Saturday, December 31, 2016

#haikuforhealing, #31!

may next year begin 
as the last ended- books, friends
laughter, adventure


BACKSTORY: This is four of the six members of my bookclub. We have been together for about twenty years, and truthfully, at this point, we do a lot more laughing and drinking wine than we do talking about books (although all of us do read a lot). This morning, we took a class on New Year's tapas at Sur La Table. I'm not much of a cook, ok, actually I'm not a cook at all, but it was a really fun way to end the year, trying something new with dear friends. 

Friday, December 30, 2016


"pure joy"

such a lucky find
half a cheeseburger, age unknown
dog heaven, for sure


BACKSTORY:  There's a verse in the Bible, in the book of James that says, "Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance." (James 1:2-3). When I try to live that verse, I always think about dogs. Dogs, in my opinion, are a perfect example of pure joy. It takes so little to make them happy.

Take this morning, for instance. Star had an appointment at the vet at 9:00. It's not very far away, only a little over a mile, so I decided that we would walk. Along the way, there's one pretty busy street, with a large median, where homeless people often stand with their signs. Star and I were crossing that median when she suddenly stopped, and almost yanked my arm out of the socket. She had found a cheeseburger. Half eaten, age unknown, but who cared. It was hers now. She hoovered it down before I could get it out of her mouth. All joy!!! The circumstances were unimportant. Count it all joy!!!


As anyone who reads this blog knows, I'm a first round CYBILS poetry judge. Since mid-October, I've been reading poetry and novels in verse. We are wrapping up our duties- we have actually  chosen the books that will be sent on to the second round and now we are just waiting for those choices to be announced. We had 40 books this year, and almost half were novels in verse. I read every single one (so why does Good Reads say I only read three books this year- note to self: must keep more careful records)!

FALLING INTO THE DRAGON'S MOUTH is one that I'm definitely looking forward to sharing with kids. Jason Thompson is a sixth grader, who has moved to Japan with his parents, who are teachers, and his younger sister, Cora. When the book opens, Jason's class is getting a new seating arrangement.
We draw numbers 
picking slips of folded paper
from Oshima Sensei's box
matching them to a map of desks
to find our han--
      the group we'll
      sit with
      clean with
      study with
      for the next
      two months

I hope for at least
one friend
and by friend
I don't mean
what I used to mean by friend
before I moved to Japan
before I started here
at this school once called
Dragon's Mount

by friend I just mean
anyone who doesn't
punch me
for using the wrong word
kick me
for having an accent
or call me
Stinking Foreigner

Jason's hopes are dashed when he is seated at Han Six with Shunta, Go, Yuka, Naho, and Mika, who are six of the biggest bullies in the sixth grade. The five harass Jason constantly- both at school and when they see him around town after school and on weekends. Jason finds some comfort in aikido.

at the dojo
you bow to enter
and on the mats,
you kneel, you meditate
you hold your one-point center
even when Yamada-sensei
pushes your forehead to test you…

and what matters most
through every move and fall
is you keep firm
you stay in control
you hold your center

He befriends Takemura-San, an elderly gentleman who suffers from Parkinson's disease. He babysits Cora and takes her on adventures around the city. Nevertheless, the bullying continues, and by the end of the book, escalates from cruel to dangerous.

DRAGON'S MOUTH would provide a terrific platform for talking about bullying, or about how we treat people who are different.

Holly wrote a series of 30 companion poems, about the city of K, where Holly lives, and where DRAGON'S MOUTH is set. You can read those poems HERE. It would be fun to read these either before DRAGON'S MOUTH, or one at a time, along with the story. 

Donna, at Mainely Write, is hosting the POETRY FRIDAY PARTY today.

Thursday, December 29, 2016


cinema or print
nothing like a story
to heal a hurting heart


OR maybe

cinema or print
nothing like a story
escape for hurting heart


Wednesday, December 28, 2016


London Book Festival, 2012

lost in a great book
characters my companions
no need to send map


Tuesday, December 27, 2016


fear masked as anger
siamese twin emotions
conjoined at the heart




I love 'em.

What could be better than coming home after a long day knowing that there is something homemade in the refrigerator?

And all you have to do is throw it in a pan for a few minutes, or put it on a plate in the microwave.

Five or ten minutes and you have a hot homemade dinner.

Take today for instance. I had driven my weekly 130 mile round trip to see my mom. Traffic was heavy, especially on the way home, when rush hour in Denver was compounded by the fact that a Chili's restaurant had caught fire, just a few miles west of the interstate I was on. The usual 75 minute drive took almost two hours.

But it was ok, because I knew dinner was waiting. Leftover turkey, a little stuffing, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, some cranberries. If I wanted to be healthy, I could make a green salad. Or not. Either way, dinner was waiting.

Other nights, there might be leftover meatloaf. Or spaghetti. Or mac and cheese. So what if it was the same thing we had eaten the night before or even for two nights in a row? Dinner is waiting.

Much better than coming home and trying to figure out something to cook, then messing around in the kitchen for an hour cooking and cleaning up, knowing the dog is waiting to be walked, and I still have 25 persuasive essays to read.

Much healthier and cheaper than fast food.

Much classier than a peanut butter sandwich.

There's only problem at my house.

My sons don't like leftovers.

"We had turkey last night," they moan.

"We've eaten lasagna three times this week," they protest.

"Do you think this spaghetti will give us food poisoning?" my younger son has the nerve to ask.

I choose not to respond to them.

Instead, I slap my third turkey dinner this week onto a plate and shove it into the microwave.

Let them eat cereal, if they want.

I choose to enjoy my leftovers!

Monday, December 26, 2016


lonely pushes in
just after dark has entered
unwelcome house guest



Nick Hall is an eighth grader. A really smart eighth grader who loves soccer and hates school. Unfortunately, he has a father who is a linguistics professor afflicted with chronic verbomania* (he loves words so much that he has written a dictionary, Weird and Wonderful Words, which he is forcing Nick to read, one letter at a time). Of course, Nick's father is much more interested in developing his son's cognitive abilities than in supporting Nick's passion for soccer. 

Most of Nick's problems are typical middle school problems-- a budding interest in a girl, the school bullies, Don and Dean Eggleston, twins who steal Nick's bike, preparing for an upcoming soccer tournament.  At least most of his problems are typical until his parents inform him they are separating and his mother is leaving the state to return to her first love, training horses. And of course the book has a couple of caring adults- one of whom happens to be a former Grammy-winning rapper turned school librarian, Mr. MacDonald. 

What's not typical about this book are Kwame Alexander's poems. Alexander uses a zillion different poetic forms- including free verse, acrostics, found poems, and lots of others. Alexander also uses tons of  interesting and unusual vocabulary- codswalloped, limerence, cacchinate.

This book has been a huge hit at school. I read this in October, then put it out in the fifth grade classroom where I was substituting. I haven't seen it since- I had to check it out of the library because I wanted to reread it to write my review. 

*a love of words

GARVEY'S CHOICE, by Nikki Grimes, is another book that features a main character who doesn't live up to his father's expectations. Garvey's father dreams of having a football playing athlete of a son, but Garvey is a slightly overweight, space-loving guy whose older sister often steps in to protect her brother from her father's sports mania.

Garvey feels less than adequate, until a friend tells him to "Choose the name you answer to. No one can do that but you." Garvey finds his "name" in the school choir, and ultimately earns his father's respect. 

Another terrific novel in verse, done all in tanka, syllable pattern of 5-7-5-7-7. 

Sunday, December 25, 2016


"On plunging from Super Bowl Champs to No Playoffs/Other Life Events

harder to have had
and lost, or harder to dream
but never have at all?

BACKSTORY: As much as I don't like the idea of all the head banging, I am still a huge Bronco fan. This year has been a little disappointing, including tonight, when even our star defense couldn't get the job done.  At the same time, I can't help but think of how many years we have had playoff teams. You just can't win every year.  We'll be back, I'm pretty sure next year. And there are lots and lots of cities that have teams that NEVER make the playoffs. 

On a completely different level, several good friends have lost spouses/family members recently. And I've thought a lot about them and about my own situation of never being married. I wonder which is harder- living forever by yourself, or living with someone else, and then having them gone. I'm not sure. 


Whoops, I put this on Twitter, but forgot to publish it here last night.

From Wikimedia
on this silent night, 
rejoice, emmanuel has come 
joy to the world

Friday, December 23, 2016


BACK STORY: This morning, Margaret Simon, at Reflections on the Teche lifted a line from Jane Yolen, "I know you by what you hold, and wrote this, a kind of a love poem for her husband of 34 years:

Peanut, the dog’s ball–
I know you by what you hold–
Lightbulb, fruit, my heart.
–Margaret Simon

For some reason, this poem made me think of my oldest son. When we became a family, one of the first things he wanted to know was whether he could play on football team. I'm not a huge fan of people banging their heads against other people's heads, but he love, love, loved football, and for many years, football was how he defined himself. And he was really good at it. I rarely saw him without a football in his hands

School was never that easy for him, and he hated it. His dream, though, was to play in the NFL and so he knew he had to go to college. He started at a junior college, and promptly tore his ACL. He never played again.

Without football, he is lost. For the past three years, he has just kind of bounced from meaningless job to meaningless job. Today he quit another one. Evenings, he fills the emptiness with various forms of substance abuse.  And I don't know how to reach him or support him, or help him get back on track.

"I Knew You By What You Held"
Footballs. Forever.
But now nothing. Your empty
hands make my heart ache.
(c) Carol Wilcox


I am a first round CYBILS poetry judge. We have read almost forty books, about half of which are novels in verse. We'll make our selections in the next week, then send five to seven books on to the second round judges.

Yesterday, I read TO STAY ALIVE: Mary Ann Graves and the Tragic Journey of the Donner Party, by Skila Brown.  TO STAY ALIVE tells the story of the Donner Party, a group of 87 people that left Illinois, headed for California, in Spring, 1846. The story is told from the point of view of Mary Ann Graves, a 19-year-old woman, who is with her family (mother, father, older sister, brother-in-law, seven younger brothers and sisters, and a hired hand.

The trip starts out with great promise.

"New Dress"

It's finished.
     The travel dress
thick and crisp and green,
     white buttons in a line,
a bright stiff collar, perched high.
     It's a dress for an adventure,
a dress ready for
     whatever it will face.
Strongly stitched, unspoiled, new,
     well made,
It is meant to endure.

The trip is not easy, however, and becomes deadly when the family elects to take a shortcut.

"That Night"
We'll take a shortcut, pass south
under Salt Lake," Father says
that night around the fire. "Plenty of time
to cross the Sierra Nevada before
the end of fall."
Mother asks, "Who else is going?"
Father swats at a fly, replies, "No one
from here. They'll all be going north.
But there's a group ahead. If we leave tomorrow,
we should be able to catch up."
Mother doesn't answer, but I do.
     "It's a good plan," I say. "The sooner, the better."
Mother gives me a strange look, but Father only smiles.
"Had enough of this adventure, have you?"
     "This isn't an adventure," I say.
     "It's a journey of monotony and dust and sore feet."
Father laughs and laughs.
      I say, "I'm ready for California.
      To be at the foot of those mountains.
      That's when the adventure,
      truly will begin."

Father doesn't say anything.
His smile lingers
even though his laugh
has died.

The shortcut proves much more difficult than the party had planned. Food and water run short. People begin to argue among themselves. The weather turns cold, and then it begins to snow.

"The Wind"
The wind will not stop
breathing down hard upon us,
trying to turn us aside,
push us back down the mountain
with its cutting breath.
It breathes right through
my dress-- once too stiff,
thick for summer's heat now--
too thin, not enough.

It roars and moans,
picks up snow from the ground,
spits it in my face,
trying to get our attention,
but we tuck down our chins,
squeeze tight our eyes,
vow it will not be heard.

Ultimately, the party is forced to take shelter in some makeshift cabins, and then send forth a few members on snowshoes, made out of oxen's yoke, to look for help. Ultimately, less than half of the Donner party actually makes it to California. Back matter includes a map, a list of party members, and an epilogue.

A riveting read about the choices humans make when faced with survival.

If you want to know more about the Donner party, you could start by reading the Wikipedia entry.

Buffy Silverman is hosting the Poetry Friday Roundup this week.

Thursday, December 22, 2016


"false impressionism"

watercolor sky
suggests mild temperature
toes know otherwise

Wednesday, December 21, 2016


teacher, watch tiny
seed you planted and watered
grow to full glory

teacher, watch tiny
seed you planted and watered
grow to  full glory   fruition


cup your palms gently
you hold sacred baby dreams dream bubbles
do not pop them

I'm always struck, as I watch different kids, by how their unique talents emerge in different settings. Last night, I talked to V, one of the smartest, most amazing kids I have ever known. His first language is Spanish. His dad is a construction worker. His mom is a child care provider. He has two younger brothers and sisters. He is attending one of the toughest high schools in our district. And getting straight A's. He told me that School of Mines has already contacted him, even though he's only a sophomore. They want to give him a scholarship. He thinks this relatively small school, close to home, might be a good fit. 

And I watched A, who has struggled mightily with behavior challenges since a beloved grandmother died a year ago, as he performed in the music program. He was a star, singing and marching, and playing the recorder. E, who stood right next to him, is a third grader reading at a first grade level. I was helping organize the third graders, and right before they went on stage, D, who is one of the brightest kids in third grade, turned and said to me, "I'm really glad I get to stand next to E because he's a great singer." E beamed.

This morning I typed a fairy tale (shhh, don't tell!) that S plans to wrap and give to her family for a Christmas gift. S, who has also not quite figured out the reading thing yet, is a terrific artist and spent most of the day illustrating her book, then we stood outside in the wind after school so she could read it to me. Her pictures were absolutely beautiful, and I told her she needed to save the book, so that when she is a famous illustrator, she can put her second grade work on her website. 

And I was struck by all the tiny baby dreams we hold in our hands every single day. Such a privilege, this work we do! 


"when the high schoolers come to visit" holiday program tentatively, they trickle in welcome home, dear friends!

Last night was our holiday program. I love any program that involves kids and singing (should I admit that after 30 years, I still tear up pretty much every program??) and last night was no exception. Besides the singing, and the cute clothes, and the proud parents and grandparents, I love the high school kids.

Yep! Tons of our kids, graduated a year or two or three ago, that come back to see younger brothers and sisters. Most of them kind of trickle in, a little shy, a little unsure, but pretty much all glad to be "home."

And we are so, so, so glad to have them! We celebrate their successes, dust off their dreams, and then hug them, and send them on their way out into the big wide world again.

So grateful for the privilege of working in a place that kids call home!

So grateful for the privilege of teaching!

Monday, December 19, 2016


No one ever told me that parenting almost adults is way, way, way harder 
and scarier and lonelier than parenting little guys. 

"On Waiting for My Almost Grown Sons to Come Home at Night"
A decade ago
I tucked them in, slipped downstairs,
Now I wait and pray.


"On Waiting for My Almost Grown Sons to Come Home at Night"

when they were young
stories and kisses were enough
i long for those days.

Sunday, December 18, 2016


calendar insists
three more days, exhausted teachers
ponder eternity

Revised on Monday night:
calendar commands
three more days, an eternity
to tired teachers

Saturday, December 17, 2016


From the Denver Post, December 17, 2016, -3 degrees when I was shoveling

"Shoveling Six Inches of Snow on A Frigid Saturday Morning"

I have cleared a path
Brought cleanness and clarity
to a messy world

(c) Carol Wilcox, 2016

Friday, December 16, 2016


Dan Rather has alays been, for me, a voice of reason, and even more so in this time of complete and utter craziness. This morning, he posted this poem on Facebook.

Such truth in such a time of darkness. 

To sin by silence when we should protest
makes cowards out of men. The human race
Has climbed on protest. Had no voice been raised
Against injustice, ignorance and lust,
The inquisition yet would serve the law.
And guillotines decide our least disputes.
The few who dare must speak and speak again,
To right the wrongs of many.
                        —Ella Wheeler Wilcox

And it seems somehow right that Tabatha, at The Opposite of Indifference, is hosting Poetry Friday today. 


Oops, put this on twitter last night, forgot to put it here. 

Dear poetry fairy
my page is so empty, please 
sprinkle poem dust here. 

Wednesday, December 14, 2016


"middle school lunch duty"

when they cannot last
any longer, their darkest
secrets spill over

I offer crumpled
tissue from my coat pocket
we are friends for life

(c) Carol Wilcox

Tuesday, December 13, 2016


"on meeting a panhandler at the bus stop at dawn"

tattered glove, palm up
coffee should be a human right
i dig deep for change


Haiku for healing

Yesterday, I posted on Twitter, but forgot to post this here.

Heidi Mordhorst wrote this:
note to self:
hurrying towards everything
I hurt someone

I lifted her idea and wrote this.
hurrying through life
thoughtless actions unkind words
leave behind soul scars

Sunday, December 11, 2016


Couldn't get rid of enough words to get a haiku, so a tanka will have to do.


She lays at my hip,
snoring blissfully, dreaming
of counter snatching
leash yanking, trash tipping days--
checkered history, now past.

(C) Carol Wilcox, 2016

Or wait, maybe I can…

she snores- leash yanking,
trash tipping, counter snatching,
checkered history.

(C) Carol Wilcox, 2016

Back Story: I have had my dog, Star, since she was a puppy. When she was young, she was a typical lab, very friendly and good natured, but also high energy, and constantly into mischief. We went through three different obedience schools and Star still pulls on the leash, and makes 90 degree turns if there is the possibility of a snack. In her younger days, she was notorious for stealing food off the counter (even if the owner had just turned around to get something out of the refrigerator) and tipping over the trash.

Now she is 11, and she has aged noticeably in the past six months. Her muzzle was gray, now the gray and white frame her eys. She's much more mellow. She no longer follows me up and down the stairs, or even from room to room on the same floor. She still loves long walks, but is stiff the next day. And she's much more selective about begging for snacks, or snatching food off the counter. I wonder how long it will be before we have to say goodbye.

Saturday, December 10, 2016


precarious tip
dubious sparkling lights
imperfection reigns

BACKSTORY: My boys went through a lot before I adopted them at ages 7 and 9. They have a lot of bad memories around holidays and the scars run deep. Because of that, our holidays are generally pretty low key. Last year, we didn't even put up the Christmas tree. This year, I decided I was going to put it up no matter what. It didn't go very smoothly. No one wanted to help. I had a hard time hauling the tree from the garage into the house by myself. I couldn't get the top on right. The lights wouldn't work. I couldn't find the hooks for the ornaments. By the end, I was pretty much convinced that somehow the tree is a metaphor for our less than perfect family.

Friday, December 9, 2016


a simple woman
flannel pajamas warm socks
perfect Friday night


Saturday morning redo

such simple pleasure
flannel pajamas warm socks
perfect Friday night



People who have read my blog know I always like a few facts with my poetry. That's probably why I loved JAZZ DAY: THE MAKING OF A FAMOUS PHOTOGRAPH by Roxanne Orgill. JAZZ DAY tells the story, through poetry, of a famous photograph, that was taken in 1958.

An introduction explains the background behind the photograph. Esquire magazine was planning an issue devoted to jazz music. Graphic designer, Art Kane, who was  NOT a photographer and had to borrow a camera to take the picture, decided to gather as many jazz musicians as he could and take a photograph. Kane found a brownstone on a street in Harlem, the magazine put out a call through the musician's union, and history was made. The actual photograph is included in a fold out page in the back of the book.

The story is told through about twenty poems. Some poems capture the big picture.

"The Golden Age of Jazz"
The cover's cerulean
For the special supplement
Esquire, January 1959
Inside, the big picture:
Fifty-seven musicians
All living, all gathered
in black and white
A long August morning
Stretched into the afternoon
Fifty-seven musicians
Standing on a stoop
Spilling on the sidewalk
Still talking
Can you hear the music
Window street brownstone
No sky
Although the sky
Was in fact cerulean
that day

Others are told from the point of view of the musicians that attended the event.

Theolonius Monk
The man from the record company hired a taxi
To pick up Theolonius Sphere Monk
Who had a regular gig with a quartet
At the Five Spot in Cooper Square
Turned them away
Night after night
Monk was always late
For work at the Five Spot
Straight to the piano
To play a melody
His quartet could not follow
Did a dance during Johnny Griffin's solo
Or went for a stroll through the club
Six nights a week Mondays off
Ten in the morning was unspeakably early
For Thelonious Sphere Monk
Who was always
Taxi waited outside his building
On West Sixty-Third
Meter running
An hour and more
While Monk tried on jackets
To complete the perfect outfit
Emerging at last in pale-yellow linen
Skinny tie, dark slacks, porkpie hat
And the inevitable bamboo frame sunglasses
The ones he always wore to play

Several of the poems are told from the point of view of Alfred, a little boy on the street that day.

"Esquire, 60 Cents" 
Alfred, a boy
A dozen nickels saved
A month of matinees
And there I am
In the bottom row
In my suspenders
Next to Nelson and the Count
Holding onto his hat
Leroy in short pants
And the other boys
A whole lot of men
And three women
In their Sunday best
Me, Alfred
With a patch on my knees
But jeez
I'm in a magazine
Back matter includes an author's note, biographies and color photos of about 15 of the more famous musicians, and a page that lists other artistic endeavors- books, movies, etc., that have occurred as a result of the famous photograph.

JAZZ DAY marks illustrator Francisco Vallejo's first foray into picture books. I hope there will be many more because his illustrations (I think they are watercolor) are gorgeous.

Add this book to your reading list for African American history month!

Jone, our fearless CYBILS Poetry Leader has the Poetry Friday Roundup today.

Thursday, December 8, 2016


a gentle dousing
of deep like-minded wisdom
softens soul's hard dirt

Backstory: I totally love my job.  It's such a privilege, every single day, to work with children and teachers, and to know that I am doing something that really, really matters.  At the same time, I can't think of a time in my 30 some-odd years as a teacher, when the job has been harder. Public perceptions, testing and testing and testing, accountability, never ending trackers and data analysis. 

Tonight my district brought in Principal Baruti Kafeli to talk about equity in education. I signed up to go about a week ago, but then waffled all day today. It's super cold, right around zero, and the roads are icy. I was seriously considering just heading for home, but then, at the last minute, I decided to go. I'm so glad I did! His words really fed my parched soul.

Very thankful to have had this experience!

Wednesday, December 7, 2016


"States of Matter"

steaming liquid melts 
solid icicle fingers
blood remembers veins 

(C) Carol Wilcox, 2016

Back Story: Brrr!!! It's cold in Denver today!!!! 

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Haiku for Healing

heavy eyes signal
sleep chariot approaches
time to climb aboard

Monday, December 5, 2016

#haikuforhealing #6

autumns screen door bangs
one final time insistent
winter rushes in 

Sunday, December 4, 2016

4- #haikuforhealing

Golden Retrievers are my absolute favorite dog, but I have never owned a purebred dog.
This puppy is from the Warrior Canine Connection. The WCC breeds labs and goldens, which are then trained by veterans and used as service dogs for veterans.

Two haiku for tonight.

cold wet nose presses
against my hand reminding 
me all will be well


your golden advice
a long walk always makes
everything better

BACK STORY: For about the past twenty years, I have had a dog or two. First here was Ramsey- a golden retriever mix, then Maggie- a yellow lab, Star - a black lab mix, Jack Black- a rottweiler mix, Boo- my mom's maltese. No matter what kind of day I have had, or how crazy life gets, there is always at least one constant. The dog needs to be walked. And somehow, after a walk, life usually seems much more manageable. 

Saturday, December 3, 2016

#3 #haikuforhealing

surprised by red
cardinals parading through
blue gray winter drifts

(C) Carol Wilcox

Backstory: I've been trying, pretty unsuccessfully so far, to participate in Mary Lee's #haikuforhealing. This morning, (when I was supposed to be getting ready to teach a class at 12:30), I  started poking around with the hashtag #haikuforhealing and discovered that lots of people are participating on Twitter. Some are participating by lifting a line from other poets. I wondered if I could do that.

 At Margaret Simon's Reflections on the Teche, I found my line. Margaret wrote about a plant on her back porch:
surprised by red
a glow of Christmas paper
wrapped in a flower
–Margaret Simon

 Red is my absolute  favorite color. And I loved the line, "surprised by red." I wondered if there was a time when I had been "surprised by red." And I remembered living in New Hampshire. The winters were so long and cold and snowy. And they lasted forever! I live in Colorado. We have, or used to have, cold, snowy winters, but they are really different. A week of frigid temperatures is often followed by an interlude of days in the fifties. And gray days are followed by brilliant blue skies. New Hampshire winters were endless snow and cold. By February, I was longing for color. One day, I was doing dishes, looking out the window. Four or five cardinals had landed in a tree in my front yard and were feasting on seed that a neighbor had put out. I was definitely surprised, or maybe even astonished by all that red! And there was today's #haikuforhealing! Thank you Margaret!

astonished by red
cardinals parading through
blue gray winter drifts

(C) Carol Wilcox

Friday, December 2, 2016

#2 #hugejoy


Princess drags rhinestoned
slippers from purple backpack
adjusts tiara
and prepares to pirouette
at most improved reader ball

(C) Carol Wilcox, 2016

Backstory: I thought I was going to write under the hashtag #smallkindness, but today I have to write about huge joy. This afternoon was our end-of-trimester awards assembly. One of my intervention students was selected as "Most Improved Third Grade Reader." Usually, the kids don't find out what awards they have won until the assembly, but somehow, she discovered earlier this week that she was going to win this award. She was absolutely beside-herself thrilled (so was her reading teacher!). This morning, when I walked in the door to work with her group, she immediately dragged me out into the hall. "I have something to show you," she said, opening her locker and pulling out her purple backpack. Somewhere, maybe from her ninth grade sister's middle school graduation, she had gotten a pair of sparkly, rhinestoned silver high-heeled sandals.  "I'm ready for the assembly," she told me. "I'm getting dressed up." And sure enough, when it was time for the assembly, she teetered across the stage in her too-big sparkly sandals. Such huge joy!

Thursday, December 1, 2016


My friend Mary Lee over at Year of Reading is writing #haikuforhealing throughout the month of December. I told her I would try to write with her… I don't know if I have 31 haiku in me, so instead, in a world that seems far less than kind, I'm trying to collect the small kindnesses that come my way.

And I didn't pull off a haiku today, so a tanka will have to do.

Frigid predawn gray
Collarless bulldog dodges
rush hour madness
dog angel coaxes frightened
creature to truck's safe haven. 

- Carol Wilcox

Traffic in Denver is crazy, even really early in the morning and late at night. At 6:00 this morning I was headed down a busy city street to work when all of a sudden the delivery truck in front of me came to a full stop. Peering around the truck, I saw a white bulldog, trapped in the middle of the street, frantically dodging the traffic that rushed past him in either way. As I was trying to figure out where I could pull over, the driver in front of me climbed out of his truck, and somehow managed to corral the dog and hoist what looked like at least a 50 pound body into the cab of the truck.

The first small kindness…

Wednesday, November 30, 2016


My sweet E turns 2 today! I actually found this book after I had sent the birthday box to Phoenix, and had to create to a whole new shipment because every birthday girl deserves a special birthday book!
This one perfectly captures the pros and cons of having a T Rex at your birthday party!
If a T Rex crashes your birthday party
You'd probably be excited.
But you should know a T Rex is as big as a school bus
And he'll have a weird way of looking at you
like he wonders how you would taste with a little mustard.
He's never heard of toothpaste
and he's a close talker.
Those little arms are not very good at birthday games,
He'll eat the cupcake you were saving for your gammy
And he'll break all your toys. 

A perfect birthday gift for any dinosaur lover!

Tuesday, November 29, 2016


He throws the information at me as he is going out the door for Thanksgiving break.

"Her initials are E.N."

I tease a little, "I'm going to figure that out, you know. I can look at an eighth grade attendance roster and figure it out in about ten seconds."

"No you can't," he says. "You can't figure it out that fast."

"Yes I can." We laugh and then he is gone for ten days. I climb the stairs to go back into the building. I have forgotten about E.N. by the time I reach the front door.

Monday. The first day after vacation. I have about seven minutes before I am scheduled to be on the playground for lunch duty and I run upstairs to talk to the fifth grade teachers. The eighth graders are scattered up and down the hall, reading MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM. One tells me that he is reading the play because his brother told him that a lot of people die. I am processing that information, trying to remember which deaths go to which Shakespeare plays, when I run into E again.

"Did you look, Miss? Did you look it up?"

At first, I don't even remember what he is talking about.  "Did I look what up?"

"You know, you said you could figure it out in ten seconds."

I dig deep, trying to remember what I might have said I could figure out in ten seconds, trying not to let him know that I have absolutely no idea what we are talking about. What did I say I would look up? A book title? A random soccer fact? A high school application deadline? I have been known to look up any of those things for the middle schoolers.

He throws out another clue. "You said you could figure it out who it was in ten seconds."

Again, I dig deep.  'Who it was…"

I must still look a little vacant, because he gives me a little more information. "Her initials. Remember?"

Ohhhhh. Now I remember that quick interchange. One of a hundred, or maybe five hundred or a thousand that I had that day. Ten days ago.

But it was the only one I had with him.

And clearly it mattered.

Dang. What were those initials? E??? E what? E.R?

I put on my best private detective smile. "E…?" My voice trails off, hoping he will finish my sentence.

He obliges. "E.N., Miss, E.N."

"Oh yeah. E.N. I can figure that out. Give me two minutes." Now I have three minutes before I have to be on the playground. I dash into the fifth grade classroom to complete my original mission. On the way back downstairs I mentally run through the eighth grade girls. E.N??? By the time I reach the bottom of the stairs, I think I know who we are talking about.

E.N.? He and E.N. are a couple? Really?

That can't be right.

I check the roster to make sure, but there is only one E.N.

I head to the playground. I am a minute late.

He is not there. Probably inside making up homework.

I pull him aside in the cafeteria. "I know who E.N. is, " I announce. "Does she have long brown hair?"

He nods.

"And she's sitting at the table next to yours?"

He nods.

"And she's wearing a pink hoodie?"

He grins.

"I know who E.N. is."

He pushes away to dump his tray and I continue my rounds, willing myself to pay close attention.

I never know, after all, when a random kid will grab five seconds to dump a piece of his heart into my lap.

Such an amazing privilege, this work we do…

Sunday, November 27, 2016


by Lynn Plourde, illustrated by Teri Weidner

It's time for bed, but Baby Black Bear has decided not to hibernate.
"I'm staying awake the who-o-o-o-le winter," he says.
He thinks he might stay up all night and hoot with Owl.
Or perhaps eat sticks with Moose.
He wonders how long it will take him to grow a thick, white coat like Hare.

Mama Bear is worried, but Papa tells her he has it covered. And he does.

Sweet and predictable, with lovely softly blurred illustrations by Terri Weidner.

by Shoham Smith, illustrated by Einat Tsarfati

It's bedtime and the parents think their Sweet Little Nina is asleep.
Unfortunately, that's not the case.
Nina is wide awake.
She wants one more hug and kiss.
Then she leaps out of bed and heads for a grownup party complete with cake ("You know we don't eat at this time of night!") and sugary drinks, all set up in the living room.

Nina terrorizes the party, aided by various assorted aunts, uncles, and other guests, and followed by a pug dog all decked out in an e-collar!

You can guess who finally wears out and goes to sleep!

Interestingly, some commenters on Good Reads were concerned about the message this naughty  little girl and her lenient parents might send to children. I think kids will "get" the humor!

Thursday, November 24, 2016


Welcome! Poetry Friday is here!

I'm a CYBILS Poetry Judge, so each night this week, I've curled up with a novel in verse. Last night I read UNBOUND by Ann E. Burg.

UNBOUND is the story of Grace, a slave girl who has spent her entire life with her mother, her step dad who she calls Uncle Jim, and two toddler brothers. When she turns nine, Grace is sent up the hill to the Big House, to work in the kitchen, with Aunt Tempie. Before she goes, she and her mama have a conversation,
Promise you'll keep
your eyes down.
        I promise.
Promise you'll keep
your mouth closed.
         I promise.
Promise you
won't talk back.
          I promise. 

Grace soon discovers, however, that these promises are difficult to keep, especially given that Missus Allen, the plantation mistress, is incredibly cruel and hard to please. And then she hears some very difficult news....

A terrific historical fiction novel in verse, about a part of history I didn't know at all. According to the author's notes in the back of the book, there really was group of slaves who survived by escaping into the Great Dismal Swamp, an area on the Virginia and North Carolina border.

I can't wait to share this with kids on Monday!

Leave your poems in the comments below (I'm still trying to figure out Mr. Linky) and I'll round them up throughout the day on Friday.

It's not quite noon on Friday, but the comments seem to have slowed. I'll post the roundup so far, then will come back and revisit it later this afternoon.

Michelle Heidenrich Barnes has compiled all of the Today's Little Ditty Poems into a book, which catapulted into Amazon's #1 New Release in Poetry Anthologies! Michelle reminds us that we still have five more days to contribute a poem about refuge and solace to the Today's Little Ditty padlet.

Alan, who is more than a little modest,  has just published a new book of poetry, I BET THERE'S NO BROCCOLI ON THE MOON. Today, Alan has a post explaining how he uses alliteration in his poetry. Our fourth grades are studying poets' tools right now and I think they will enjoy learning from a master!

At Crackles of Speech, Cape Cod poet Steven Withrow remembers the advide given by his grandmother  as they walked by a cranberry bog.

It's interesting to me how many of us are drawing on the poems and hymns of childhood today. Julie Larios wanted to keep it simple today. I remember saying her poem/prayer when I was a little girl. Heidi Mordhorst offers a hymn she sang to her children when they were little.

Carmela wraps up three weeks of Thanks-Giving at Teaching Authors with a tribute to Katherine Patterson. I'm a long time fan of Paterson's novels, but didn't know she has also published GIVING THANKS: POEMS, PRAYERS AND PRAISE SONGS OF THANKSGIVING. I want to buy this book!

Anyone thinking about leftover pie? Be sure to check out Matt Forrest Esenwine's original poem, "Pumpkin," from the book DEAR TOMATO.

And while we are talking about pumpkins, check out  Dori's post, featuring John Greenleaf Whittier's, "The Pumpkin."

Kathryn Apel is hard at work on copyedits for a new book, but somehow still made time to write a quick poem. She made me laugh!

Violet Nesdoly shares, "To Skin," a never published celebration of our fabulous epidermis! One of those practically perfect poems that make me wish I could write this well!

Catherine Flynn says, "the mystery of the moon has offered me a welcome distraction from the turmoil of our world." Her series of original haiku remind me how important it is to look up and trust that all will be well.

Brenda Harsham also reminds us to celebrate nature, with a dragonfly haiku and gorgeous photograph. Wow!

Molly Hogan captures a scene outside her window with her original poem, "Autumn Pendulum."

Margaret Simon drew on a prompt from POETS AND WRITERS, "Make a list of words and phrases that describe the surface textures, odors, and colors that surround you as this year draws to an end… Write a trio of poems, each focusing on one type of sensory input. Select an element–setting, narrator’s voice, repeated words, or a specific object–that stays constant through all three, tying them together" to write her original poem, "Mowing in November."

If you have ever tried to explain to kids why, "And it was all a dream" endings just don't work, or if you have ever struggled with writing a good ending yourself, you have to read Ruth's original poem, "Endings." So true!

Holly's original poem is accompanied an explanation of how Japan feeds its children who are living at poverty level. 

Jan Godown Annino is in with two #iamthankful poems. The second one is also an entry in Today's Little Ditty place of refuge. I felt like I was at the beach while I was reading it!

Irene Latham, along with Poetry Friday posters Mary Lee Hahn and Heidi Mordhorst, actually drafted a poem in front of an audience at NCTE! She includes "At the Harvest Ball," as well as another poem written by Katherine Bomer. Reading everyone's posts, I'm sad to have missed this fabulous conference again this year.

Jeannine Atkins, whose novel-in verse, FINDING WONDERS: THREE GIRLS WHO CHANGED SCIENCE, is also in my stack of CYBILS nominees, participated in several different poetry panels, including one with Irene Latham, at NCTE. I'm fascinated by the amount of research that goes into so many poetry books and would have loved to hear Jeannine interviewed about her process. 

Mary Lee, describes perfectly how many of us have been feeling for the last few weeks. "My creative spirit… has been sitting out on the porch with her head between her knees for the last couple of weeks." Mary Lee's decided, however, to do something and will be hosting #haikuforhealing during the month of December. Come write haiku with us!

Linda Mitchell reminds me of an old favorite, "New Colossus," by Emma Lazarus. I memorized this poem in junior high, but have forgotten so much. Maybe we should have a day where everyone posts these lines on social media...

    “Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!” 

Tabatha Yeatts introduced me to a new website, WOMEN'S VOICES FOR CHANGE: REDEFINING LIFE AFTER FORTY.  I'd love to have coffee with Tabatha and the three poets she includes in her post today.

Little Willow has been sharing "thoughtful songs" all month. Today's "Integrity Blues" by Jimmy Eat World is an important one. Be sure to make time to listen to this ballad.

Alice Nine shares one of my all time favorite, favorite poems, "From Mother to Son," made extra special by the reflection by Joe Nathan, a Minnesota school administrator.

Jane, a friend from Vancouver, shares "Poem for the Long-ly Wed." In case you want to read the whole poem (I did, after reading part of it), you can find it at Writers' Almanac.  This poem is from Garrison Keillor's POEMS FOR HARD TIMES.

A lot of us seem to be finding solace, encouragement, bravery, maybe even a little hope in poetry. Linda Baie reminds me to revisit Joyce Sidman's WHAT THE HEART KNOWS: CHANTS, CHARMS, AND BLESSINGS.

Robyn Hood Black found some poems in vintage text, then turned them into Christmas ornaments. These would be great Christmas presents!

Be sure to check out Myra Garces-Bascal's review of NOCTURNE: DREAM RECIPES before you go! Looks like a book that's sure to delight even the most reluctant reader!

Tara Smith is enjoying ECHO ECHO, Marilyn Singer's newest book of reverso poems, which features characters from Greek mythology. I totally agree with Tara, who says, "There are those poets who are able to take this craft and create a new invention of the form, which leaves me all the more envious and dumbfounded: such is the invention of reverso poems by Marilyn Singer."  

Wednesday, November 23, 2016


Thanksgiving Eve seems a perfect day to feature poems about food.

I was talking with a group of fourth graders this week about how poetry helps us see the world in whole new ways, and about how we read a poem, and then can never look at that object again, without thinking of that poem. I wish I had read FRESH DELICIOUS: POEMS FROM THE FARMERS' MARKET by Irene Latham, illustrated by Mique Moruchi, before I had taught this lesson. Fresh delicious includes twenty-one poems, including some that children will know- tomato, cucumbers, lettuce, peaches, blueberries, strawberries, watermelon, potatoes, eggs and some they might not-purple hull peas,  basil, okra, and don't miss pole beans on the back cover from the Farmers' Market. A jillion surprising and really wonderful comparisons…

Where your
meets my
hopeful nose,
the world
with sweetness.
- Irene Latham

a fleet
of green

in a wicker
- Irene Latham

a bouquet
of minty
-Irene Latham

Mique Moriuchi's collage illustrations, featuring a variety of animals visiting the farmers' market and interacting with the produce  are perfect- bright, playful, and colorful. A bonus section includes recipes- salsa, fruit kebabs, lettuce wraps, and cheesy confetti frittata, mini veggie pizzas, and easy strawberry ice cream.

Another food/poetry book I read this week is OUR FOOD: A HEALTHY SERVING OF SCIENCE AND POEMS, is by a favorite author, Grace Lin, and her friend, Ranida T. McKneally. OUR FOOD features haiku from five food groups- protein, fruits, vegetables, grains, and dairy.

Protein foods
I've always wondered
Do brown chickens lay brown eggs?
My thoughts are scrambled.
Almonds are "good fats"?
Do they fight crime in disguise?
Seems nutty to me 
Each haiku is accompanied by a rich informative piece. Some are basic what you might expect to find in a book about food-
     - What is a fruit?
     - Why do I have to eat my vegetables?
     - What are protein foods?

Some take the reader a little deeper:
     - Why are so many vegetables green?
     - Why are lean meats healthier than fatty meats?
     - What is the difference between brown bread and white bread?

Still others are downright fun:
     - What makes popcorn pop?
     - Why do beans make you gassy?
     - Why are some cheeses so stinky?

End pages include a few additional questions, a diagram of the four food groups, and a glossary. A terrific poetry/science crossover!

Tuesday, November 22, 2016


My boys, 21 and 22, are almost grown.

And I'm finding it really, really hard to parent them right now.

The world we are living in is a really scary place.
 I fear for my chocolate skinned son every time they go out the front door.
I do not know what to say to my boys.
I do not know what they should
say or do
if they are going about their ordinary
every day business
picking up loaf of bread
or a gallon of milk
at the grocery store,
putting gas in their cars
or walking across the parking lot
on their way to class
and someone says something.
Keep your head down.
Walk away.
Don't make eye contact.
Get to a safe place
and call 911.
I raised them to be men
of character and integrity
I do not want them to live in fear.
And yet the world is a really scary place.

I worry about the choices they make.

All day today I have been thinking
about a lady named Gwenevere.
She's the mother
of the Chattanooga school bus driver
that crashed and killed
five children yesterday.
Early reports indicate
that he was driving too fast.
I could be Gwenevere.
My boys drive fast.
Run yellow lights.
Make poor decisions.
Every day,
I pray that their decisions
won't cause harm
to themselves
or others.
won't have
permanent ramifications.

And I have been thinking
about another mom.
Anonymous right now.
Her son was killed last night
in a stabbing
at an apartment complex in a college town
about an hour north of Denver.
A couple was fighting.
A neighbor stepped in to help.
And now he's dead.
I want my strapping strong sons
 to be up standers
to step in if someone needs help

But I don't want them dead.

My boys are almost grown
And yet I'm finding it really, really hard
to parent them right now.

The world is a really scary place.