Wednesday, April 25, 2018

POEM #25- Censored.

So I have been working, almost since the beginning of the month, on a series of shardomas. Tonight I worked for over an hour, and got nowhere. I finally reverted to one of my old favorites, the story poem. Actually not even sure this counts as a poem, but it's the best I can do tonight.


My mother and Marge Wisby,
who lives up the street
are reading
The cover picture,
an eerily glowing bassinet
with a bold red title
on black cover,
intrigues me.
(And, if truth be told,
scares me a little).

Linda Wisby and I
emerge from the basement playroom
to find our mothers talking about the book.
The conversation stops
as soon as we enter the room.
I wonder what what the book is about.
My mother will not tell me.
I want to read the book.
My mother will not let me.
"When you are older, " she says.
She has never censored my reading.
I wonder what the book is about.
I cannot wait until I am older.

I am reading Tinkerbelle,
the story of a man who sails
a small boat across the Atlantic.
I wait until my mother is out of the room,
take the dust jacket off of Tinkerbelle,
and switch the two books.
Much scarier than anything I have read.
Too scary for me.
My mother was right.
After one hundred pages
I switch the covers back
and return to Tinkerbelle.

I am censored. By me.
(C) Carol Wilcox

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

POEM #24- If you don't learn to read…

"If you don't learn to read…"

So I could just say to you,
"Listen, if you don't learn to read,
you will have to blindly sign forms
that people stick in your face,
you know, things like rental agreements
and car leases and insurance papers
then later, you will be told
about ginormous penalties
that you have incurred,
and when you protest,
someone will wave the paper in your face
and say, "You agreed to it.
It's right here."

Or maybe I could say,
"Listen, if you don't learn to read
you will not be able to figure out your tax returns
(and ok, yes, it maybe true that you may not be able to figure them out anyway)
but if you don't learn to read
you definitely will not be able to figure out your tax returns
and you will end up having to pay someone else
to do what you could probably do for yourself.

Or perhaps I could say,
"Listen, if you don't learn to read
you will not understand
when you get notices saying
you make too much money
so your medicaid has been cancelled
and no, you can't just throw those notices out
or dump them into a drawer
because at some point
those choices will come back
to bite you in the butt."

If I say those things,
will that make you want to learn to read?

(C) Carol Wilcox, 2018

Monday, April 23, 2018

POEM #23- Betrayal

I have been loosely following Amy Ludwig VanderWater's theme, ONE SUBJECT, 30 DAYS. A couple of days ago, she used a "back and forth" structure. I don't think it worked nearly as well for me as it did for her, but at least I tried.


In sixth grade
we sit, in order
best readers,
front right side of the room
Billy O and I
switch seats 1 and 2
every week.
Readers are leaders.

In seventh grade
Bernice Rosenhoover
wears frosted pink lipsticks,
miniskirts, and
platform heels
at lunch 
she necks with boys
on the railroad tracks
north of the junior high.

I do not even own a lipstick.

In sixth grade
finished assignments
mean time to read
from the messy overstuffed bookshelf
 in the back of the room.
I race through
The Borrowers,
The Yearling,
a hundred others.
The books are my real work.

In seventh grade
there are no real books
only anthologies.
I like the stories in those
but they are not books
and they are not very long
and we get in trouble
if we read ahead. 

In sixth grade
there is status to be found
in being the first person
through an SRA color level.
I enjoy that status.

In seventh grade
no one reads.
Reading is boring
Reading is uncool.
Reading is for nerds. 

I do not want to be a nerd.

And so I become Peter
denying my biggest truths
to please an angry crowd.

(C) Carol Wilcox, 2018

Sunday, April 22, 2018

POEM #22- rules for readers

Not sure they are considered "real poems," but I have always loved messing around with abecedarians, and usually at least one shows up every April. I've been messing around with this one off and on for a few days…

"Rules for Readers"

always allow ample time for reading
build a budget for book buying
constantly carry reading materials
don't devalue the power of a few minutes
"ear reading" is excellent, as are e-books
find friends and form a book club
genre and author studies are great
house a stack of "next reads on your nightstand
ignore those who insinuate that reading is not important
juggle multiple books if that works for you
know that reading is as essential as breathing
literary is lovely, but not always, it's important, sometimes to
make time for things like mysteries and magazines
never pass a bookstore without going in
observe what others are reading
plan for poetry pretty much every day
question, constantly, what you see in print
reread, review and recommend your favorites to other readers
stories are salve, mirrors, and windows for the soul, so don't
take truths you find in books lightly
unless you absolutely love a book, don't read it
value the opinions of others, but don't let them dictate your book choices
wish and wonder while you read
exit books that just aren't working out for you
you don't need to defend your reading choices
zzzzzzz- end each day with a little reading

(C) Carol Wilcox, 2018

Saturday, April 21, 2018

POEM #21- Endless

If you teach a child to read, then their opportunities in life will be endless. 
Barbara Bush (1925-2018)


sometimes it seems as if
there is no way you
will be able to teach
that recalcitrant reader how a 
single book can change a person's entire world because that child
resists endlessly, but you hold big truth, and so you are compelled to 
keep looking for that perfect read
and then
one magical and unforgettable day their 
eyes are opened to the opportunities 
waiting in
books and all of a sudden, that student's life,
previously limited, will
never be 
the same, the horizons have become endless 

(C) Carol Wilcox, 2018

Friday, April 20, 2018

POEM #20- If I were a book

For the past two weeks, I have mostly been proctoring session after session after session of our state's "blessed event." Definitely not my favorite thing about teaching. We aren't allowed to look at the screen while we are proctoring, but I can't help but wonder what the kids are reading. On other tests,  in the past, I've been surprised more than once, to see the names of authors that I love. And truthfully, I always feel a little betrayed by that. I always wonder why an author would ever sell her work like that...

And as far as style, I've been reading Amy Ludwig Vanderwater's poems this month. Amy writes rhyming poems, pretty much every day, and she's really, really good at it. I hardly ever write rhyming poems, it just seems way too hard to me. Somehow, tonight, I decided I would try rhyming…

"If I were a book"

If I were a book
I'd want to face out,
and show off my cover
my worth I would flout.

If I were a book
I would want to be read,
in classes, on buses,
I'd want my words spread.

If I were a book
I'd hate corners turned,
but notes in the margins
would show lessons learned.

If I were a book
I'd want a few smudges,
they'd show I'd been loved
I wouldn't hold grudges.

If I were a book
I never would be
a passage to dissect
from a test factory.

(C) Carol Wilcox, 2018

Thursday, April 19, 2018

POEM #19- Blueberry Pie Elf

When I was a little girl, my mom took us to the bookmobile parked at a nearby shopping center every single week. I couldn't wait to go. I'd check out as many books as my library card would allow, and carry my treasures home. I would spend the rest of the day and probably most of the week, simply reading.

My sisters read very differently. My middle sister did not read much at all. My youngest sister read, but she had one book, THE BLUEBERRY PIE ELF, that she read over and over again, for many, many months. When we got to be adults, I found that book online, and gave it to her for Christmas one year.

Today is my sister's birthday. This poem is for her.

"Blueberry Pie Elf"

Monday afternoon.
I couldn't wait
to clamber aboard
the bookmobile
to exchange
my teetering pile
for another million treasures. 

My sister,
a much more
faithful reader.
Every week,
she'd climb the stairs
with her paltry pile,
two or three books at most
and proceed directly
down the narrow aisle
to the checkout desk.
She had to know, for sure, that
Elmer, the blueberry pie elf,
was coming home
with her again,
before she would check out
anything else.

She was a one book kind of gal.

(C) Carol Wilcox, 2018

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

POEM #18- Reading Confessions

Reading Confessions (tanka wannabe's)

i am a person
known to dive into dumpsters, 
brave busy intersections,
and ford rushing rivers,
in search of reading material

friends always tell me
over easy eggs and fantasy
 are pleasing to the palate
I swear I've tried 'em
both stick in my craw 

each time i promise
i won't do it again, but 
mid book, I can't wait
I leap sixty pages
and peek at the end

(c) Carol Wilcox, 2018

Tuesday, April 17, 2018


June 1969.
Family vacation
to visit relatives.
Somehow, the unthinkable happens.
I run out of reading material.

I mount the steep stairs
to my grandmother's attic.
Find a box of books in one corner. 
Thick adult books.
Faded water stained covers.
Yellowing pages.
Small print.
The choices are paltry.

500-page biography of Queen Victoria
is close to the top. 
I begin reading.
I read and read and read.
DRINA is long.
I don't know much about English history
DRINA is hard to understand. 
I read and read and read.
DRINA is boring.
I do not finish in the week
I spend at my grandmother's. 
She lets me put DRINA in my suitcase.
I am not a quitter reader.

By the end of the summer
I have finished DRINA.
It is easily the longest book I have ever read. 
I can recite a few random facts.
Queen Victoria's real name was Alexandrina.
Drina shared a bedroom with her mother 
until she became queen at age 18.
Queen Victoria was married to Prince Albert. 

Fifty years later I am a teacher. 
Every time we talk about rigor
I picture that faded navy blue cover.
I remember DRINA.
If a text is long and hard and boring
and the reader doesn't quit
does that count as rigor?

(C) Carol Wilcox, 2018

Monday, April 16, 2018

Poem #16- Taps

Today, I decided to try something completely different. A few years ago I encountered a form that was new to me. Bonnie, who blogs at is a March slicer. She posted a poetry form called an arun, which she learned from another slicer, Stacie, who blogged at  An arun is a fifteen-line poem, written in three sets of five lines. Each set of five lines follows the same syllable structure: starting with one syllable and increasing by one (1/2/3/4/5 — 3x). Today's poem is an arun, written in honor of one of my students, a soccer goalie who just couldn't  leave until she finished the last few pages of her book. 


ends in
a concert 
of banging chairs
and slamming lockers

turn page
after page
do not notice
room has gone silent

on last words
soccer practice
will just have to wait

(C) Carol Wilcox,2018

Sunday, April 15, 2018

POEM #15- Why I Read


when loud voices and slamming doors
have been replaced by an unbearable silence
when you are gone but living in every cabinet I open
books are an escape hatch.

when words beyond hurtful have been spoken
when my life blood dries in pools on the dining room floor
when my heart is shattered into a million pieces
books are soul glue.

when all doors to happy family appear barred and chained
when the path to wholeness has ended at an unscalable cliff
when there appears no turning back
books are a flashlight on life's dark path.

like a million other days in the land of hard,
books are truth
and home.

(C) Carol Wilcox, 2018

Saturday, April 14, 2018

POEM #14- You Ask Me Why You Need to Read

I have fought an uphill battle with my seventh graders this year. Many of them don't like to read, and don't see a lot of use for reading in their lives. As a lifelong reader, that's really hard for me to hear. I want them to love, love, love reading, to know the pleasure of escaping to a good book when life is hard, and to know how it feels to understand yourself better by walking through someone else's story. 

I also want kids to know that reading is where I come to know and understand worlds far beyond my own. This week, I was really troubled, as were many other people, by a study that was reported in the New York Times and the Washington Post. The study said that 22% of millenials are not sure that they have ever heard of the Holocaust. Sixty-six percent don't know what Auschwitz is. And I remember that I came to know that era through books, as early as fourth or fifth grade- Snow Treasure, Anne Frank,  and The HidingPlace. More recently, my heart has been broken by Code Name Verity, Rose Under Fire, Refugee,  and All the Light We Cannot See. When I think about the impact those books have had on me, I know I cannot give up sharing books with kids…

"You Ask Me Why You Need to Read"

You ask me why you need to read…

Twenty-two percent
of millenials  
are not sure 
they have never heard 
of the Holocaust

And I think of how I came to know…

At ten,
I sledded down a mountain
with Peter, Michael, Helga and Louise
smuggling Norway's national treasure
past Nazi eyes to waiting ships. 

At thirteen, 
I was Anne Frank,
altruistic, selfish,
brave, fearful,
huddled silently 
in a crowded Amsterdam annex
with my sister, mother, father,
and four others 

At sixteen, 
I returned to Amsterdam
with Corrie TenBoom and her sister Betsie, 
middle aged spinsters, 
working in their eighty-year-old father's watch shop
until the Nazi invasion
turned the three of  them into resistance fighters

between 1940 and 1945
1.3 million people
were deported to Auschwitz
1.1 million were killed
two thirds 
of American millenials 
do not recognize
the name of this place

And you ask me why you need to read…

(C) Carol Wilcox, 2018

Friday, April 13, 2018

POEM #13- Happy Birthday Lee Bennett Hopkins!

Happy Birthday 
Lee Bennett Hopkins!
Wishing you a day filled with
dear friends and stories and cupcakes!

In honor of Lee, and all of the contributions he has made to the world of children's literature, and more specifically to the world of poetry, I decided I would try a golden shovel poem, based on one of Lee's poems, "Storyteller, (For Augusta Baker)" from one of his most recent books, JUMPING OFF THE LIBRARY SHELVES, published in 2015.

(For Augusta Baker)
by Lee Bennett Hopkins

As she speaks
leap from pages--

there are
friends like
frog and toad--

I walk 
down a
yellow brick road.

Worlds of paper

Miss Augusta 
and I
are here
in a room
filled with magic

And as her voice
the highest rafter--

I believe in


I believe in

happily every after. 

"this I believe"

there is great magic in
beginning each child's day with once-upon-a-time,
also firmly believe 
each child's day should end in
they all lived happily 
and kindly and peacefully ever 

(C) Carol Wilcox, 2018

And now you should head over to Robin Hood Black's 
where there are lots of posts, and maybe some cake and ice cream and candles,  in honor of Lee!

Thursday, April 12, 2018

POEM #12- Gardener

My seventh graders are an endless source of joy and consternation. I so, so, so want them to be readers. I buy books and talk books and read books. And honestly, I have to drag most of them, kicking and screaming, to the reading table every single day. Yeah, there are at least three that are avid readers, and devour a book a week. And there are seven or eight more that love graphic novels and beg me, pretty much every day, to buy more. And a few series lovers- think Wimpy Kid, Nate the Great, etc. But most of my seventh graders are really not what I would describe as readers. There are, however, a small handful that are growing that way. And I wonder about them. How are they coming to a love of reading? What planted that seed for them? How can I best support them? This poem is for one of my favorite new readers.


You dart and spin through halls
dribble down the court
fly toward first base
a non-stop, middle school, moving machine

and yet every afternoon,
for thirty solid minutes
all that motion stops
as eye, brain, heart override
that endlessly active body

you stand on the diamond with Jackie
lose a half-read copy of Refugee
and beg me to find another so you can finish it
put dibs on a new book because you remember
the author visited our school last year
I watch and wonder

What gardener
planted that reading seed in your soul?

(C) Carol Wilcox, 2018

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

POEM #11- "When Did You Stop Reading?"

I'm teaching seventh grade reading class this year. And it's hard, because so many of them don't like to read, at all, and I feel like I'm talking books, and showing them myself as a reader, but I'm not seeing them move and grow as readers. Today, when I was talking to one of the seventh grade girls, this poem came to me.

"When Did You Stop Reading?

First grade.
Robert Munsch was your favorite author.
Remember how we laughed over
Pigs and Moira's Birthday?
How earnestly you explained
the message in Stephanie's Ponytail?
And how you read your way through
every single dinosaur book in the library.
You were definitely a reader then.
And I wonder
When did you stop reading?

Did you quit in second grade
when teachers decided that reading
was a lot like race car driving
and that measuring words per minute
was more important
than carrying stories
in your heart basket?
Was that when you stopped reading?

Or was it in third grade?
That was the year we got out
the test prep packets
and asked you to peer through
a magnifying glass at a text that was rigorous
(not to be confused with ridiculous)
because that activity
was somehow more worthwhile
than sitting with your best friend
heads bent over Each Kindness
promising that you would never
be that mean to someone.
Was that when you stopped reading?

Or was it when you got to fifth grade
and your teacher said that graphic novels
and Diary of a Wimpy Kid
were not acceptable for someone
about to enter middle school
but she never told you
about other books you might like
and then your class went to the library
but there wasn't a librarian
and you didn't know what to choose
so you went back to your class without anything.
Was that when you stopped reading?

Or was it when you hit middle school
and there was one assigned book every quarter
and you didn't really care anything about
factory life on the east coast in the 1800's
or Japanese kite makers who immigrated to California
and the class crawled through that book at turtle speed
and then you got to the end of the book
and you were supposed to talk about how
the main character had changed
from the beginning to the end
but you couldn't remember the beginning
because it was a long time ago
and what you really wanted to talk about
was how your best friend, who had been your best friend since kindergarten
had changed and was not your best friend anymore
but that didn't fit into the sentence stem
and so you couldn't talk about it.
Was that when you stopped reading?

And is it too late to do Reading CPR?

(C) Carol Wilcox, 2018

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

POEM #10- A Phonics Girl

April is National Poetry Month. I'm trying to write a poem every day. I've chosen, "A Reading Life" as my theme. Some days I'm writing along with Amy Ludwig VanDerwater over at the Poem Farm. Amy's theme for this month is "One Subject, Thirty Ways." She is writing, every single day, using a different structure or poetic technique, about the constellation Orion. Today's technique was a "circular poem." Amy describes it this way:
A circular poem begins and ends the same way.  Some people call this "going out the same door you came in," and this is a good way to remember it.  Sometimes a circular poem - or other text - closes with the exact same words, and sometimes it closes with words that are much like the beginning. 
Here's my attempt at a circular poem. 

"A Phonics Girl"

Me? I have never been much of a phonics girl.

Second grade. 
I am wearing my new brownie uniform.
Tan button up the front dress. 
Pumpkin orange tie. Stretchy belt. Felt beanie. 
I love the beanie. 
I wear it all day. 
Even to reading group.

We sit on hard wooden chairs
in a semicircle in front of the teacher. 
A large chart hangs beside her. 
She spells the words on the chart.
L-e-t. Let. N-e-t.  Net. P-e-t. Pet.  
I know how to read these words.
These are baby words. 
I can read chapter books. 

Mrs. Crowder points to the words.
She tells us they are all short e words. 
I think she is talking about the height of the letters. 
I agree with her about let. 
The e is shorter than the l and the t
But what about get and yet?
The g and y are the same height as the e..
But that part that hangs down, what about that?
And what does short e have to do with reading anyway?

I tip my head back. My beanie falls off. 
I hop up, walk through the center of reading group,
around the back of the circle, pick it up, 
traipse through the center of reading group, sit back down.
Mrs. Crowder is still talking about short e. 
I tip my head back. My beanie falls off again. 
I hop up, walk through the center of reading group,
around the back of the circle, pick it up, 
traipse through the center of reading group, sit back down.
The third time Mrs. Crowder stops me. 
"Carol," she says, "Don't you want to learn to short e?"
"No thank you," I say. "I don't care to learn short e.
I can already read."

And so the rest of the class learns short e. 
While my impudent already reading self
 sits on the cold tile floor in the hall 
twirling my brownie beanie on one hand
and picking read playground gravel 
off the back of my bare legs with the other.

Me? I have never been much of a phonics girl.

(C) Carol Wilcox, 2018

Monday, April 9, 2018

POEM #9- Found Poems from Dan Rather

Since November, 2016, I have followed Dan Rather on Facebook. For me, he is a voice of reason in a world of crazy. Yesterday he had a post about libraries. In that post, I found a bunch of short poems.


Next to the Supreme Court
and facing the great dome
of the Capitol
the Library of Congress.
Three institutions
judge and
archive the words
and thoughts
that allow
our nation 
to function.

A government of laws
is a government of reason
and a government of books.

-Dan Rather


our own biases 
and learn beyond our level 
of formal education. 

These are qualities 
that are needed now 
more than ever.

Dan Rather


The library 
a reservoir 
for capturing 
the world’s knowledge
a beautiful temple 
of learning. 

Dan Rather

the building inspired me 
to dream of exploring a world 
greater than the one I knew.

Dan Rather

the librarian 
a guide to
 suggest, question, 
and prod my reading 
into new and unexpected directions. 
a true patriot...


Our Founding Fathers 
had sharp political differences, 
but they were almost all 
deep readers, 
writers, and thinkers. 
revered the power of the written word 
and how it enabled a nation free 
from the whims of a king. 

Dan Rather

Dan Rather

"I recognize a quaintness in waxing nostalgic about libraries in an age when we have instantaneous access to more information than was contained in all the combined library collections of my youth. Still, libraries represent an aspirational notion of democracy. They were, and still are, civic institutions that welcome anyone who wishes to become a more informed and independent citizen. In books we can find expert and trustworthy scholarship on any subject imaginable. By reading books, we can continually challenge our own biases and learn beyond our level of formal education. These are qualities that are needed now more than ever...
If you travel to Washington, D.C., you can see our country’s debt to the power of books in the very heart of our federal city. Next to the Supreme Court and facing the great dome of the Capitol is the Library of Congress. I find the symbolism inspiring: three institutions that write, judge, and archive the words and thoughts that allow our nation to function. The Library of Congress was founded in 1800 with a modest mission, a reference resource for Congress. But that changed after the British burned Washington during the War of 1812 and the original collection was lost. In response, Thomas Jefferson offered to sell his own library to the U.S. government. His collection of books was considered one of the finest in the New World, containing thousands of volumes on almost every topic imaginable — not just law, statecraft, and history, but also the sciences, philosophy, and the arts. To those who argued that such a disparate set of works was unnecessary for a Library of Congress, Jefferson responded, “There is in fact no subject to which a member of Congress may not have occasion to refer.”
The library now had a bold new direction — a reservoir for capturing the world’s knowledge. This mission was enhanced greatly in 1870, when Congress stipulated that the library must receive two copies of every book, map, photograph, or other such work that was submitted for copyright in the United States. This caused the collection to expand exponentially, and the pace of growth continues at what is now the largest library in the world. The building on Capitol Hill — with a domed ceiling soaring 160 feet above its spectacular reading room — is itself a beautiful temple of learning. A guidebook from around the time the new building opened in 1897 celebrated Jefferson’s idea of an expansive collection and perfectly captures my feelings for this singular institution. “America is justly proud of this gorgeous and palatial monument to its National sympathy and appreciation of Literature, Science, and Art. It has been designed and executed entirely by American art and American labor [and is] a fitting tribute for the great thoughts of generations past, present, and to be.”
Growing up in a working-class Houston, I had never heard of the Library of Congress but my local branch of the Houston Public Library showed me that books were not only important, they were also objects of beauty. The stone building had high ceilings, big windows, and a red tile roof; its Italian-style architecture made the library seem worlds away from my hardscrabble neighborhood. I was pleased that it later became a recognized historic landmark. Even as a high school student, I would often prolong my walk home from school to go by the library. It may sound sappy, but the building inspired me to dream of exploring a world greater than the one I knew.
But while the library’s physical charm was impressive, it was what was inside that made it truly magical. I was a voracious reader and spent countless hours in what became a sort of second home. I was following, in my own small way, the path laid out by Jefferson, Carnegie, and all the others who believed in the power of books. And I had a wonderful guide, the librarian Jimmie May Hicks, who served at the Heights branch library from the year of my birth, 1931, until her death in 1964 — more than three decades of quiet but consequential service to her community and nation. Like all the best librarians, Ms. Hicks would suggest, question, and prod my reading into new and unexpected directions. The library now has a memorial plaque in her honor that reads, in part, She dedicated her life to her profession and sought always to impart to others joy in acquiring knowledge and pleasure in the art of reading. She was a true patriot...
Our nation was born in a spirit of fierce debate. Our Founding Fathers had sharp political differences, but they were almost all deep readers, writers, and thinkers. When they set about to create a modern republic, they went into their libraries and pulled out the works of philosophers such as John Locke and Thomas Hobbes. They consulted the Greeks, the Romans, the philosophers of Europe, and the Bible. They revered the power of the written word and how it enabled a nation free from the whims of a king. As John Adams wrote, a republic “is a government of laws, and not of men.” A government of laws is a government of reason, and a government of books. That was true at our founding, and we must ensure that it remains a hallmark of our future."
Libraries must be part of #WhatUnitesUs

Sunday, April 8, 2018

POEM #8- Dear Ellen Tebbits (a poem in two voices?)

Dear Ellen Tebbits,

Did you know
I told a lie
because of you?

It's true.

I was about eight years old.
                                I think you were about eight too. 

I could read chapter books.
                               And you were one of my favorites.
                               I loved Ramona and Beezus and Henry Huggins
                               pretty much all of the Beverly Cleary books. 
                               But you were my favorite. 

You were a good girl.
                            I was a good girl too. 

You were not very good at ballet.
                             I was awful at ballet. 
                            And a little sad 
                            because both of my sisters 
                           were really good at dance and gymnastics
                            and anything athletic. 
                            And I wasn't. 
                            At all. 

You were a little awkward.
                            You wore your long underwear 
                             tied around your waist at ballet class.
                             and then it wouldn't stay there
                             when you tried to dance 
                             and Otis Spofford made fun of you.
                             I was a little awkward 
                             and it was a relief to know that 
                              other people were too.

You had problems with your friends.
                             You didn't have any good friends.
                              And then you and Austine were best friends.
                              And then you had a fight.
                               And you didn't know how to fix it.
                               I sometimes had problems with my friends too. 
You twisted your hair when you were thinking or worried.
                            I started twisting my hair too.

Except there was nothing in the book about your hair falling out.
                           And when I twisted my hair, it fell out.
                           And left a quarter-sized bald spot on my head.
                           And my mom thought I had a fatal disease.
                           And took me to the doctor.
                           And I was too embarrassed to explain about you. 
                            So I told the doctor I had a friend named Ellen.
                             And she told me to twist my hair.

Dear Ellen Tebbits,
Did you know
I told a lie
because of you?

(C) Carol Wilcox, 2018

Saturday, April 7, 2018

POEM #7- When vision fails

"Until I feared I would lose it, I never loved to read. One does not love breathing." Scout, TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD

I cannot imagine not being able to read. Two times in my life, however, I have been friends with avid readers who have lost their sight. The first was almost thirty years ago. My father's boss, Elnora, had a good friend (I'm embarrased that I can't remember her name) who was an avid, avid reader. In her late seventies, she was diagnosed with macular degeneration and completely lost her sight. She continued to read through audio books. I had dinner with her and my parents several times a year, and I would always come away with new thinking and new titles. That was before the days when audiobooks were readily available to the general population, and when I moved to New Hampshire, she checked out books for me to listen to along the way.

More recently, I have seen the effects of macular degeneration through my mom's dear friend, Mary.  Mary, who is 93 years old, has always been a voracious reader, but a few years ago, she, too, was diagnosed with macular degeneration, and is now almost completely blind. My mom reads the newspaper to Mary (actually mostly the obituaries, I think) and also helps her order recorded books several times each month. Mary spends hours reading every day.

"When vision fails"

Eyes that have served you well
for ninety-three years are failing
you cannot let go of reading
and so your ears take over
as other eyes
and other voices
carry stories
to your  heart.

(c) Carol Wilcox

Friday, April 6, 2018

POEM #6- Reading Roots- To Mom

April is National Poetry Month and I'm trying to write a poem every day.  I'm also following one of my favorite children's poets, Amy Ludwig VanDerWater, who is doing a really interesting series, "One Subject, 30 Ways." She is writing about one topic, the constellation Orion, using 30 different techniques. Yesterday, she wrote "Second Person" poetry, where you write directly to a person, using the pronoun you. 

I had been messing around with a poem about my dad, and it wasn't really working. I tried second person, and the whole thing kind of fell into place. I planned to start another poem about my mom (at one point I thought they would both be in the same poem, but it got too long and tangled), so I wrote another one for her. And then Amy's technique for today is free verse, which is pretty much the only kind of poems I ever write, so it worked perfectly.  Here's the poem for my mom.

"Reading Roots"
To Mom
You must have read to us.
The covers of Ping, Kiki Dances,
and Angus are worn and well-loved
but I do not remember
the sound of your voice reading.

I do remember
you dressed in sleeveless nightgown,
pastel pink or blue, flowered,
climbing into bed,
book in hand,
before eight every night.
You would prop both pillows
against the headboard
in the middle,
lean back on your throne,
sigh, and then begin
turning page after page after page.
My sisters and I were invited
to clamber aboard
only if we brought
our books and read.
Fussing, pinching,
playing under the covers,
even talking
could get us banished.

It was all about you and your book.

We could not
disturb you
when you were reading.

(c) Carol Wilcox, 2018

Amy is hosting the Friday Poetry Roundup at The Poem Farm today.

Thursday, April 5, 2018

Poem #5- Reading Roots

April is National Poetry Month. Books and reading have always been at the center of my life, and so I'm writing a series of poems, "A Reading Life." I'm getting lots of ideas from Amy Ludwig Vanderwater, over at The Poem Farm. Amy says,
This year at The Poem Farm, I will be writing a new poem every day about the constellation Orion.  Every day I will highlight a new poetic technique, a technique used by poets and by writers of other genres as well. After all, the techniques of poets are the techniques of all writers. I will be using my Fall 2017 Heinemann book, POEMS ARE TEACHERS, to lead me as I write all April long.
Today, Amy's technique is second person. She writes,
The poem is in second person because the speaker is speaking directly to the reader, in a YOU voice.  This worked out perfectly today, as it allowed my speaker to address my friend Mary Lee and anyone else who might feel conflicted about Orion's role in myth and in their lives. Second person is great for when you want to confide in someone or when you want your writing to feel directly personal.
Earlier this week, I had started a poem for my dad, a quiet, down-to-earth, midwestern manufacturers'  rep for industrial plumbing and heating supplies, a three-sport-college athlete, father of three girls, who always said he wasn't a reader, but pretty much always had a book going. My poem was originally in third person, but it wasn't quite working, so I had put it aside. Reading Amy's poem this morning, I wondered if I could make this one work in second person. And so I tried it.

Reading Roots #1
To dad

You always tell me
you are not a reader.
"I read really slowly,"
you say firmly
as if rate
was an accurate measure
of readerhood.
And when I am in college,
waiting for you to finish
the next John Grisham legal thriller,
so I can have it
I would agree.

You do read pretty slowly.

And yet every morning
when I come downstairs to start my day
you are sitting in your brown recliner
in front of the fireplace
in our family room,
pre-shower, messy hair,
loosely belted terry cloth robe
lost in your current read.
You look up only long enough
to grunt good morning,
then return to your book.

Five hundred pages
and a month later
you are finally finished
and I can read
the hardcover book
you purchased
from a bookstore
the day it was released.

Seventy two hours later,
we meet for book club.

You are a foodie,
who has savored
every delicious bite
of this author's feast.
You remember
details, foreshadowing,
twists and turns in the plot,
even specific words the writer has chosen.

I, on the other hand,
am a book cave girl
who has devoured this tome
in ravenous, ripping bites.
And even though book juice
is still dripping down my chin
onto the front of my shirt
I can tell you almost nothing
about my latest read.
Not even the main characters' names.
I remember only broad swatches of plot.

Perhaps I am the one
who is not a reader.

(c) Carol Wilcox, 2018

Jama Rattigan has compiled a list of poetry happenings in Kidlitosphere this month.

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Poem #4- When a School Doesn't Have a Librarian

Today is National School Librarian Day, but sadly, my school won't be celebrating. We won't be celebrating because we don't have a school librarian, and haven't for about eight years. Instead we have a paraprofessional, a very nice, well-meaning, hardworking professional. She knows how to use the computer system to check books in and out. She knows how to put books back on the shelf.  She knows how to request books from other schools in the system.

She doesn't, however, know children's literature. She doesn't read blogs to find the best new books. She doesn't know how to do book talks,  or put just the right book into kids' hands. She doesn't celebrate author's birthday or apply for grants. This poem is in honor of school librarians. And in honor of my grandmother, Grace Wolberg, who was a Chicago Public Library librarian for many, many years.

"When a School Doesn't have a Librarian"

When a school
doesn't have a librarian
there is no one to unlock the doors,
push furniture around,
fill showcases and book baskets
brings in games, plants, realia
to create an environment
that says to readers,
"Come in. Explore. Browse. Ask Questions.
This is a place for all things wonderful."

When a school
doesn't have a librarian
there is no one
to peruse catalogues,
read blogs,
scan award winners,
list kids' requests,
reverently unpack new books,
and choose the ones
that sit face outward
as book commercials
to grow readers.

When a school
doesn't have a librarian
there is no one to say,
"You loved Baby Mouse?
Come over here,
there are five more in the series."
And when you are done with those,
you might like the LUNCH LADY series
and after that you might want
to check out
Kate diCamillo's
"Tales from Deckawoo Drive.
And she has books for older kids too."

When a school
doesn't have a librarian,
there is no one to spend time
with that uber reader
who needs a new book every day
or the next Newbery winner
whose stories fill journals
or the budding NASA scientist,
whose insatiable curiosity
can't be satisfied with
normal classroom resources.

When a school
doesn't have a librarian
there is no one to take
that shy little guy
who hasn't yet
hit his reading stride
and say, "I heard you love dinosaurs.
Here is a shelf of dinosaur books.
Choose some
and then come back
for more tomorrow."

When a school
doesn't have a librarian
there is no one to say,
Or "I know things are hard right now.
You might like this new graphic novel,  Real Friends.
Other kids have hated school too. Here's Fish in a Tree. 
Lots of kids go through really hard family situations.
Check out Rules. How to Steal a Dog. Orbiting Jupiter. 
All of those kids made it through hard times.
And you will too.

Every school should have a librarian.

(C) Carol Wilcox, 2018