Writer’s Digest Wednesday Poetry Prompt #501: (Body of Water)

Water

Bathtub Blues

Beach toys like islands floating belly-up
in dissipating lavender bubbles,

littered with orange string
pulled from ratty washcloths;
clumps of toilet paper like flotsam,
cloudy, with a chance of clogging,
vaguely resembling oysters,

contaminate the soapy water.
Wet floor, dirty bath, clean shower.

Wednesday Poetry Prompts: 501

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#Micropoetry Monday: Hymns of Motherhood

Mother and child

Like the shadow of the blind,
she was with me 90 days
without my knowing—
the closest thing to God some people would
ever know.
I was her second set of footprints,
for it was I
who carried her.

She didn’t know if her daughter understood all the words,
but she read them anyway.
She didn’t know if her daughter would remember
all those early trips to the park & the beach
& every other space that screamed barefoot fun,
but she took her anyway.
She didn’t know if her daughter always heard her say,
“I love you,” after she’d fallen asleep to a lullaby,
but she said it anyway.
For it was a mom’s instinct
to do good by & for their children,
not always knowing
the good it did.

“Breast is best,” they said,
but the best could not express itself.
She pumped herself sore,
for she feared for her child’s I.Q.,
her health,
& everything they said her magic milk
was supposed to do.

#Micropoetry Monday: Reinvention

Spring Break 2017
When she went from a little black dress
to a big white dress
(or off-white, to keep it real),
she’d thought her life had been put on hold,
but she would come to learn
that love was not a barrier,
for the more,
the merrier.

Her life was in a rut,
so she began to turn left instead of right,
jumped up instead of forward,
writing vertically & counting backward.
She looked at people & away from things—
behind & beside them,
as well as directly.
Her perspective of the world changed
from changing her position in it,
& she learned that part of life was knowing
where to put the period &
where to put the ellipsis.

She’d traded in 3 jobs for 1,
the status of student for graduate,
the role of homemaker to bacon bringer.
She didn’t have it all,
but she had more than enough,
& what she didn’t have,
she gave to herself
in the stories she wrote.

#Fiction Friday: #Micropoetry from the Book

mormoni

Children were like little Christs,
for every spirit child of God the Father
that was brought into the world
brought their parents
one little footstep closer to heaven.
It was one thing to accept the Mormon gospel
for oneself–
that was regular interest–
but to duplicate oneself through procreation–
that was compound interest.

Caitlin would’ve been fascinated by the seance–
she, who’d always wanted to witness an exorcism,
but this, this was religious fanaticism,
or what she would call crucifixation–
an obsession with Jesus & His gruesome death.

David never tended our gardens,
& so everything grew a bit wild—
like the Hanging Gardens of Babylon.
Our careworn home showed signs of neglect,
but there was a regality about it
that said something about the owners—
like those who held onto the Old South
on crumbling plantations.

We had the newest television
but watched movies from 40 or more years ago.
David had the newest computer
but wrote most of his notes with a fountain pen
on an old desk.
We lived in the South
but on our walls were pictures of New England’s
covered bridges in the fall.
We were the essence of existing
beyond the constraints of time & space.

Caitlin was the dove,
& the rest of us were like crows,
feasting on each other.
All through school,
I’d avoided offers of friendship–
counting the hours
like I numbered the stars
till I would be home with David again.

The Great Book Review Project

What I call “The Great Book Review Project of 2019” has been a grueling one.  I almost made it to the finish line before the official summer season ended, but I knew this would happen once I went back to school.  Though it’s been a fun challenge, I don’t think I’ll do it again, as the books I’ve chosen myself have a far better track record.  However, this process did expose me to books I wouldn’t have read otherwise. 

My biggest complaint?  When the message gets in the way of the story.  

Adults often want to teach⁠.  I had an early childhood education teacher who basically said if a book wasn’t nonfiction, it was a waste of time (for me, as a fiction writer, that was a sleight of hand across the face)⁠; she liked to “learn something from what she read.”  Reading fiction is a valuable way to spend one’s time; here is just a sample of what you get from doing so:  https://medium.com/@farrtom/the-real-world-benefits-of-reading-fiction-ccc7d8ab3f62

There were 7-10 books I didn’t end up reviewing, only because they were wordless picture books (I wasn’t quite sure what to do with those), they weren’t available at the library, or I didn’t feel I could give it a fair review because of the subject matter.  There was one that was so horrible (it promoted violence) that I didn’t even want to give it space on my blog. 

So even though I didn’t always enjoy the books (and neither did my daughter), I loved coming up with suggested activities to accompany the books.  This Christmas break (maybe), I will collect all of them and pick out my favorites, rechecking out the best books and completing the activities. This summer, we’ve just been grinding it out, trying to keep up with reading through them fast enough to get the next ones we have on hold. 

Interestingly, months after I completed this challenge, I would end up enrolling a “Literacy for Emergent Learners” class as an elective.  (Basically, I’m learning how to teach kindergartners and first-graders how to read; it’s worth it if I can just teach my own not only how to read but how to love books.)  I don’t have any desire to be a teacher (I’m way too shy for that); that is why tutoring is more my scene.  However, I do believe that taking this class will help me learn how to write for children, which is totally my scene.  

Reading is one of life’s greatest pleasures.  It is something we can do privately without any fancy electronics.  I’ve always liked to say that books are greater than TV because all stories on screen have to first be written.  With the advent of YouTube, not so much anymore, but the great plays, films, shows, speeches, and songs must have talented writers. 

Writers matter.

Writer’s Digest Wednesday Poetry Prompt #499: Parent

Untitled

Food Processors

Their parents had grown up eating squirrel & possum,
or “tree rats” & “tree hangers”⁠—
anything that couldn’t get away fast enough.
Their children had grown up eating hamburger & liver from the grocery store,
turned into casseroles or smothered with onions to mask the odor
washed down with milk delivered by the Dairy Don Juans.
But their children’s children enjoyed
all-natural lobster & gluten-free madeleines
served with organic water,
showing that as food became fancier,
foodies became softer.

Wednesday Poetry Prompts: 499

Book Review: The Wall in the Middle of the Book

Wall

As part of my Post-K Summer Reading Boot Camp:
https://sarahleastories.com/2019/06/08/post-k-summer-reading-boot-camp-2019

Take away the painfully obvious reference to Trump’s wall, and what do you have?  A dull story. 

This is another classic case of the message getting in the way of the telling.

The book has a fair amount of negative white space, which is a good thing.  However, what is there isn’t much; The Wall reads like a Dick and Jane basal reader, and the illustrations are ho-hum (or fee-fi-fo-fum).

That said, using the physical structure of the actual book to serve as the brick wall in the middle of the book is clever and the best part of it.

As I read this, I found myself not enjoying the story but rather trying to figure out what the author meant when the large (and typically scary) animals on the other side (who are trying to climb over the wall) freak out over a mouse, instantly making these rotund, exotic animals (who are more or less indigenous to the African continent) less scary.

The missing brick, for me, represented that no matter how good a firewall (or a border wall <cough, cough>) is, there is always a way around it (or under it, etc.).

About halfway through, the little knight is proclaiming how safe his side of the wall is while his side turns more and more treacherous the higher he climbs up the wall.  The animals disappear, and now there is a giant (seemingly scary) ogre on the other side.  However, the boy is so focused on how safe his side is and how unsafe the other side is that he doesn’t notice the dangers on his side until it’s almost too late, and the ogre saves him.

My take?  The water levels rising below the little knight with a shark ready to make a snack out of him represent global warming and Americans involved with child trafficking. 

The other side of the wall is portrayed as downright “fantastic”⁠—where ogres are lifeguards and wild animals are herbivorous and there is only imagined danger.  Apparently, people risk their lives to go to the little knight’s side because it’s so good on their side and not on his, and drug cartels are a myth.  I don’t blame anyone for wanting to escape from that.

The Wall in the Middle of the Book is not a terrible book; it’s not just a terribly interesting one.

Suggested activity: Most every child has an activity table (horizontal surface); let them have a wall (vertical surface) to mess up. Put up a whiteboard wall or paint a chalkboard one.

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/37969835-the-wall-in-the-middle-of-the-book