Ode to Blue Skies

You slap me in the face

like a bucket of ice water on the fifty yard line.

I wake from my stupor

to spot seagulls swirling above my mother’s head,

corn chips drawing them closer and closer,

their shapes softly silhouetted in your sapphire sky.

A cup is gripped tightly by an admirer

in the distance.

Time stops.

Then, a black crow lands and

the cobalt fades to powder and salmon.

Lingering here,

I understand,

but only briefly.

A chill wind brushes against my cheek

and you’re gone.

Mother

Slice of Life 2020: Day 27

My creative writing students begin the study of writing by looking at Langston Hughes’ poem, “Negro.” It is a powerful poem with a powerful message about overcoming obstacles, growing strong in the face of adversity, and being comfortable in one’s own skin. We look at how the poet uses repetition, punctuation, allusion, metaphor, and place to establish the tone and theme of this piece.

Then, I ask each student to write a poem in this same style. Each student becomes the speaker, “I am…”

Everybody comes from somewhere and each of us has a unique reference point from our histories that guides, to some extent, where we are going. This is one of their favorite writing exercises each year.

I always share my poem, from the perspective of a mom who is now comfortable with that role and how it has shaped my life for years.

Mother

I am a mother:
distinctive in the products I make,
traditional in the methods I use.

I’ve made children:
my brush has combed five heads,
my face has carried the wrinkles of many sleepless nights.

I’ve made food:
my stove has rocked five burners,
my breasts have nourished five mouths.

I’ve made beauty:
my hands have braided locks of hair,
my mouth has delivered devoted direction.


I’ve made a home:
I’ve clothed my inhabitants with love,
my paycheck is made from smiles.

I am a mother:
distinctive in the products I make,
traditional in the methods I use.

Once the students see and understand the structure, they are usually very excited to begin.

Here is a link to Hughes’ poem: http://amandafa.blogspot.com/2007/12/negro-by-langston-hughes.html

Searching For a Clearing

Rain trills down my window pain

like a scoop of ice cream in the hand

of a three year old on a hot August day.

Clear drops gather on grey branches

as kindergartners do in lunch lines.

Dinosaurs drool in the moist, crisp air.

Dreams are puddles mixed with mud.

Mud encrusts the soles of boots and basements.

Days become weeks.

Weeks become years peering,

searching

through clouded mind and flooded streets

for a clearing.

fierce dinosaur in the snow