Sunday, August 8, 2010

August 8th

Jade DeFehr

Would it be


if I opened

my own word shop?

Each word payed

with something


A smile,

a dance,

a hug.

Or would that

make the people


of good things


because they don’t






Lisa Siemens

Today I am

one of them

the wordless

poor, empty

bowl in my lap

tilting towards light,

filling up with the silence

of green leaves listening.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Silver Sky in a Cooking Bowl


- Jade DeFehr

If one thing

in this world will still

be here

in ninety years,

it’s gonna be

chocolate chip cookies

and baking them


Flour falling,

down past the silver sky

of a cooking bowl.

Water dribbling,

creating a tiny pool

at the bottom.

Chocolate chips rolling,

quickly coated with

a temporary bitterness

until warmed in the oven.

And then . . .

the first bite.


- Lisa Siemens

Two days ago, you told me

to read to the flowers.

So I did.

Yesterday, you said, Step outside.

Look for water.

So I did.

And today, you suggested I follow

a recipe: chocolate chips

in the silver sky

of a cooking bowl.

And now, there are cookies

cooling on the counter, each one

touched by the sky. It was not the desire

to eat them that sent me to the kitchen.

It was you and your words

and my need

to be fed.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Not a Poem (maybe)

The August 2nd poems - Jade's and mine . . .

- Jade DeFehr

This is not a poem!
participating in the following actions
is . . .
Step outside –
it doesn’t matter
you are, so long
as you really are
Think about the doorstep.
Walk around the block,
trying to concentrate
on only
what you hear, feel,
or smell the entire time.
If you aren’t in the city,
walk for 1 or 2 minutes.
When you’re finished,
hug a tree.
Then, walk around a different
block and hum
a cheerful tune like “Mushaboom”, by Feist.
Find water
and think about
the water.
Do whatever
else you want
for the rest of the day
or two more minutes,
but do it with care
and thought.
When you return
to your doorstep
and go inside,
the poem is finished.

- Lisa Siemens

She is a river (sometimes)
green reflections floating

on brown water, white
clouds, moving molecules,

hydrogen and oxygen. The sky
lives on her surface and underneath

where you cannot see, the light
hides in the spaces between

the words she thinks
and the words she says.

Even in the deepest
part of winter, fish sleep

somewhere near the bottom, waiting
for the ice above to thaw.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Reading to the Roses

At the end of last summer, in September, I found, between my front doors, a collection of poetry written by one of my former summer camp students. For months and months, I carried her collection in my bag - all through the fall, and through much of the winter. Although I was not writing myself, she was an inspiration. Each day, all through June and July of 2009, she opened her eyes and ears and heart to the world. She paid attention and she wrote. She never missed a day. I knew nothing of this until I found her book at my door - 61 poems for 61 days. William Stafford would have loved her. These poems were written the summer between her eight and ninth grade. She was 14 years old at the time, amazingly present in the world.

For a long time, I have been walking around rather blindly, not seeing, not receiving, not feeling Jade's sense of wonder with the world at all. Last week I decided that beginning August 1, 2010, I would wake up and try to write responses to Jade's 2009 poems - one each day in August. She is much more proficient than I am in all regards - vision, voice, presence. Still, I plan to try to emulate her. I will try to post her poems and one in response. Sadly, I am already behind. But one poem for two days is a start . . .
Here is Jade's August 1st, 2009 poem:

- Jade DeFehr

Someone once taught
me how
to read to the roses,
or any deserving flower.
Alice in Wonderland proves
they can hear and taste and analyze
the words
tumbling out of
my mouth.
One day I might
even come across a flower
of "The Golden Afternoon"
I'd sit next to her
all day
to talk
about poetry
and the Queen of Hearts
and such.
I really would learn
a lot of things
from the flowers.

August 1st, 2010
Lisa Siemens

At fourteen, she decides to write
a poem each day and then

proceeds to do so.
Nothing stops her. Nothing

is undeserving of her attention, each day
an open invitation to small celebrations.

For the flowers, she writes – the roses,
the hollyhocks, the fields of blooming

clover; for the green doors
of summer, the lost and found

stars in the sky, the choirs
that sing in her head,

the crickets, the sun, the solace
of one lonely beetle

climbing his own little mountain,
again and again. For all of us, she writes

and writes and then,
when summer is over,

and fall creeping in, she wraps them all up
like a gift, ties them together

with words and leaves them behind
in the doorways of the lucky unsuspecting few.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Spring is blooming everywhere - lilacs, bleeding hearts, irises, lily of the valley, honeysuckle. I go on long bike rides weaving my way down side streets with my camera in my pocket, looking for what is blooming now. Each week it is something new. At school, Raphael, six years old, tells me each morning that the sun is blooming. And I believe him. I think that is what it does in his language. And now, in mine, too. It blooms! When I was small, I trailed my mother through greenhouses in the spring - deciding the flowers I liked best by their names. Bleeding hearts always scared me - not the hearts themselves but the little tear drop at the bottom and their name. I thought they were weeping. At some point, between now and then, I fell in love with them, and with every other sign of summer's arrival. I wait all year long for it to come.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

New Blue Bike

My new blue bike, I think I am in love with it - something new, something blue. Sky above me.
Ground beneath. Me in between, connected to both, balanced, kind of floating on thin silver wheels that shine in the dark. In early April, when the snow had just gone, I met a little boy on the sidewalk, maybe 5 years old. He introduced me to his bike: "He's four days old," he said, patting the handle bars, sitting on the seat, stretching his legs, balancing on his little toes. Such joy! A new bike! I just had to have one. And now I do. I want to stop strangers on the street and say, "She's fourteen days old today!" I had forgotten how good new things can be. Particularly when the world is green and blooming, which it is right now. In spring, I always wonder how we can possibly call what we do all through the rest of the year, "breathing". I think what I do all year long is hold my breath and wait for spring! I am breathing now . . .

Sunday, May 2, 2010

I'm Back

I'm back. Don't know exactly where I have been, but it was not a green place. And now the world is getting greener each day. Spring! My favourite season of the year. The tulips my mother planted at my backdoor last fall, on the last sunny October day, are blooming - seemingly brand new, although, I think, each of those bulbs had a long history of birth and rebirth. The sedum beside them is a thick and sturdy green. April was warm - sunny day after sunny day. And now May has arrived with showers. Cool and damp, but just what all the growing things need.

The flowering shrubs all along back lanes, are blooming, and soon my kitchen window will be filled with the blossoms of my neighbour's apple tree. Can there possibly be a better time to walk through the world with wide open eyes, to have them opened again? So much to see and love! Each time Spring happens it is like the first time - "the leaping greenly spirits of trees," the "blue true dream of sky," "the birth/day of life and of love and wings." Spring is back. I am back!

Monday, March 22, 2010

Good-bye Ice

Today, on the river, most of the ice was gone. This is not to say that there will not be more tomorrow, but the Red River is flowing quickly, the ice is melting and what has not already melted is being carried northward, dissolving as it goes. Last year at this time, the river was still solid ice - four feet thick - no visible cracks. This year, the slabs of ice that remain, are no more than a foot thick. When it is winter, I never think about how thick the ice is once it has frozen solid. Ice is ice. But, apparently, that is not so - degrees of thickness makes the difference between an early spring and a late one. This spring is definitely an early one. Even if it should storm tomorrow (which is could) it would still be early. Today, in my backyard, (southern exposure) the tip of one tulip is visible. March 22 - one visible tulip.

Monday, March 15, 2010

A Classroom of Cats

It has been such a long time since I posted anything but this weekend's weather and these cats are so fine that they both need to be recorded in some way. On the left is Scooter the Snow Cat painted by Troy who is six years old and his friend, Michelle, who is older. On the right is Miss Riley Fancy Cat by Anne and Lexxus, both six years old. She is a spring cat, all dressed up for flowers and sunshine. And at the bottom, is Tiny Cat by Raphael. The wind is blowing his fur. These cats are all friends, and they have many more friends on the walls of their classroom - a whole classroom of cat friends who visit each other in the pages of stories. A nice place to visit. You might even want to live there.

After a week of wonderful weather, the snow in Manitoba is nearly gone. No more snowmen for now. Yea! It is mid-March, (The Ides) and remarkably mild. Thank you, Sky God or El Nino or whoever you are. And tonight we had an extra hour of light before night. One more reason to say thank you and celebrate.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

The Snowman Edition

I went out today looking for someone who was glad it was still winter, happy that the snow had no intention of leaving soon, someone who loved the colour white and did not miss green at all. I met no other people, only snowmen. They did not have much to say but they looked pretty happy, even the ones with no faces at all . . .

Monday, February 15, 2010

At the Conservatory

Just when I forgot this place existed, I remembered, and here I am in February, in Winnipeg, in the middle of a blooming garden - grape hyacinths, primroses, crocuses, a glass ceiling partly covered with ice and snow, but mostly just blue sky and sunlight. On the other side of the walls, spring is still months away, but inside it has arrived. This place is always filled with either little children, just learning to walk, or the elderly, needing a hand to help them walk. The little ones run wildly, meeting the flowers at eye-level, greeting them with kisses and claps; the elderly stoop forward, murmuring "ahhs" and "mmmms" trying to remember names and other gardens they have known. The snow outside is still deep, but today I think the bulbs underground are not sleeping as soundly as they were yesterday.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

At the Library

"Do You Have Any Advice For Those of Use
Just Starting Out?"
- Ron Koertge

Give up sitting dutifully at your desk. Leave
your house or apartment. Go out into the world.

It's all right to carry a notebook but a cheap
one is best, with pages the color of weak tea
and on the front a kitten or a space ship.

Avoid any enclosed space where more than
three people are wearing turtlenecks. Beware
any snow-covered chalet with deer tracks
across the muffled tennis courts.

Not surprisingly, libraries are a good place to write.
And the perfect place in a library is near an aisle
where a child a year or two old is playing as his
mother browses the ranks of the dead.

Often he will pull books from the bottom shelf.
The title, the author's name, the brooding photo
on the flap mean nothing. Red book on black, gray
book on brown, he builds a tower. And the higher
he gets, the wider he grins.

You who asked for advice, listen: When the tower
falls, be like the child. Laugh so loud everybody
in the world frowns and says, "Shhh."

Then start again.

At the library the other night, not my usual library, but another, I heard the sound of running feet - going, going, going. I knew from the sound, the feet were small, maybe two years old, probably less. It was 8:30, dark outside, (cold and snowy, of course). I was surrounded by rows and rows of silent books, but there was the sound of little feet, more alive than any of those books. And there was the little boy, rounding the corner, running down one aisle, up the next, just smiling, and running, not even bothering to check whether any one was following him. What better reason to be in a library in winter than to throw caution to the wind and run? I do not think I have ever appreciated the story of The Little Gingerbread Boy quite the way I did that night. "Run. Run. As fast as you can. You can't catch me . . . " I gave up on the books completely. I just watched and listened. Then I went home and built a tower.

Sunday, January 31, 2010


Moonrise: 7:53 P.M. Sunrise: 8:02 A.M.
Moonset: 8:29 A.M. Sunset: 5:20 P.M.

R.G. Everson

When I was born my mother was given an amaryllis
which she tended carefully, cutting it back
after it had bloomed each year It was known
as Ronald's amaryllis That amazing flower
continued to bloom decade after decade until I
was forty-seven years old, when it withered and died
Since then I've jokingly (or not so jokingly)
said I was living on borrowed time beyond my means

It is cold outside, there are angels in the snow, but my amaryllis is blooming inside. She is definitely a "she", astonishing in her beauty. I have no idea how old she really is, how many times she has bloomed before, and who has watched her bloom. It really does not matter. She is blooming now for me - four magnificently large flowers at the end of January, in the middle of winter.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

22 Minutes of Light

The night is a big black Cat.
The moon is her topaz eye.
The stars are the mice she hunts at night
In the fields of her topaz sky.
- G. Orr Clark

Moonrise: 11:23 A.M. Sunrise: 8:11 A.M.
Moonset: 2:46 A.M. Sunset: 5:08 P.M.

i888899 My big tabby cat, George Eliot, just jumped on the keyboard, adding his own contribution to this posting. I have no idea what those numbers mean. Now he is purring on my lap as I type, eyeing either the cat on the screen or the stars behind it. It has been cloudy and grey for days - little chance to see either the sun or moon rise or set. Still, both are on my mind a lot. Since New Moon, 9 days ago, we have gained 22 minutes of daylight. If this is a contest, light is winning. The amaryllis on my window sill thinks so too!

Sunday, January 17, 2010

New Moon

Moonrise: 9:11 a.m. Moonset: 7:49 p.m.

The moon was new on Friday and at school we have begun a month of moon watching, sky watching, star watching. Yesterday was a perfect New Moon watching evening. I tried to take a picture of the crescent, but the best I could do was the sun setting on the prairie. All the same, that first glimpse of the New Moon is always slightly amazing to me. It is my favourite phase of the moon - a thin and slanted smile in the sky. Yesterday it was low in the sky, just above the horizon, far to the lower right of Jupiter. It was cloudy all day today, so no chance to see the moon or stars or even Jupiter. Maybe tomorrow . . .

My amaryllis continues to grow at an astonishing rate. Soon it will bloom!

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Still Growing

“In the midst of winter, I finally learned that there was in me an invincible summer.” - Albert Camus

Knowing how difficult winter can be for me, a friend from away sends this quote and I keep searching for the "invincible summer" in me. I suppose that is why I planted this amaryllis in December. It is so necessary to have visible signs of growth all year long. Each day my amaryllis grows at least an inch!! It is quite amazing that something green like this is happening so close to me in January. I literally carry it from window to window, trying to find the most available light. I give the pot a quarter turn in the morning, and another at night, hoping it will continue to grow straight and tall. I have two more bulbs to plant once this one blooms. That should take me through to March when all my daylight hours will not be spent inside a building which does not have enough windows for someone like me. Years ago my students made tile pictures of an amaryllis - each one was different. This picture includes the sun and sky and green grass, even though it was created in the snowy white winter. There was definitely an "invincible summer" living inside this little artist.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

New Year Amaryllis

The second day of this brand new year. When the earth is as frozen as it is right now, it is hard to remember that things are growing anywhere. It is hard t0 have faith in what is happening underground. I planted this amaryllis bulb at the end of November, left it on my cold windowsill - southern exposure, but very little heat. Each day, for weeks, I looked for signs of green. But nothing. And still nothing. I watered it and talked to it, reminded the bulb that it should be reaching for the light, suggesting that it might try focusing a just a little bit harder. Still, all I saw was a dead-looking bulb. I almost gave up. Maybe I should have been singing to it or playing a little piano - a Bach prelude, a Beethoven sonata, a tune buried somewhere in my head. But my hands were cold. I think I was having trouble focusing. And then, last week, completely on its own, a hint of emergence - a thin green flame. And now, this week, there are two flames. I can almost see them growing. Two inches tall today. By tomorrow, probably three. Even in my cold, cold house, in January, it is happening . . . life!

Here is a very tiny poem written and given to me years ago by Spencer, one of my little students. He gave it to me printed on a little gift tag he had made out of purple paper. It was the end of the school year and we were both moving on to something new - he to a new classroom, me to a new school. His poem has been taped to my writing room wall ever since - a little dusty and crinkled around the edges. Sometimes I have forgotten that that it is there, kind of like all those other things that have underground lives of their own - bulbs, seeds, stories, poems, hopes, desires, good will, love, energy - the things that keeps us going and growing. Happy New Year everyone!


is the word
we use
at the

- Spencer Vatrt Watts

Summer View From My Kitchen Window

Summer View From My Kitchen Window
I am already more than a week into my summer holidays and just beginning to settle into this greenest of seasons - so glad to be at home with my windows and my light. I am just learning how to post these blogs, spending too much time in front of my computer, not enough time with the sky.  The morning began with thunder - an hour of pouring rain and thunder!!  Long after sunrise, the sky was still dark and ominous, but then suddenly the sun broke through. I put on my garden shoes, grabbed my camera, and went out to the flowers . . .   

After the Rain

After the Rain
After all that wild weather, the day lily leaves were covered with such quiet raindrops . . . 

After the Rain

After the Rain
One side of my yard is lined with leafy peonies - the grandmother of all flowers - pink, white, deep, deep red.  I have been deadheading the flowers all week long, but this one, just opening, survived the storm. I have lived in my house for nearly twenty years; these peonies were here long before I moved in and with any luck will be here long after I am gone.