take one

the pop of skin–

a rush of sweet and sour
to your tongue

like when you bite
your ripe lip

 

Cherry Tomato, take two

the bite of sudden thunder
a skyful of rain—
sweet relief
tinged with the sour end
of blue skies

 

I love growing cherry tomatoes. I buy small plants in May, transfer them to large patio pots, and water them every day. For this small amount of work, the pay-off is huge. We get bite-sized red and yellow tomatoes for months. They never even make it into the salad because we eat them straight from the vine.

Before I wrote these poems, I went out to the yard and harvested all the cherry tomatoes I could find. I put them in a bowl next to my computer. I ate them one at a time, thinking: how do I describe the experience of eating one? How do I put a taste into words? I tried a bunch of different metaphors, including the two above. In the second version, I kept going back and forth between skyful and mouthful. Which version of the poem do you prefer? Which word–skyful or mouthful?

I’m happy to be back this week. I’ve missed celebrating Poetry Friday with all of you. Life and parenting has been a little too complicated and time consuming lately for me to blog as much as I’d like. While I was away I had a thought about the poems I post here. I think they’re kind of like sketches–they aren’t first drafts and they aren’t fully fleshed out and polished poems. They’re like the doodles you might find in the margins of someone’s biology notes. I’m not saying whose.

For more Poetry Friday fun, visit Amy at The Poem Farm.

Did you notice my new look? It’s all thanks to Gabe Seiden at Connect4Consulting. Thanks, Gabe!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Inside, they faced off
like well-matched super heroes
landing blows
that shook the house
but did little
to slow one another.
Their words slammed
into walls, splintered
door ways, shattered
everything of value.
I took my china heart
and shut the door.
Outside, I climbed the oak
I was too old to climb.
I pressed my feet
against her solid trunk.
I grabbed her limbs
in my hands.
I pulled myself
into her lap.
I climbed higher
than I should.
I could hear the wind
singing to the birds.
I could hear the grass
whispering to the worms.
I could hear the leaves
breathe. I found
what I was looking for.
I tucked my stolen treasure
into a moss-lined nest
built by the earth.

© Elizabeth Steinglass, 2014, all rights reserved

photo-231

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Girl in the Catalog Speaks

Please, I beg you,
find some scissors
and set me free.
Release me
from this empty space,
this frozen moment.
Help me put down
the pink paisley cinch sack
I’ve had in my hand since
long before the season.
Let me have my own
edges. Cut carefully
around my limbs,
my fingers, the strands
of my fan-blown hair.
Once I’m out, please
don’t let me flop.
Give me some cardboard
backbone—a bit of box
will do. Paste it on.
Snip my feet. Slip a tab
into the slots and help me stand
on my own. I wouldn’t mind
some different clothes—
long jean shorts in lime or peach
a ruched knit tank in ultramarine,
or maybe a pine green taffeta skort.
I think you’ll find
they all come in my size.
How I long to drive around
in a shoe box of friends
from other pages,
other companies.
Perhaps we could pose
for a picnic on the lawn,
but please, I beg you,
don’t leave me
in the rain.

 

Lately I’ve been reading blog posts and internet essays about the tradition of making paper dolls. Girls (and boys?) used to wait for the new Sears catalog to arrive knowing that meant it was safe to cut up the old one. The girls would cut out figures, clothes, furniture, and household objects. They would paste them to cardboard and fold the bottom edge back so the pieces could stand. Some girls made box houses for their dolls. Others made cars out of shoeboxes. After the catalogs had been cut to shreds, they went to the outhouse for their third and final use.

For more Poetry Friday visit Anastasia Suen at Poet!Poet!

© Elizabeth Steinglass, 2014, all rights reserved

photo-220

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

eating the tree
before decorating it—
holiday traditions

 

sweet greenery—
wreaths welcome
to the tongue

 

decorated reindeer—
Rudolph’s nose
goes first

 

buttons
missing jackets—
gingerbread kids

 

ornaments
never meant for the tree
iced baubles

 

These haiku were inspired by Robyn Hood Black’s wonderful haiku series, “We Haiku Here,” and Laura’s delicious post at Author Amok last Friday in honor of National Cookie Day!

For more Poetry Friday, visit Tabatha Yeatts at The Opposite of Indifference.

Happy Holidays!

© Elizabeth Steinglass, 2013, all rights reserved.

IMG_4097

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Maple

She couldn’t bear to wear
that same green dress
another day. She was sick
of blending in, of posing
in the same plain uniform
as everyone else in the wood.
So, about a week ago, she showed up
orange. Her leaves sparkled
like the bells on a belly dancer’s belt.
She shimmied like she was on fire.
The whole place was shaking,
until yesterday, when the accordion
sneezed, the lute snapped a string
and all her sequins flopped.
Now there she is
standing naked in the cold.

© Elizabeth Steinglass, 2013, all rights reserved

For more Poetry Friday, visit Diane at Random Noodling.

Billy Collins at D.G. Wills Books, San Diego, Oct. 2008. (Wikimedia Commons)

Billy Collins at D.G. Wills Books, San Diego, on Oct. 20, 2008.
(Wikimedia Commons)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Billy Collins was a guest on the Diane Rehm show this week. It was, as always, a pleasure to hear his voice reading his poems and talking about poetry and life. The show also includes a very cute 3 year-old reciting one of Collins’ poems and a great idea for a dinner party.

Collins did say one thing I took exception to. He said he didn’t think you could teach the rhythm of language or metaphor.

Maybe you can’t teach the rhythm of language in an afternoon or even a semester, but what about over the course of many years? I think I learned about rhythm of language from taking my three kids to early childhood music classes over many, many years. I think I learned about the rhythm of language from reading them picture books and poetry over years and years. I also think I learned and relearn it from walking and feeling the rhythm in my body as I walk.

Metaphor too, I think can be taught. Maybe you can’t teach someone to be a genius, but surely you can help a writer move ahead from where they are. I think the first step is to teach writers to be alert to and reject the cliché. Encourage them to push on and find a new, fresh comparison. I find it helpful to make long lists of possible metaphors. The cliché’s seem to fill the beginning of the list, but then once I’ve gotten them out on paper, other ideas seem to come—brighter, fresher ideas.

Here’s a quick example, using perhaps the most clichéd object around.

Possible metaphors for the moon

A cookie
A cake
A bowl of milk
A cracker
A plate
A face
A bunny
A spoon
A medal
A coin
A balloon
A mirror
A marble
A ball
A baseball
A soccer ball
A saucer
A raindrop
A tear
An eye
A belly button
A button

I don’t think my ideas start to get interesting until pretty far down the list.

Here’s a quick draft, using tear.

Moonfall

The moon
slips down
the cheek
of night
drawing
sorrows
through
the dark.

There’s no time now but I think a second stanza about the sun might work.

 

What do you think? Can we teach the rhythm of language? Can we teach metaphor?

Would you like to give the list strategy a try and report back?

 

For more Poetry Friday, visit Irene Latham at Live Your Poem…

(c) Elizabeth Steinglass, 2013, all rights reserved