Archive | Uncategorized RSS feed for this section

Shining & Glowing: Wooten Elementary’s ACE Program

5 Dec

The ACE after-school program at Wooten Elementary was filled with energetic young writers. Their vivid imaginations led the way to writing hypothetical conversations with all different types of animals including crocodiles and whales. Willy asked a crocodile, “How old are you?” and the crocodile answered, quite matter of fact, “Old enough to be your dad.” Andrew wondered aloud to a whale, “Where were you born?” and the whale surprised him when he claimed, “I was born in outer space.” These students’ sense of humor shone through in their tales. Adam’s “Biggest Dog” drank the Mississippi River and when he was done with that drank the Colorado River! Their characters were healthy like José Saldana’s Bigfoot who ate vegetables and exclaimed, “That’s why I am tall.” They were helpful like José Hernandez’s “Mr. Trashcan” who helped people pick up their trash. They were intriguing like Janie’s character who pushed the air that made “all of the stars shine and glow.” They were green and menacing like Jacob’s villain “Greedy Grack.” Get ready to laugh and be entertained by their excellent sense of rhythm and rhyme. The future is in the capable hands of these young writers like Ely who share “It was great, that I didn’t hate, I was hot, writing on a plot.” Follow their clues and see where their imaginations take you!

Jena Kirkpatrick
Badgerdog Teaching Artist

 

 

Cutting Grass

grass

I am a guy with a mask.
I have a knife for cutting grass.
Everybody needs to cut the grass.
Now the grass looks brown because
of the sand that comes from the ground.
I will read a book about strange things on the grass.
Even if someone tells me to get a drink, I will pass.

Isaac Govea

 

Biggest Dog

big dog

There was a day at school called, “Bring Your Dog to School Day.”
My friend brought his dog. He had a dog bigger than the Twin Towers!
The dog could never get in the school.
Every time he walked he shook the ground and you would jump up and down.
Every time he walked it was so scary. His water was the Mississippi River.
If he finished, he would drink the Colorado River.
His food was 50,000,000,000-pound dog food bags.
And his name was Tiny.
He had hazel brown soft fur and brown eyes. He had soft claws.
And he was 10 years old, but in human years he is 70 years old.

Adam Perez

 

A Journey

bike kids.jpg

America is going on a journey to the forest on a bicycle with me. We were in a hurry because we had a club meeting and we were late. While we were on our way we saw a bad, creepy person. When we turned around and looked at him, he had red eyes and a black hoodie. We pedaled as fast as we could. He caught up to us, but he couldn’t catch us. We hid in a tree and he ran right past us. After that, we arrived safely to the clubhouse. We were glad we got there safe and sound, but we didn’t get to eat anything. There were Cheetos there and we were like, yesss!

Heidi Rodriguez

 

Mr. Crocodile

Crocodile

Mr. Crocodile, where do you live?
     At the lake.

Mr. Crocodile, what is the biggest thing you’ve eaten?
         A hippo.

Mr. Crocodile, how old are you?
       Old enough to be your dad.

Willy Aparicio

 

Greedy Grack

 

greedy grack.png

First, my name is Max. I had pancakes for breakfast. When I went to school I was about to hop on the bus and then someone green robbed me! His name was Greedy Grack the news said.

Then, he took me to his base for three days. My mom hadn’t seen me, so she called the police. Then, Superman flew there! She heard he was a superhero.

Finally, one day Superman found Greedy Grack’s base. They fought until I was freed by Superman. The police came and arrested the bad guy. My mom got to see me again. So now, she only drives me to school so I can be safe.

Jacob Tinoco

 

Tiger

Tiger

Tiger, why do you live in Africa?
            Because it’s beautiful.

Tiger, why do you have stripes?
            Because, God.

Tiger, why do you have a tail?
     Because I was born with it.

Tiger, how did you get sharp teeth?
         Because I sharpened them with a rock.

Tiger, did that hurt?
           Just a little.

Christopher Morales Leyva

 

Rhyme, Rhyme, and Only Rhyme

 

Screen Shot 2019-12-04 at 2.52.07 PM.png

One day I went to a pool.
I didn’t come back until I got cool!
I went to a shore.
Then I went to explore!

It was so great.
That I didn’t hate.
I was hot.
Writing on a plot.

There was a gate.
But it was so freight.
I went to a dock.
I saw some birds flock.

Ely Hernandez

 

Mr. Whale

Whale

Mr. Whale, where do you live? Where can I find you?
            I live in the ocean with my friends.

Mr. Whale, where were you born?
            I was born in outer space.

Mr. Whale, what have you been eating in the ocean with your friends?
      I have been eating EVERYTHING with my friends.

Mr. Whale, how does it feel to be a whale?
       It feels fun living in the ocean with my friends and eating a lot of fish.

Mr. Whale, what is your biggest secret?
        I am so scared of sharks.

Andrew Castillo

 

TurtleTurtle

Turtle, do you rest?
        No.

Turtle, what lives in your tummy?
      I don’t know, I just like it.

Turtle, can I eat you?
         Just kidding!

Sebastian Govea

 

Elephant Brain

alien

One day, an alien took me to his space ship and he took me to Mars. He gave me alien food and it was brain and my drink was blood. They forced me to eat it or I would live in Mars with nothing.

So I ate it and it was like sheep’s blood and the brain was elephant’s brain. It felt so slushy and it was so nasty. It tasted like road. There were bones in the brain; there were eyeballs in the blood. My dessert was an arm with bones and blood everywhere. I hate blood, but I ate the arm and bones. It turned me into an alien.

Arturo

 

Familyfamily heart

 

My biggest fear is to lose my family and losing my mom.
My family and mom are so important to me.
I could never live without them.
They are my everything.
I love my mom and my family.

Miranda Gamez

 

Bigfoot Secrets

Bigfoot

Bigfoot, why are you hairy?
            To camouflage with the trees.

Bigfoot, why are you mean to people?
         They killed my family in a war.

Bigfoot, what do you eat?
          Vegetables, that’s why I am tall.

Bigfoot, what do you drink?
     I drink apple fruit juice.
            I am on a diet to be strong.

Bigfoot, what’s your biggest secret?
  I kick people to get revenge.

Bigfoot, where do you live?
          In the forest.

Bigfoot, why do you have red eyes?
Because I am looking
            at you.

José Saldaña

 

Mr. TrashcanCartoon-Trash-Can-N2

 

Mr. Trashcan,
Go pick up the trash!
She called, Mr.
Trashcan.

Mr. Trashcan
Has a girl
Friend and she
Loves him so much.
Her name is Ashley.

Mr. Trashcan
Helps the people
Pick up the
Trash.

José Hernandez

 

A Different Life

Screen Shot 2019-12-04 at 2.28.09 PM

I wish I had a car
Or went to Mars.
I wish people
Could go to space,
A different life at least
Another comet set.

Do you double as
A paper maker?
I despise you sometimes.
I love to hate and fight you
In my coat pocket,
Like sippin’ on straight chlorine.

Damian Ulloa

 

Shine and Glow

Screen Shot 2019-12-04 at 2.32.42 PM.png

I’ve never listened to you before,
because all your words I choose to ignore.
You say that you’re a weird cat,
one that’s always wearing a hat.
You may not like light,
and I think that’s alright.
There is always a dog
wandering in the winter fog.
And finally, you push the air that
you blow,
and make all of the stars
shine and glow.

Janie Balderas

 

The Breadth of Life

26 Nov

On four warm fall Fridays, this group of writers created and laughed together at Westlake Hills Presbyterian Church for Memory Connections. During the first session, they wrote poems about places, and I started to glimpse the breadth of life experience in the room. There were poems about San Francisco, Brooklyn, Lafayette, and towns and cities in between. I felt so lucky that we had all ended up in a church in Westlake Hills, reading, writing and sharing together. Each week, the writers shaped words into startling images, interesting observations, and even witty punchlines. There was a lot of laughter, interspersed with profound insights. This group didn’t take themselves too seriously, and they embraced the present moment without fear. These are the conditions where creativity and joy flow.

Jenny Fleming
Badgerdog Teaching Artist

 

The Best Surprise

A few years ago, I visited my son when he lived in Greensboro, North Carolina. It was my birthday and my son had a concert to conduct in the evening. He loves to embarrass me or surprise me. Just before the intermission, he went to the microphone and announced to all that it was my birthday. Coming down the aisle were three of my son’s orchestra members, giving me flowers and playing “Happy Birthday” on their instruments. They whole audience looked at me, clapped, and joined in on the song. I was both embarrassed and shy. But now, as I think back, I occasionally thank him for that special moment.

Betty

 

All is Good

My dog comes over as I watch TV.
She looks at me and wags her tail.
All is good with the world.

Ted

 

Bluebonnets

Growing up in Waco, Texas, my parents would always drive out to the country during bluebonnet season. One of my favorite pictures was on my father took of my mother, my sister and I by the side of a road surrounded by bluebonnets. I guess I was around five and my sister around eight.
Fast forward sixty-plus years. On retirement, I was pushing for Austin, but my wife was skeptical. She did not know of the beauty of the Hill Country. It was an “easy sell.” We always encourage our Illinois friends to visit during the bluebonnet season, and we give guided tours. Without exception, everyone has been impressed.

Boyd Spencer

 

Lake Jackson

Lake Jackson is a small town
Created in the late forties and early fifties,
close to the Gulf Coast,
surrounded by chemical plants,
full of giant trees, green grass, humidity and hope.

I lived there until I was fifteen years old.
I would love to see it now.
It was a new town with lots of people moving in
to run the chemical plants and supporting businesses.

Everybody knew everybody
and all their kids
and a lot of their business.

One of the saddest times of my life
was when my dad was transferred to Houston.
It was devastating and
turned out to be another happy adventure.
There’s a moral to this story.

Carol L. Adams

 

Orchid

I see its arms.
I see it standing there in a proud place
with a special shine.

Robert S. Monroe

 

Flowers from Mike

He came home with flowers
in his hands every Friday.
White, yellow, red, pink with
sprinkles of green leaves and baby’s breath.
Why? Because it was important
to have beautiful flowers to
show his love.

He would plant flowers outside
in the front of our house and
in the back so they could be viewed
from all the back windows.
All three of our children
continue the practice with
their families. Flowers,
beautiful, love.

Patsy

Everything is Connected

26 Nov

What a strong community with a welcoming vibe at Hope Lutheran Church’s Memory Connections! Most importantly, this group had a great sense of humor. This group of gifted writers and poets live big lives but can also think deeply. Even when asked to write about something as simple as a flower, they knew that everything is connected in this world, and they weren’t afraid to show it. Their graciousness was delightful, and not only was everyone always eager to share their writing, they were delicate listeners too—you can tell by their haikus.

Mendy Holliday
Badgerdog Teaching Artist

 

I Didn’t See

I didn’t see the tadpoles in the bucket
But I did see the tiny frogs clutching the metal edge.
Two of them, and when startled, they dived
Like lightening to the bottom to hide.

Rebecca Lowe

 

Those Old Dance Halls

Going to those old dance halls around my hometown Texas was the highlight of my week. I would go every Friday and Saturday night with family, later with boyfriends, then my husband.  I could see all my friends, hear the latest gossip, the good old country music. These old dance halls didn’t have air- conditioning just a lot of windows. So sweaty after dancing awhile. How did we ever do it? These are the best memories of my life. We go to this reunion dance once a year to hear 3 bands from the 70’s. It’s the nearest I come to recreating those old memories, dancing cheek to cheek. Now most of the old dance halls I went to are shuttered, which makes me sad.

Joyce Beversdorff

 

Happy/Sad

Flowers can be part of life in its happy moments or events,
but flowers can be part of sad moments.
I learned early that a bride carries a bouquet,
and flowers are set upon a grave.
My dad died when I was six years old.
I use the phrase happy/sad with my family who understands
that flowers are associated with the happy and the sad moments in one’s life.

Elizabeth Caldwell

 

Summer Heat & the Birds

Summer heat and the birds
feeding off the sunflower seeds.
Hot weather and warm breezes
linked to the changing seasons.
A container of sunshine
with the birds feeding and flying
to and from the station
where sunflower seeds are a valuable.
The changing seasons
as heat moves away
from the warm breezes
and the awareness of the air’s movement
and the possibilities of cooler days.
Pleasant days and anticipation
that all is ok.

Larry Graham

 

The Air of the City

San Francisco was a gorgeous town when I lived there. The many hills of the city went up and down. The air of this city was so wonderful and crisp, always washed clean by the Pacific Ocean. People who lived there knew they could always find good food to eat, no matter which part of the city. The best trip was to get on the bus to go out to sit on the sand at the ocean.

Pat Keen

 

First Glimpse of Ithaca

The first glimpse of Ithaca burst into view. The Little Apple that I had heard so much about rose above the sparkling water of Cayuga Lake glimmering in the sunshine. I could see why the bumper sticker on the car ahead of me said: Ithaca is gorges!

B.W.

 

Red, Pink, or Yellow Roses

Flowers connect beauty and sorrow in my life.
Joy for weddings, graduations, promotions, accomplishments.
Sorrow for funeral, deaths—
Sorrowful blue lavender, black and purple,
Joyful red orange coral, roses, daisies, sunflowers.
I connect flowers with the death of my grandmother who was such a
dear sweet joyful helping person. She always saw the best in people.
Flowers that remind me of her are red, pink, or yellow roses.

Anonymous

 

The Bond Between Us

My wife is the curator
of flowers at our house.
I love seeing the tiny white flowers
on our kumquat bush
and the kumquatinis (kumquat martinis)
they engender.
We also have lilies and daffodils
behind the swimming pool.
I love the tiny flowers
that come on the Dwarf Barbados Cherry
and the Meyer Lemon.
They symbolize the bond between us.

Jim Hadden

Bearing Witness: The Gift of Sharing

26 Nov

It was a joy to spend a month with the writers of Memory Connections at Bethany Lutheran Church. These writers always had thoughtful and insightful feedback to give about the poems that inspired our writing exercises on any given week. We engaged with the simple act of paying attention, and the pieces they created speak to the beauty and emotionality inherent in the simple act of bearing witness: to your surroundings, to to your peers, and to yourself. I loved getting to know this group, and learning the many ways that we can define and explain who we are and where we are from beyond a simple label or a geographic region. From stunning lyrical images to delightful uses of humor, this group proved that connecting with one’s memory reaches beyond introspection, and into the gift of sharing our experiences with one another.

Sarah Matthes
Badgerdog Teaching Artist

 

Texas Flowers

Seeing the springtime Texas flowers
such as bluebonnets, Mexican hats,
Indian paintbrush, and daisies
refreshes my feelings and emotions
toward what beauty is,
refreshes my soul, and strengthens
my resolve with nature.

BJ

 

Roses

I have mixed emotions regarding roses.
They have various colors and smells.
My first reaction is to grab them.

However, every time I try to grab them,
the thorns remind me just how unattractive they can be.

I love their appearance,
but I hate their feelings.

Joseph T. Colarusso

 

Tulips

I remember working with my dad, planting tulips
while the first snow of the year was coming down.

It was a cold and miserable time,
but in the spring, we were weeding the beds
and the tulips were in full bloom.
It was beautiful, and such a difference
from when we planted them.

R.W.S.

 

Ashland

Picture a small town with beautiful parks, and they were busy all year round performing the myriad plays which Shakespeare wrote. I owned an 1880’s Bed and Breakfast just a few minutes’ walk from town and was an “innkeeper.” I had visitors from all over the country come to visit and I prepared the food. Ashland had at its center a lovely park with hiking trails and magnificent flowers.

W. Elaine Martens

 

Spring, Texas

Spring was quiet and full of beautiful flowers, shrubs, trees, birds, animals, happy children, well-kept homes, good schools, evergreen lawns and trees, children playing in yards or sometimes streets, buses into the city of Houston, trips to the Opera and plays and music groups, taking our children to the park to see their friends, teacher friends getting together, talking about students.

Carol

 

Bareilly, India

I could walk from my house to my dad’s office. The clerks in the front of the office would give me balloons. It took about fifteen minutes to walk to his office from our house. In the winter it would get cold enough to have a fire in the fireplace. The garden has a lawn surrounded by flowers. I learned to ride my bike. There were about ten officers and I played with their kids.

M.B.

 

Flowers

Any living flower is an amazing thing.
Actually, they’re all alike (shape and size vary)
but the basic components—sticks,
twigs, leaves, dirt, fresh stuff too, all added—
piles of old brown things making crinkling
noises as you step across the yard.

The best of music is no better—
they’re the bookends of joy and sorrow.

Laura

 

Pleasure in Plants & Place

26 Nov

The lively group of Memory Connections writers at Christ Lutheran Church in Georgetown took pleasure in rhyme and surprise in poems, shared their weekly joys and struggles with candor and humor, and discussed the need for more writing from and about people living with early memory loss. They wrote vividly about the natural world, the seasons, and how certain flowers serve as portals to remember their loved ones and childhoods: Crocuses heralding spring and chilly lilies offering hope that fall in central Texas is coming! We bonded over a shared love of routines as moorings in our days, and discussed the beauty of writing done in private, to reflect, to document, and to process feelings and thoughts. I’m grateful to have spent these weeks with this talented and generous group of writers; I hope you enjoy their witty, vulnerable, and vivid work as much as I have.

Mary Terrier
Badgerdog Teaching Artist

 

Those Weeks

Those weeks would be like a different world for us, the cousins from Phoenix, and me from El Paso where it was so hot you could fry eggs on the sidewalk. My aunt and uncle lived on a piece of land with cacti all up and down the mountains, and down in the valley an orchard of apple, pear, peach, and cherry trees.

Pat Joyce

 

 

Auntie’s Garden

My father’s eldest sister could coax any species of flower to bloom and show—a green thumb was a mere description of her talent—whether she was planting, nurturing, or snipping—the arrangements were amazing—small as in Cecil Brunner’s—blazing yellow daffodils—or even willow branches from the creek—all were unique works of art.
My Auntie was a treasured person. Love, joy, tender hugs—She always shared her garden with me!

Helen Haynes

 

How Do You Make the Flowers?

The house was tucked away on a large farm. The girl was about five or six years-old. She ran alone, running uphill, and down again. The girl ran into the pasture. She loved being alone and free.
In the early fall her mother started working the planting, and the girl watched and asked, “How do you make the flowers?” The mother gave the child a packet of seeds and told her what to do. The girl put the seeds and watered each. The pansies were beautiful…and the girl was very happy.

L.D.S.

 

Llano River

A very good place to take a vacation. If you like outdoor camping, you would enjoy the Llano River. I guess you could call this a cowboy city. Junction, Texas.

Clemencia G. Castillo

 

Harvest Time

Harvest your roses while you may
Your time is always flying
For your flowers that smile today
Tomorrow will be dying

Randall

 

Natchitoches, Louisiana

Natchitoches, Louisiana is a small town located on Cane River, streets are made of brick, and the city overlooks Cane River. Part of the Civil War was in Nachitoches. Old beautiful homes overlook the river on one side and the other side is lined with houses.

Marie

 

Austin, Texas

Boom Town
The University of Texas school
Many good restaurants
Lots of museums
Lots of art

Charlie

 

Somerset, KY

The downtown area has many older brick buildings. The traffic enters the area from four different directions and progresses right around in a circle until you come to the street where you want to exit. Then you progress onto the interstate where all the new boat shops, hospital, Walmart, and the lumberyard are located. This new section of town is where most people go daily for their shopping. Now, the old downtown area holds the banks, real estate, and office buildings. This is not really so different from many towns in the middle of America that have continued to exist. Many smaller places surrounding the larger cities have lost their grocery stories, post offices, etc. Only a few service stations remain.

Patricia Kellett

 

 

Embracing & Enjoying Life

26 Nov

The Cedar Park writers are an amazing group of upbeat, optimistic people who made me feel welcome and special each time I visited their group. Laughter filled the room as they shared stories of bluebonnet fields, childhood homes, first dates, and family gatherings. These writers inspired me to fully embrace the moment and enjoy life.

Gayleen Rabakukk
Badgerdog Teaching Artist

 

Flowers

Flowers are like life, you start with seeds that must be planted, watered, fertilized and trained.

As a child you are born a baby requiring feeding, washing, nurturing and changing.

Then you grow and start to talk, walk, and feed yourself, and learn to develop in the world around you.

The beautiful difference being a human versus a flower is that once you grow to maturity, you have the opportunity to develop into what color and beauty you want to be.

Gary

 

People I Most Admire

  • My wife, Bea (53 years, next month)
  • My mother (passed away in 2011)
  • My mother-in-law (passed away in 2016)
  • My dad (passed away in 1976
  • My daughter, Liza
  • My son-in-law
  • Presidents of the U.S.A.
    • George Washington
    • Franklin D. Roosevelt
    • Ronald Reagan
    • Donald Trump

Manny Chavez

 

Sunday

A good Sunday for me would be to wake up
to a morning rain,

followed by a clearing sky,
and then a bright, sunny day.

To have my two sons and three grandkids
over to run around with my dog.

Firing up the grill to cook burgers and to sit
around with the whole family in the
backyard and drink a cold beer.

Billy G.

 

Bluebonnets

I have always loved Texas.
The bluebonnets are the flowers.
The bluebonnets have a cat claw hidden in the flower.
The flowers are a lot of beautiful.
The state of Texas plants flowers close to the highways.
The bluebonnet is the state flower.
Most flowers have a great smell.

Dale L. Martin

 

Happiest Childhood Moment

My happiest moment was coming home from the hospital when I had my tonsils removed. I would speak more clearly and had no more pain.
Even at the young age of six years old, I could think clearly about my life goals:

  1. To express my fears and joys, hopes and dreams for the future
  2. To be more happy in my grandfather Watson’s and grandmother’s (Unger – maiden name) home
  3. To see that home both as a blessing and a curse, — a release from pain, way to face the future

Going to church was a healing place for me at that young age. This is a parable of life – both releasing my pains and opening up my future. I know God loved me and affirmed by parents and grandparents.

Mel Swoyer

 

Dear Mom,

I missed having you around when I was a child, but I was truly grateful that you were around for holidays and after Mary Ann got married. You had me come to live with you in New York, even though you were mostly away working.
I learned a lot about being there for my children, so that I saw to it that I was home when they got out of school and made sure that they went to college.
Like you, I experienced two marriages. The first was to help my friend not have to go into the military and be sent to Korea. I already had five brothers that were serving as well as a brother-in-law. I was blessed with a beautiful, caring, loving daughter from that experience and though that marriage didn’t last, my next one did until my husband passed. Before that occurred, we had a daughter and three sons.

Susan S.

 

Dear Past Self,

Hello—this is a wakeup call.
There are things you love to do and can do well—
time is running faster and faster—stop wasting it!
Write—you know how much you love it—it need not
be brilliant—just honest—and based in reality or—
as much reality as can be discerned at this point—
all of which, and I repeat time is racing—
my brain is in the race
hooked the way of looking at the now and future possibilities—
good or not.
Think of all those books with blank pages.
Think of all the pastels, pencils pointing, clay not being used, the minutes not filled with artwork—the wonderful handling of each.
Wake up, Ms. Fool!

S. Betts

 

My Hometown

Liberty Hill is a small town, north of Cedar Park. It’s growing though. A highway runs through it. One restaurant is there called Delilah’s. Good place to eat. Great pies and vegetables. Closed Mondays and Tuesdays. One highway, Highway 29, runs east and west through the town. Service stations and a few churches line the way in. Of course, there are numerous gas stations there.

Chris Turk

 

Workshop Spotlight: Shalom Austin

18 Dec

This past fall Badgerdog partnered with the Shalom Austin Jewish Community for a six-part workshop series. Led by teaching artist Celia Bell, this workshop explored the self in relationship to the world. How do you find peace in the face of tragedy? How can you evoke narratives that moves across time? Workshop participant Laraine Lasdon explores these pertinent questions and more in her poems below.

Katelin Kelly
Badgerdog Programs Coordinator

cave

Bat

There are times when my breath is short,
I pump the bellows of my lungs, frantically
adding air to the heated sponge and calling
on the teachings of Master Nicklaus for elucidation
as to what would happen if my journey up the mountain
towards the dark cave of my destination,
would drown my soul or create a drought so
dry that the very vitality of my life—dust unto dust,
would wither and every lobe so perfect a host
for anger, love and peace,
then calm those very passions
would deny my heart its beat.

My purpose is strong, my temperament firm.
I feel a guardian protecting me from harm.
Although my soul’s defenses are weak and puny
surrounded by madness and massacres of Jews.
Yehudi, the word ricochets around the world,
reminding us we are human, Yehudi. Yehudi.
Jew means thankful.
But still I must reach the cave pushing uphill
through scrub and scabbed bush as if
forty days and forty nights must be endured,
by Pharaoh’s orders, through roiling sun,
alone, for where will help come from?

I feel an onslaught—the depths of despair
bereft for six million plus eleven to add to the roster
of people who need
our care need our grief for centuries of prejudice
with no justice, redemption, or peace.
But what about the single heart, my heart,
whose shadowed
soul craves the inky black cave.
To hang upside down
in nature’s sleep, not seeing the
funerals, pine boxes, and small bodies in white shrouds
or hearing the scrape of the shovel lift earthly mud
to lovingly begin the physical end
and begin a life of memory and pain.

I feel a slim cry, vibrating, ascending, at a pitch so high
it can only be heard by Adonai and I.
I find the God of the Caves who hears sacred prayers
from supplicants and applicants and bearers
of good luck mixed with tears.
Part bat, part human Camazotz rules his caves,
where I long to be safe in the belly of the earth,
letting go of these fears, preferring rebirth.
Bat hearts beating offering hope, dispelling dread,
emerging renewed each night, no myth of the dead.

I wish I was a bat with a millionfold community
to blot out the day, then, in total harmony,
as the day ends and all, as one,
swoop out to greet the setting sun.

Laraine Lasdon

 

woodsmoke

Woodsmoke

In London, John Ruskin roamed the 19th century streets,
hearing the clatter of horses’ hooves and the new machines.
Woodsmoke hovered in the wintry air, heavy and warm,
in the halls of Society and Parliaments’ Mall.
Appalled at the loss of beauty, art, and design,
and the disappearance of families of artisans, potters’ wood kilns
engravers of chimes, weavers and their sons,
and husbands with weighty bundles of rags
to be soaked and sifted and hung out to dry,
creating paper wove fine as linen for brotherhoods of scribes.

Ruskin wrote of the rot wrought by factories,
master carpenters become cogs, artists distressed,
the very truth of beauty disassembled by progress.

What did Ruskin mean when he wrote of his utopia as a place where men thrive?
Did he imagine a place to live or should it exist in our minds?
Is it where we craft art with our God-given hands,
or where industrial machine-tooled goods are forever banned?

A young William Morris, inspired by Ruskin’s love of the maker,
held gatherings and lectures on the grand art of Nature.
He traveled from Manchester and Lancaster, to Dover and Bath,
finding friendships and fellowships with artists who thought like he.
Edward Burne- Jones and Dante Gabriel Rossetti, who with their own hands,
pen and ink, paint and tools, created figures, plants, birds, and fruit
to circle and wandle, elegant and lithe, and drew
lasses with long tresses, a bow and silk dress,
to decorate the floral bordered pages of Chaucer and Troy,
fonts for the 53 books of the Kelmscott Press.

The golden gardens of domesticity, every thought and idea,
sailed over the sea taking root in the New World of America,
a wide land without disquiet or fear of industry,
in the monumental task to build nation and community.
In plain planked houses row upon row,
families gather for dinner at assembly line tables,
covered with cloths bright with yellow tailed swallows,
watched by wallpaper angels with white wings, halos and tallow.

Yet, there is art here, even as machines stencil nature’s design.
Braided trellises of vines stamped on millions of bolts and bales of fabric
packed high on railcars spined out to each suburb.
Sewing machines hum creating drapes with fine blooms,
the ghosts of Ruskin and Morris follow us from room to room.
The comforts of parlors past still survive
and the joy of design yet infuses our lives.

Like Ruskin and Morris, I long for connections
glowing like those perfect golden chrysanthemums on
gaily papered walls, where pewtered ornament graced every chair,
when murmurs, ideas, thoughts, and sharings
were like the hush of the thrush that stops singing for a moment,
to pluck strawberries ripe and sweet as deep conversation.
We may have lost the woodsmoke swirling from parlor fires,
warm and sparking from logs cut by hand,
wielding sharpened axe, and stacked all autumn with love.
And we may have lost coal stoves with curled legs,
cast iron pots of bubbling stews replaced by our touch on a digital oven,
our comfortable old teapot that called with a hiss
are now fine electric teapots that beep and click.

The wisp of woodsmoke has become a symbol.
The warmth of family, friends, present and remote,
has become for me, a hearth and home.
We are allowed a moment of realization:
in our own era of polarization,
when we reach out to each other it is the warmth of our hands,
the love in our souls, the family we craft for ourselves,
that curls around us like tendrils of wood smoke.

Laraine Lasdon