Thursday, December 31, 2015

AMAZING PLACES- collected by Lee Bennett Hopkins

Happy New Year! Several years ago, my friend Terri introduced me to a new practice. Rather than make New Year's resolutions, she makes a bucket list on New Year's Eve. The list has to have the same number of items as the years in her age. That makes perfect sense to me, so I guess tonight I will start making a list with umm, well, never mind, a lot of things on it.

One of the things that will appear on my list will definitely be travel. It's one of my favorite things, and something I have not gotten to do very much in the last few years. It makes sense, then, that I would start 2016 by reviewing AMAZING PLACES, one of Lee Bennett Hopkins' newest compilations.

AMAZING PLACES includes poems about some really well known places- the Grand Canyon, Niagara Falls, Missisippi River, the Liberty Bell, Fenway Park, and Harlem. It also includes a lot of less well-known places- the Oneida Nation Museum, the Watkins Museum of History in Lawrence, Kansas, Chinatown in San Francisco,  Ringling Circus Museum in Florida, National Museum of the American Indian, and Sandy Hook Lighthouse.

The list of poets included in this collection is pretty darn impressive- Alma Flor Ada, Jaime Adoff, Joseph Bruchac, Rebecca Kai Dotlich, Kristine O'Connell George, Joan Bransfield Graham, Nikki Grimes,  Lee Bennett Hopkins, J. Patrick Lewis, Jane Medina, Linda Sue Park,   Prince Redcloud, Charles Waters, and  Janet Wong. Illustrations are by one of my favorites- Chris Soenpiet and also Christy Hale, who has illustrated a number of children's books.

Back matter includes informational paragraphs about each place, which would be a great resource when studying settings, or for multi-genre research reports. End pages locate each place on a map of the United States.

Here they come again
those pale, rootless humans
squinting at the far country
where gorge meets sky.
How they gawk at me,
thinking I'm lonely!
Yes, I am one of only
a handful of trees
clinging to these
sun-striped cliffs,
branches suspended
over a clear drop
more miles down
than the number of rings
circling my middle.
But lonely?
What do they know?
Daily, I listen to the echo
of the Colorado River rapids
bouncing off red-purple ridges
sculpted by water and time.
Each moring, I witness the swoop and swirl
of hawks dancing in the air
we share.
Each evening,
I happily offer my lmbs
as respite for majestic eagles.
Oh, yes,
this home of mine
stitched to the horizon
is Grand.
I will cling here forever,
waiting to be found
by those lost
in the endless beauty
of the Canyon.
Nikki Grimes

Mary Lee Hahn is hosting POETRY FRIDAY at YEAR OF READING. In case you didn't know, Mary Lee wrote a haiku every day during the month of December, so be sure to go to her poetry blog, POETREPOSITORY, to read those.

Haiku #31

Not a great picture. My tree at sunset. They cut the big limb that extended over the neighbor's yard yesterday. 

Another not great picture. This is a chunk of the branch they cut off yesterday.
I'm sure there's a poem in the center, hoping someone will write it.

Phew! We did it! Thirty-one days of haiku! Hard work, but I have totally enjoyed writing with the little poetry community that we have created. Thanks to Leigh Anne Eck, Mary Lee Hahn, Kevin Hodgson, Steve Peterson, and Carol Varsalona! I have learned a lot from you!

"on writing haiku"
let's just write haiku
she said. i blithely agreed
i should have known
those seventeen syllables emerge
like blood from a rock
(C) Carol Wilcox, 2015

"lets just write haiku she said"
I blithely agreed
not knowing syllables
do not like to be dragged
from their underground caves
and carved into white pages.
(C) Carol Wilcox, 2015

"on writing haiku"
syllables revel in dark caves
they do not wish to be dragged out
pared, sliced, carved onto page.
(C) Carol Wilcox, 2015

"let's just write haiku,"
she said. i blithely agreed
totally unaware that syllables hide
in dark underground word caves
and vehemently resist
being dragged onto white page.
(C) Carol Wilcox, 2015

"On Writing Haiku"
desired syllables hide
in dark, underground word caves
vehemently resisting white page.
(C) Carol Wilcox, 2015

"When I agreed to write haiku"
I was unaware:
syllables lurk in dark caves
resisting white page.
(C) Carol Wilcox, 2015

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Haiku #30

living creatures fear
winter's brutal onslaught
earth reduced to silence

(C) Carol Wilcox, 2015


living creatures hide
as winter's brutal onslaught
reduces earth to silence
(C) Carol Wilcox, 2015

This morning, I read Steve and Kevin's poems on Twitter. It occurred to me that I really have not seen many nearly as many living creatures- birds, squirrels, or people- this week. We haven't had much snow, but it's been super cold, with the high being around 20 most days. That's where this poem came from. 

Tuesday, December 29, 2015


It started with an email from me to my poetry writing friend, Mary Lee.

OK, so here is a question. 

In April, we write thirty poems in a row. 
Every stinking day. 
For a whole month.

Why then, can I not write one more poem for the whole rest of the year???

Your non poetry writing friend,
Mary Lee responded with a challenge.
How about this small challenge: Join me in reading The Santa Clauses aloud on Monday, and then write a haiku a day in December and invite the students to come along for the ride. I'll publish mine at Poetrepository. You can tuck yours in the comments if you don't want to go all out on Carol's Corner.
Is that do-able? Then you won't be able to say you haven't written any other poems all year long!
 I thought that might be do-able. I didn't know, but have discovered since, that it's way harder to write a few words than a lot. And so, the two of us started out on December 1st. But here is the really, really fun part.

It only stayed two of us for about one day. Steve Peterson, a teacher from Iowa(@insidethedog), joined us almost immediately.  And so did Kevin Hodgson (@dogtrax). And LeighAnn Eck(@teachr4). And Carol Varsalona (@cvarsalona).

Originally, I thought I would write Christmas haiku the entire month. I think I ran out of ideas about a week in. Then I just kind of switched over and wrote about whatever-- nature, moments from the day. I'm definitely not a polished poet, but at least I have been writing every day.

Every morning Mary Lee posts on her poetry blog, Poetrepository. Kevin posts his on Twitter. Steve posts on Mary Lee's blog and on Twitter too. I publish on my blog, and in the comments on Mary Lee's and sometimes on Twitter, although that feels a little intimidating to me. There are usually a couple of different conversations about poetry- one on Mary Lee's blog and one on Twitter. And it's really, really fun.

It's also been a really playful thing. One week, Kevin played line tag with Mary Lee, picking up one of her lines, and including it in his poems. Another week, Mary Lee played poetry tag with herself, including a line from each day's poem in the next poem.

I'd never go so far as to claim that I am a poet like some of these folks are, but I've learned a lot. Haiku aren't supposed to have titles (mine usually do). Haiku often have kind of a kicker line- a surprise metaphor or ??? (those are really hard, mine don't usually have them). There's another closely related form, tanka- it's five lines, but a similar syllable pattern. Steve often writes those. They are supposed to have a hinge line in the middle, connecting two dissimilar images. That's really hard to do.

I'm really glad I took Mary Lee's challenge this month!

Haiku #29

This picture doesn't quite match. I took it at the beginning of our walk, before it got dark. 

sunset drags last blue gray
shards from sky, cold black winter 
night settles over earth
(c) Carol Wilcox, 2015

winter paintbrush spreads
gray blue palette across
snow white canvas
(C) Carol Wilcox, 2015

Monday, December 28, 2015

Haiku, Day #28

A few moments from today…

that's what your sign says
I watch you shiver and wonder
whether anything could

(C) Carol Wilcox, 2015

"On Walking the Dog in Subzero Temperatures"
happy tail never stops
nose searches relentlessly
a gal could get lucky. 
(C) Carol Wilcox

"Just in Case"

Do not just drive away
Goodbye is not enough either
Say, "I love you for always"
Then smile and wave
until he can no longer see you.
(C) Carol Wilcox

Backstory: This month, my family has been touched by a couple of tragedies. Over Thanksgiving Weekend, a friend I grew up with lost his wife, in-laws, and brother-in-law to a drunk driver down in Arizona. Last week, a friend of my brother-in-law was driving his family back from a basketball game and was killed when another car crossed the median and hit their car head on. 

Today, I was dropping my son off at work when a frozen pop can exploded in the back of the car. I was a little distracted, and just kind of said, "Bye" as he jumped out of the car. A few minutes later, I realized what I had done and had to text him to remind him that I loved him. I'm planning on seeing him again at 9, when I pick him up at the end of his shift, but who knows for sure?


I love books that are multi-layered. You know, the kind that you can read, and then read again, and then read again, and discover something new every time?

RANDOM BODY PARTS: GROSS ANATOMY RIDDLES IN VERSE is definitely one of those books. The book includes twenty poem-riddles about body parts-- some common-heart, lungs, kidneys, etc., and  some unusual: spleen, pancreas, and nose. The first time through, you read to solve the riddle.

Good Riddance
to Bad Blood
Behind the stomach, upper left,
This gizmo (wren's nest-sized),
Is where red blood cells come to die,
And germs get neutralized.
This spongy, pulpy doodad hoards
At least a cup of blood,
Removing each blood cell that's
An aging, worn-out dud.
It's white blood cells squelch, then remove
Bacterial invaders.
They battle every virus like
Infection Caped Crusaders.
This power worker scours blood,
All night and all day through.
Yet most folks overlook it--
I don't think that's fair.
Do you?

Answer: The Spleen
And  then the reader gets a little extra information, because each riddle poem is accompanied by a factual paragraph:
Your spleen sits like a jaunty little cap tipped behind the rounded , top curve of the stomach. The spleen's red pulp destroys old red blood cells and returns iron to your blood. The white blood cells, from the spleen's white pulp, surround and destroy bacteria and viruses to fight infection.

But wait, there is another really cool thing! Each poem in the book is based on a Shakespeare play!!!!!

Quick as a Wink
if not for me-----
is for certain.
To see
or not to see;
I am the curtain.
Or here's a portion of the heart poem…
Shall I compare you to a clenched-up fist?
You are more gloppy,
shaped more like a cone.
Rough handling pounds a fist upon its wrist,
But you're protected in your cage of bone.

Back matter includes poetry notes that explain each poem's connection to Shakespeare. There is also a glossary, and a diagram that locates the organs.

A terrific addition to your poetry/science library!

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Haiku #27


Pikes Peak, by Hogs555, on Wikimedia Commons
mountain cathedral
your snow-tipped spires
bid come and worship

mountain cathedral
your steadfast beauty bids me
come, be still, worship

mighty mountain
I cannot imagine a God
big enough to create you

mighty mountain
God, big enough to create you
is beyond my imaginings

Back story: Every Sunday, I drive an hour or so south to see my mom, who lives in Colorado Springs, where I grew up. For about two thirds of the trip, I can see Pikes Peak. Today it was especially beautiful.

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Haiku #26

frigid Saturday
mandates cleaning and laundry 
new book beckons loudly
(C) Carol Wilcox, 2015

"Mother Love"
i despise shopping
traffic crowds malls smells noise
he asks, off we go.
(C) Carol Wilcox, 2015

"Dreaming of a White Christmas?"
shovel scrapes on sidewalk
tires spin on mirror smooth ice
teeth chatter in single digits 
(C) Carol Wilcox, 2015

Friday, December 25, 2015

Haiku #25

Wednesday when I was out walking the dog

This morning- not sure what the green dot is. Any ideas?
full moon shines over
colorado, cancun, bethlehem
glory to God in the highest!
(C) Carol Wilcox, 2015

The moon has been spectacular all week. This morning, I took the dogs out, then had to run back in the house and get my phone so I could take a picture. A little later, one of my dear friends, who is vacationing in Cancun with her family posted a really similar picture. 
I was struck by how the moon is everywhere. 

Thursday, December 24, 2015


When I think about Christmas, I think about people risking/giving all that they have. It makes sense then, to feature PAPER HEARTS, a novel-in-verse/CYBILS nominee on Christmas Day.

PAPER HEARTS is the story of Fania and Zlata, two Polish-Jewish teenagers, who have lost their families in the horror of the Holocaust. Zlatka's family comes from the town of Pruzany in Belarus. The family is chosen for transport to Auschwitz. Zlatka's father and brothers are separated from the women and children at the beginning of the transport, never to be seen again. Her mother and younger sibling are sent to the death chambers when they arrive at the camp. Zlatka is left with her younger sister, Necha, who quickly succumbs to illness.

Fania comes from Bialystok. In an attempt to save her life, the family tries to pass her off as Aryan, but she is quickly caught and eventually ends up at Auschwitz, with several other girls she has befriended on the journey. There, she learns that her entire family perished. After Necha dies, Fania and her group of friends draw Zlatka into their circle, and the girls help each other survive overcrowded conditions, starvation, backbreaking labor, and unbearable temperatures.


Knowing there 
were worse things
 than death
took away the fear.

was the 
best revenge.


For Fania's 20th birthday, Zlatka wants to do something special for her dear friend. Despite the fact that she will be killed if she is caught, she begs, barters, and steals materials and creates an origami birthday card. Fifteen girls risk their lives to sign the card and Fania carries the heart through the remainder of the war. The book is based on an actual event, and the heart can actually be seen in a museum in Montreal.

This is a meticulously researched, beautifully written, novel in verse. I can't wait to get back to school next week, so I can share it with my middle schoolers. I know they will love it.

For an interview with author Meg Wiviott, go here.

Irene Latham is hosting Poetry Friday this week.

HAIKU (kind of) #24

This pile of branches is about five feet tall. 
Thinking they are going to be asking me to pay for another dumpster really soon. 
I wish I had a working fireplace.

I'm having a really hard time with cutting down my big tree. Despite the fact that it had reached the point where it was either the garage or the tree, the act of cutting down this giver of shade and oxygen, not to mention home for birds and squirrels, still feels really violent and disrespectful. Yesterday,  Mary Lee captured my feelings perfectly when she commented, "A hard decision to end an ancient life." Last night, I was out in the yard with the dog, looking at all the wood chunks, and branches, and shavings, and wondering how the mess was ever going to be cleaned up. They tree cutters already filled an entire construction dumpster and hauled it away. They haven't brought another one, but I'm thinking they definitely could. There is still a LOT more to cut.

I have messed around with this for an hour. Not sure which of these is today's haiku-ish poem.

remains scattered across yard
such a hard decision
ending your ancient life
(C) Carol Wilcox, 2015

your ashes scattered across backyard
Earth reminds me of my brazenness
i have ended an ancient life.
(C) Carol Wilcox, 2015

Somber browns and grays
remind me of my brazen act (brazenness?)
i have ended an ancient life.
 (C) Carol Wilcox, 2015


I almost always give books when I am invited to a baby shower. Let other people give nighties, and nose sucker outers and bath towels and bibs. This week, while reading for the CYBILS, I found a nursery rhyme collection that I am going to be giving for a long time.

150 nursery rhymes and songs- many traditional and well known. Some less so. Arranged so that versions from different countries are on facing pages, or sometimes spread over four pages.  Each two page spread, or sometimes a page, is illustrated by a different artist from the English speaking world. Some are well known- think Ashley Bryan, Eric Carle, Bob Graham, Shirley Hughes, Pat Hutchins, Jon Klassen, Jerry Pinkney, Chris Raschka. Others are emerging illustrators.

The book benefits Seven Stories, Britain's National Centre for Children's Books (which looks like someplace I would definitely like to visit if I ever get back to the United Kingdom).

A perfect gift for any baby or young child!

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Haiku #23

The Garage- You can see where the bricks are coming apart.
You can also see the ladder on top of the garage. It's an extension ladder
and doesn't even reach the top of the tree. 
The Tree on Saturday
The tree cutter is at the top of the extension ladder.
There is another guy on top of the garage and one on the ground. 
Another shot on Saturday.
The greenery is from a big pine tree right next to the tree being cut down.

Looking up from the bottom of the ladder.
This is how much is still left to cut down.
They think it will take a couple of more days. 

"To My Tree"
For half a century
you have provided
beauty shade oxygen
I am so sorry
to chop you down. 
(C) Carol Wilcox

"To My Tree"
For half a century
you have provided
beauty shade oxygen
I apologize for murdering you
so ruthlessly. 
(C) Carol Wilcox

"To My Tree"
Branch by painstaking branch
A half century's beauty 
gone in a week. 
(C) Carol Wilcox, 2015

A few process notes: I am learning a lot from writing with some very talented poets this month.
1) Haiku are not supposed to have a title.
2) Even though or maybe because they don't have very many words, haiku are really hard/take a really long  to write.
3) Haiku often have one line with really big truth. I call it the kicker line. The kicker line is really, really hard to write.
4) There is another similar kind of Japanese poetry called a tanka. A tanka has five lines. Often the five lines have two really different images. The two images are connected by a kicker line called a hinge. The hinge is really hard to write.
Because I tend to be a little, ok actually a lot, wordy, I often start with a longer poem, kind of a tanka, and then try to cut it and make it into a haiku. The last few days, I have published both the longer poem-- today it's two), and the haiku. The last line in the haiku is never as good as I want it to be. It will bug me all day.

Backstory behind this poem: I live in a hundred year old house, with a detached alley garage. Five years ago, when I moved in, the home inspector recommended that I make the previous owners cut down a huge tree in the backyard. He told me that in another ten years, the tree would move the foundation of the garage and I would have to have the tree cut down. I didn't have the tree cut down. I just couldn't chop down that beautiful tree. I thought I could enjoy the tree for another decade and then I would figure something out.

Now, only five years later, the tree is definitely impacting the foundation of the garage, and this summer, I made the really hard decision to have it cut down. The tree cutters have been working for over a week, and are still probably several days from being done. I know it has to be done (if I don't want the garage to fall down), and it is really kind of interesting (and scary) to watch, but it also makes me really sad to cut down my tree.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015


4:30 on Monday afternoon. The shortest day of the year and it's almost dark as I walk the two blocks toward the Central Branch of the Denver Public Library. It's been unseasonably warm, over 50, for most of the day, but now the sun is going down and the air has a definite nip.

I am a woman on a mission. As a first round judge for CYBILS poetry, I had 48 books to read. I'm down to the last two, and according to the online catalogue, I can find them here. I locate the last picture book in the children's section, then head over to the Young Adult room to read the final book, a novel in verse.

I am surprised, on this Monday night,  to see that the YA room is crowded. Almost every one of the twenty overstuffed chairs around the room is full. They are not full of adolescent readers though. There appear to be very few of those.

Instead, the chairs are filled with homeless people, most carrying suitcases, backpacks, or overstuffed plastic grocery bags. Many are dozing, probably preparing themselves for a long, chilly night on the streets of Denver. A few are reading the newspaper. One elderly gentleman has made himself comfortable in the magazine area, and carries on an animated conversation, seemingly with himself. A security guard leans against the information desk, watching all that is going on.

I find my book and then attempt to find a place to sit. There are a few chairs on the very edge of the room. Sitting in one of them, however, would leave me with my back to the room. I'm not sure I want to sit facing that way. Finally I find a chair closer to the middle of the room. The man sitting closest to me has clearly not had a bath for a while and the odor is strong.

I have a hard time focusing on my book.

I am not bothered by the fact that there are homeless people in the library. It makes perfect sense. The library is open until eight on Monday and Tuesday nights. It's free. You don't have to buy a cup of coffee or a meal to stay there. The library is warm and it's dry. The chairs are soft and would be comfortable for sleeping. There are restrooms with toilets and running water. The security guards pretty much guarantee that the library will be safe.

And I am very bothered by the fact that there are so many homeless people in the library. What are their stories? Do the librarians know them by name? How do they feel about having their whole room filled with homeless people? Why do the homeless in Denver have no where else to go? Have they eaten? Where will they go when the library closes at 8:00? Are any of them receiving the mental health care that many appear to need? Can we not do better as a city?

There is one young man that bears an uncanny resemblance to my older son. He wears a brown camouflage army jacket, carries a tan plastic bag. I watch him as he peruses the new nonfiction shelf. I wonder if he reads. I wonder if he has eaten. I wonder how long he has been on the streets. I wonder if he has a mom.

And then I think about my sons. This has been a year of poor choice after poor choice after poor choice. I have threatened, more than once, to evict my boys if they don't stop smoking pot and find more worthwhile ways to spend their time. It's not hard to imagine them living on the streets, unwashed, unfed, unloved. People keep telling me I need to use tough love, but I wonder if I could ever consign my boys to a situation like this.

I finally read. When I finish my book and leave, a little after 7, most of the homeless people are still dozing in the chairs. The kid who looks like my son is leaving with a friend, another kid about his age. I wonder where they are going, where they will spend the night.

I walk back to my car. Definitely not the night I was expecting at the library.

Haiku #22

"Denver Public Library"
Yes, we offer books, 
videos, computers, classes
But we have a higher calling
to poor we are childcare
homeless find warmth shelter safety
(c) Carol Wilcox, 2015

"Denver Public Library- We Serve All Kinds"
Oasis for intellectual
babysitter for poor
Shelter for homeless
(c) Carol Wilcox, 2015

BACKSTORY: Yesterday, I spent most of my day reading at three different branches of the Denver Public Library. I was struck, at each place, by the many different functions that the library actually serves. I arrived at Barnum, a small branch in southwest Denver, just as the library was opening. There were three elementary aged kids, probably second, third, and fifth grades and several homeless people waiting to get in. Most went right to the computers. Later, I noticed one of the little girls looking at books. As I was leaving, one of the boys was sitting on the steps, eating a sandwich. I commented that it was a nice day to be outside. He just looked at me, "You can't eat in the library," he said. "My mama would get mad if we got kicked out."

The Corky Gonzales branch, that just opened this fall, was crowded with families checking out books and videos, reading, using the computers. 

The Central Library was most heartbreaking though. It's a beautiful, beautiful, downtown library. I don't go often because it's really hard to park, but every time I do, I think, "I really need to come down here more often. I needed a book in the YA room, which is right next to what is labeled as a reading lounge, with large comfortable chairs, etc. Every single chair in the YA area and in the reading lounge, probably more than twenty in all, was filled with a homeless person- most sleeping, but a few reading the newspaper, several talking, etc. There was one young man who looked a LOT like my oldest son.  A security guard leaned against the information desk keeping an eye on what was going on, but no one was asked to leave. It was a relatively warm winter evening, probably in the low 40's, but even so, I was struck by the fact that soon it would be 8:00 and the library would be closing, and all of those people would be out in the cold for the night, unless they managed to secure a bed at one of the homeless shelters. 

Monday, December 21, 2015


It's the first day of Winter (Christmas, to me) break. I will spend a good part of today visiting several different libraries, attempting to finish my CYBILS reading. Many of my students, immigrants from Mexico, are probably in vans or buses, headed home for the holidays. I think of them as I read Margarita Engle's memoir, ENCHANTED AIR: TWO CULTURES, TWO WINGS.

In an author's note, Engle says,
"ENCHANTED AIR: TWO CULTURES, TWO WINGS is the true story of my first fourteen years…I never thought I would be brave enough to write about my life as a Cuban American child growing up int he United States during the hostilities of the Cold War. I thought it would be too excruciating. That is why I have chosen to focus on travel memories. Travel is a magical experience. Travel opens the heart and challenges the mind. Travel gives us an opportunity to see how others live, whether they are relatives or strangers. Travel teaches compassion." 191
Engle and I share many things:

A lifetime love affair with books:
Books are enchanted. Books help me travel.
Books help me breathe.
When I climb a tree, I take a book with me.
When I walk home from school, I carry
my own poems, inside my mind,
where no one else
can reach the words
that are entirely
mine.   54
A city child's love of horses:
I can feel the hot air
steaming from horse sweat
a smell that will always
remind me of courage…
It doesn't matter because
with exhilarated breath
and a drumming heart,
I feel as if I've galloped
so far beyond anything
I've ever known before
that I'm already grown-up
and independent. 115
A love of poetry
At home, I scribble tiny poems
all over the walls of my room.
Inside those miniature verses,
I feel safe, as if I am a turtle
and the words
are my shells 134

I begin to understand
that each time I scribble
a poem on my wall
at home, I am not really
Certain longings
are shared
by all.
Even cavemen.
Teens.  (175-176)
I, too, was a child during the Cold War era. I remember my sixth grade teacher, Mr. Meyer, telling us that our families should have bags of groceries prepared for trips to Bomb Shelters. I laid awake at night that year, waiting for the sound of the air raid sirens.

One thing I do not share with Engle, is her life growing up as a child with who has roots in several worlds.
When Mami tells her flowery tales of Cuba
she fills the twining words with relatives.
But when I ask my
Ukranian-Jewish American grandma
about her childhood in a village
near snowy Kiev,
all she reveals is a single memory
of ice skating
on a frozen pond.
Apparently, the length
of a grown-up's
growing-up story
is determined
by the difference
between immigration
and escape. (28-29)
After those first soaring summers,
each time we fly back to our everyday
lives in California, one of my two selves
is left behind: the girl I would be
if we lived on Mami's island
instead of dad's continent.
Sometimes, I feel
like a rolling wave of the sea,
A wave that can only belong
in between
two solid shores.
Sometimes I feel
like a bridge,
or a storm. 11
Two countries.
Two families.
Two sets of words.
Am I free to need both,
or will I always have to choose
only one way
of thinking.  13

It really is possible to feel
like two people
at the same time,
when your parents
come from two
worlds.  58
It's as if my other self has been here
all along--
the invisible twin
who never left this island
and never
will.  102 

End matter includes  n author's note, a Cold War timeline and the poem, Una Rosa Blanca, by José Martí.

Another book I can't wait to share with my upper intermediate and middle school students.

Haiku (and a Tanka), #21

Photo by Jeff Buck, Wikimedia Commons

black gray brown rough smooth
branches, divide, intersect
rope swing, tree house, crooked ladder
nests, carefully hidden
so many stories live here

(C) Carol Wilcox, 2015

Sunday Afternoon Conversation with My Mom
"Twenty-two years ago
today dad died," she says.
"Seems like yesterday."
(C) Carol Wilcox, 2015

Sunday, December 20, 2015


you who cling tightly
full release often reveals
unexpected beauty

(C) Carol Wilcox, 2015


Ok, I'm going to confess.
I sat in the public library and cried this afternoon.

A CYBILS nominee.
Novel in verse.
A terrific story about a kid in a really hard situation.
Middle schooler.
Medically fragile baby brother.
Baby has a trach.
Needs round the clock medical care.
Dad can't stand the stress and leaves.
Mom is doing everything she can to take care of her sick child, plus work and provide for her family.
Timothy helps. A lot.
Situation is desperate.
And he makes a poor choice and ends up on house arrest.
Some people help.
His best friend's family.
His probation officer, James.
His therapist, Ms. B.

This is one of those books that you read,
then immediately google author to see what else she has written.
Can't wait to get back to school to share this with the middle schoolers.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Haiku, #19

"Life Lesson"
yesterday's pristine drifts
yield today's icy sidewalks
rejoice in bitter and sweet
(c) Carol Wilcox, 2015

Friday, December 18, 2015


If she were still alive, Charlotte Zolotow would turn 100 this year. Just in case you don't know Zolotow's work, she was an editor of children's books, and worked with authors like Laura Ingalls Wilder, Maurice Sendak, and Arnold Lobel. And she was the author of more than 90 books of her own, including William's Doll, Mr. Rabbit and the Lovely Present, and My Grandson Lew. Zolotow actually died in 2013, in the home she had lived in for more than 55 years.

It seems only fitting, then, to honor her long legacy with a new book. CHANGES came out this year. The book includes 28 poems, arranged according to season. There is also a foreword by Zolotow's daughter, Crescent Dragonwagon.  The poems are lovely, and gentle, and cyclical, and comforting. A perfect lap book for opening a young child's ear and heart to poetry.


This summer
still hangs
heavy and sweet
with sunlight
as it did last year

The autumn
still comes
showering cold and crimson
as it did last year.

The winter
still stings
clean and cold and white
as it did last year.

The spring
still comes
like a whisper in the dark night.

It is only I
who have changed.

(C) Charlotte Zolotow

Then a winter poem (which only seems fitting, since I actually wrote this post on Tuesday, when we had a very rare snow day in Denver).

As I watch the snow fall
big, slow white flakes
like feathers floating down,
my hands are cold.

It's hard to remember
the summer
and soaking up the sun
feeling its warmth
seep through me
deep through me
down to these frozen toes.

(C) Charlotte Zolotow, 2015

Head over to Diane Mayr's Random Noodling for more poetry offerings.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Haiku #17

This is not the group I wrote about, it's three first grade readers, two that are in intervention groups, one that is the top reader in the class, poring over Mo Willems. I'll let you decide who is who. 


Watching heads bent together
giggling, I wonder when
children became data points?

(c) Carol Wilcox, 2015


This morning's haiku actually started with a free write.

Somehow they have become data points.
Dots below an aim line.
Not children.
I work as an interventionist.
That means that pretty much every reader I work with
is below grade level.
There is a lot of pressure to make
more than one years growth.
We need to make 1.5
Mostly I try not to think about that.
I just teach reading.

But lately
I have been thinking about it.
Taking running records
counting their sight words.
And somehow the joy in watching kids learn to read
has been replaced by tense knots
that start in my shoulders and run
all the way up the back of my neck.

Yesterday I decided that had to change.
Only 2 of the 5 readers in my second grade group
were at school
on this snowy winter post snow day day.
I had lesson plans
was all ready to teach
yet another lesson
on unknown word strategies
and the -ed suffix.
Sight words for review-
have, come, some, said.
New word was.

But I didn't do any of that.
One of my readers
Brought her Mo Willems book to group.
I asked if she would rather read that.
And we did.
They did readers' theater.
A. was piggie.
D was Gerald
And I was the squirrel.
We read two books.
Giggled over Mo Willems illustrations.

And then I let D teach A, who has missed a week with strep throat
how to read the last book we had learned.
And she decided she should take a running record
and a relaxed
and forgot strategies
and just read
and did a darn good job.
and I wondered
How have I managed to forget
They are not data points.
Dots below an aim line.
They are children.

And they deserve to be treated like that.
Every. single. day.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

TANKA (#16)

"The Day After a Snow Day"

Leaving coffee, book 
Comfy sweats, snoring dogs, warmth
I brave frigid morning
Vowing to be grateful
for yesterday's brief respite

(C) Carol Wilcox, 2015

Revised on the way to work…

"The Day After a Snow Day"

Leaving steaming cup,  half-read book 
Comfy sweats, snoring dogs, 
I brave frigid morning
Vowing to be grateful
for yesterday's brief respite

(C) Carol Wilcox, 2015


When I dig back way back of my memories, I remember poetry. Read from a book with a green cloth cover. Eventually a tattered green cloth cover. I think of that book as I read Michael Rosen's A GREAT BIG CUDDLE: POEMS FOR THE VERY YOUNG. This book would be fun to share with any young child. I can also see using it in kindergarten or first grade for chants or shared readings. The poems are rhymy, sometimes sing-songy, about subjects little ones will love. And I'm pretty sure young readers will find the fonts that vary in size and color interesting. They will also love an occasional switch in page directionality. Chris Riddell's bright illustrations are sure to delight!


Time for lunch
Munch munch
Time for a munch
Crunch crunch
Munch munch
Crunch crunch
Munchy munchy
Crunchy crunchy`

Coming Home
Here's a house
Here's a door
Here's a ceiling
Here's a floor

Here's a wall
Here's the stairs
Here's the table
Here's the chairs

Here's a bowl
Here's a cup
Open your mouth
And drink it up.

You Can't See Me

You  can't see me
You don't know where I am
Am I in the paint pot?
Am I in the jam?

Am I in the sink?
Am I in the train?
Am I in the drawer?
Am I in the plane?

Am I on the shelf?
Am I in a book?
Am I in the bed?
Go and have a look.

Am I under the table?
You're getting very near
I can see you.
I'm sitting over here.


Tuesday, December 15, 2015


unexpected blizzard leaves
yard frosted in whipped cream swirls
nature's ice cream cake


Yesterday was a really long day.  At 9:00 I still hadn't written my haiku (some things never change) and I jokingly wrote that I was hoping for a snow day. We had snow in the forecast, but definitely not a snow day worthy storm. This morning I got up and there was about an inch of snow on the ground. Two hours later, I was ready to leave for work, and logged onto my district's webpage, to check on something, only to discover that 8 inches of snow was in the forecast and we really WERE having a snow day. That hardly EVER happens in Denver, not even once a year. I spent the day responding to student work from my adult Academic Language class. I still have a little more to go, but am hoping to stay up long enough to finish tonight…

Monday, December 14, 2015


I love my job but
when an inch of snow is promised
I pray for a snow day.
(C) Carol Wilcox, 2015

"Recipe at the End of a Hard Day"

sometimes when life is hard
i buy a box of macaroni and cheese
the cheap kind with
fluorescent orange cheese powder
I mix it with warm cinnamon applesauce
and I poke a noodle
onto each tine on my fork
and remember the good ol' days.

(C) Carol Wilcox, 2015


I read a lot of kids' books. A lot. It's not unusual to find a great story. It's much more rare, however, to come across a story where the writing is so good that I find myself marking pages, and thinking, "I have to read that again so I can figure out how this author did this."

AUDACITY by Melanie Crowder (who happens to be from Colorado!) was one of those books for me. This historical fiction novel in verse is inspired by the life of Clara Lemlich, a Russian woman whose family immigrated to the United States at the turn of the century because of religious persecution. Clara dreams of becoming a doctor, but her desire for literacy and learning is sharply opposed by her father, a Jewish scholar, who physically abuses her and destroys her books again and again.

The family is forced to leave Russia because of religious persecution. Clara is sure that when she gets to the United States she will be able to pursue her dreams, but instead, she finds herself helping support her family by working in the garment factories in New York City.  The working conditions are unbearable- doors locked from the outside so women can't get out, workers not allowed to go to the restroom, bosses who violate women by touching them inappropriately. Clara knows these things were wrong and becomes a union organizer. 

Clara's story is compelling. And the writing is breathtaking, the kind where you think you have to get a pencil and notebook and write down phrases right away, before you lose them. Here are a few I scribbled as I read: 

I know Papa thinks
this fire in me
stands against
the faith he holds so dearly
but I see our faith
as the thing
that lit this fire in me
to begin with

In this world
Where I am made to be
something I am not,
secret things
inside of me.  (144)

I think
if a man drives his workers
like a slave master
what does it matter
over which holy book
he prays? (158)

All my life
I have been taught
a daughter should be good,
That is one thing
I have never been.

But I have been taught 
                           to give
without the thought 
of ever giving back
to ease the suffering of others. 

                 I think
                 I will be doing

                               the rest of my life. (366)

I can't wait to book talk this in seventh grade this morning. I know students are going to LOVE this book as much as I did. 

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Haiku, #13

Photo from Wikimedia Commons, taken by Matt Lewis in Minneapolis in 2013,
but it looks like Denver in December, 2015

"twenty degrees and snowing"

despite cold snow icy roads
he does not want help
he will ride his bike
i imagine him
knocked unconscious
laying broken
next to an unseeing car
and i send mother prayers
that his world
will soon be
a little warmer
a little kinder
and a little less bumpy

(c) Carol Wilcox, 2015

"mother prayer"
through dark, cold, and ice,
my man child rides his bike,
dear world, please be kind.
(C) Carol Wilcox, 2015

Saturday, December 12, 2015

MAINE COON'S HAIKU by Michael Rosen.

Anyone who knows me will tell you that I am a dog lover, all the way.
I can definitely take them or leave them. Mostly leave them.

This week, however, I ran across a book that almost made me reconsider my opinion. The MAINE COON'S HAIKU AND OTHER POEMS FOR CAT LOVERS includes twenty haiku about different breeds of cats. The book is divided into four sections- two "Inside" and two "Outside." Each section includes haiku about five different breeds of cats.   Here are three of my favorites (but there were at least ten more I could have easily included!) :

Maine Coon
crouched before the couch
suddenly, cat has all night
for just one sound: mouse

curled up on your book
cat won't care what happens next
now's the only page

Turkish Angora
whooshing down the hall
Angora, then her all-white
dust devil of hair

End notes include factual information about each breed. Lee White's illustrations, some in two tones, some more, fit the book perfectly.

Poem- #12, almost a tanka

"To Our School Secretary"

She brings kindness, grace
organization, laughter to all.
That covering on her head?
Inconsequential, compared
to love in her heart.

(C) Carol Wilcox, 2015

Or maybe…

"To Our School Secretary"

She brings kindness, grace
organization, laughter to all.
That covering on her head?
Inconsequential, when she
lives and loves so well.

(C) Carol Wilcox, 2015

Friday, December 11, 2015

Poetry Friday


we arrive at the dark back doors
at the same time every morning
sometimes he responds to my greeting
more often he does not
I hold the door
as he maneuvers
more weight than his old back
can comfortably manage

six hours later
i watch adolescents guzzle foam
from green waxed cartons
they do not comprehend
the load he has carried
the joy he has not had
for more than thirty years

(C) Carol Wilcox, 2015

Tara is hosting Poetry Friday at A Teaching Life.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Poem #10

This poem came from a tweet yesterday by Carol Varsalona. Carol said, "Time to reflect on how past affects present..."

"Past Affects Present"
people tell me
my boys' brokenness
will one day
be a source of strength
sea glass rubbed smooth
right now
i only see sharp edges

(c) Carol Wilcox, 2015

or maybe a  real haiku (which is what we are supposed to be writing)

"Past affects present"
my boys' brokenness
one day a source of great strength
now only sharp edges

(C) Carol Wilcox, 2015

When I was looking for the picture, I remembered that I had written about this once before, a couple of years ago. That one is here. 

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Haiku #9

I teach in an urban setting. More than 90% of our students, including K, receive free lunch. Nevertheless, their willingness to give never ceases to amaze me. Today, one of our first graders arrived at school almost an hour early. I happened to be passing the front door and let her in. K couldn't wait to unzip her backpack and show me that she had brought "all her money" to our student council campaign for cancer. I felt so ashamed of all I do not give.

"Widow's Mite"

Donation, twelve cents, 
clutched in torn Tinkerbell purse, 
She possesses such wealth. 

(c) Carol Wilcox, 2015

Tuesday, December 8, 2015


Today, in yet another incident of senseless violence, a police officer was shot and critically wounded three minutes away from my school. I was on middle school recess duty and watched the helicopter circle, wondering what was happening. Most of our kids, accustomed to the regular violence of our urban setting, hardly even stopped to look up at the sky.


Blue striped whirlybird
circles, swoops, circles again 
adolescents kick run shout
surreptitiously embrace
Am I the only one
who wonders what prey
this giant bird
is seeking?

(c) Carol Wilcox, 2015