“there is prayer in poem”

Sadly, we’ve reached the end of National Poetry Month. There are so many poets, so many beautiful words I wish I could share, but only 30 days in April.

Wait. That’s a good thing.

This month was crazy–all the end of the semester madness amplified by Zoom teaching, learning, meeting, and sheltering-in-place. Thankfully, I was able to find some time to think and write, and I wrote poetry almost every day.

I’ve enjoyed our daily excursions, and we end with the words of nayyirah waheed, whose book salt goes everywhere with me. The poem below is from nejma, her second collection of poetry.  It is appropriate for today.

(all i can do is rest.)
my body is the middle of a poem.

there is prayer in poem.

when i am writing
i am praying.

all the prayers that are too soft.
too young.
too old.
to say.

nayyirah waheed, from nejma

Thank you for taking this journey with me. Although we will move on to other matters, we will return to poetry often. For now, I hope you were inspired to pick up a book of poetry and savor the words or grab a pen to write your own. More importantly, I hope you are on the way to living your poem.


About the image: The postcard above features the artwork of Melissa Shutlz-Jones. It is entitled “Birmingham Summer.” The card was among those Irene Latham distributed to students when she visited our campus, and probably because of the sunflower, a student gave the postcard to me. 🙂

“I Am Looking at Music”

National Poetry Month is nearing an end and as I fretted [earlier today] over which poems I should share for the remaining three posts, I realized I haven’t shared a love poem. Gasp!

Love poems are tricky. There are many, many absolutely beautiful love poems, but I have a tendency to steer clear of  poems that overly romanticize love and ignore its complexity. If I am to enjoy the poem, the writer has to avoid cliche but still evoke some feeling and truth with which readers [or listeners] can identify.

I first heard the poem I’m sharing today as “Nina’s Song”–recited by Nia Long in the film Love Jones. The poem is actually the work of Louisiana’s first African American Poet Laureate, Pinkie Gordon Lane (1923-2008). Her skillful use of imagery–light, sound, color–to capture the subtle nuances of love is astounding.

I Am Looking at Music
Pinkie Gordon Lane

It is the color of light,
the shape of sound
high in the evergreens.

It lies suspended in hills,
a blue line in a red
sky.

I am looking at sound.
I am hearing the brightness
Of high bluffs and almond
trees. I am
tasting the wilderness of lakes,
rivers, and streams
caught in an angle
of song.

I am remembering water
that glows in the dawn,
and motion tumbled
in earth, life hidden in mounds.

I am dancing a bright
beam of light.

I am remembering love.


About the image: The image above is one of my own pieces. I crafted the original last summer with “leftover” paint. All the colors seem to pair well with Lane’s poem, so I’m sharing it today.

“When Giving Is All We Have”

Terrance Osborne, “Front Line”

This morning as we began our final Shakespeare session for the semester (sad face), one of my students requested prayer for the nurses who are suffering under the strain of watching far too many patients die as a result of COVID-19. Just moments before that, I read a Facebook post in which one of my friends, Dr. Scharmaine Lawson, a Nurse Practitioner and author, announced that after prayerful consideration, she’s heading to New York City to help with the COVID-19 relief effort there.

I often think about the health care professionals who are on the front line of this thing day after day after day. No matter how well-trained they are, no matter how often they see death, it is still inexplicably HARD.  The connections between nurse and patient or doctor and patient–however brief–matter, and every death carries emotional weight. With COVID-19 doctors and nurses are bearing witness to far more than the “usual” and they are still out there, weighed down with the grief and burden of so much loss, fighting to save lives.

Some might wonder why someone like Dr. Lawson, a busy NP with a booming practice and a very full life of her own, would uproot and rush into this daunting challenge. Albert RÍos’ poem provides the answers—not only for why we give in the big ways but also why we do so in our smaller, daily interactions.

When Giving Is All We Have
Alberto RÍos

One river gives
Its journey to the next.

We give because someone gave to us.
We give because nobody gave to us.

We give because giving has changed us.
We give because giving could have changed us.

We have been better for it,
We have been wounded by it—

Giving has many faces: It is loud and quiet,
Big, though small, diamond in wood-nails.

Its story is old, the plot worn and the pages too,
But we read this book, anyway, over and again:

Giving is, first and every time, hand to hand,
Mine to yours, yours to mine.

You gave me blue and I gave you yellow.
Together we are simple green. You gave me

What you did not have, and I gave you
What I had to give—together, we made

Something greater from the difference.

About this poem, RÍos wrote:

This is a poem of thanks to those who live lives of service, which, I think, includes all of us—from the large measure to the smallest gesture, from care-giving to volunteerism to being an audience member or a reader.  I’ve been able to offer these words to many groups, not only as a poem but also as a recognition. We give for so many reasons, and are bettered by it.  –from poets.org

Thank you to our health care professionals and to all our public servants and other essential workers for whom the stay-at-home order does not apply.  Thank you to all of you who give daily in your own spaces, outside your own spaces, and “in-between” spaces. We are making something new, something beautiful when we give.


About the image: The image above is the work of New Orleans artist, Terrance Osborne. He created Front Line—a nod to Rosie the Riveter—“to show the men and women on the front line that we love and support them.” [Did you catch the fleur de lis–symbol of New Orleans?] Osborne generously offered the image above as a free phone screen saver and gave 1000 posters to local hospitals. A lithograph ($75 signed; $40 unsigned) can be purchased via his website. To see more of this phenomenal artist’s work, please go to his website. You’ll feel like you’ve just taken a tour of my beloved hometown.

“Everything Is Waiting for You”

Last night I participated in a “Write Together” workshop with about 15 beautiful souls. The workshop was organized and hosted by Love Notes founder and coordinator, Jennifer Belthoff. I needed the time to write and think in the community of others, so I am grateful for Jennifer and her willingness and openness to offer the workshop during this challenging time.

After participants shared in response to one of the prompts, Jennifer read a poem by British poet David Whyte. I was not familiar with his work and I’ve had little time to process this poem, but it resonates with me.

Everything Is Waiting for You
David Whyte

Your great mistake is to act the drama
as if you were alone. As if life
were a progressive and cunning crime
with no witness to the tiny hidden
transgressions. To feel abandoned is to deny
the intimacy of your surroundings. Surely,
even you, at times, have felt the grand array;
the swelling presence, and the chorus, crowding
out your solo voice. You must note
the way the soap dish enables you,
or the window latch grants you freedom.
Alertness is the hidden discipline of familiarity.
The stairs are your mentor of things
to come, the doors have always been there
to frighten you and invite you,
and the tiny speaker in the phone
is your dream-ladder to divinity.

Put down the weight of your aloneness and ease into the
conversation. The kettle is singing
even as it pours you a drink, the cooking pots
have left their arrogant aloofness and
seen the good in you at last. All the birds
and creatures of the world are unutterably
themselves. Everything is waiting for you.

Even though pretty much the entire world is going through the Corona Virus crisis together, we are disconnected from much of our normal. This might make us feel isolated and alone, particularly as we grapple–in our individual ways–with the toll this pandemic is taking on humanity.  I appreciate the invitation to tune in to everything [else] that is waiting.


About the image: The postcard above was sent to me by my swap-bot/book-lover friend Geraldine J (Nannydino). It is the work of Australian artist, Loui Jover. Needless to say, I love this piece, and am looking forward to learning more about the artist.

Out of the Zone…

Last week, during the spring break that didn’t feel much like a break, I stepped out of my comfort zone. Gasp!

I did three things that required a bit of a nudge and a bit of courage:

  1. I participated in a two-hour online “intentional creativity” class. I thoroughly enjoyed the class, especially the tools and techniques offered. I even created a piece of art (which I will not be sharing here).  😀
  2. I completed and submitted a tiny sketchbook for the Brooklyn Arts Library Sketchbook Project!!! If you know anything about how I feel about my artistic skills, then you know that this required a huge PUSH. The first push came when my friend Christine B sent me a sketchbook to complete. Then, she made sure to remind me periodically of the March 5th deadline. I finished almost half of the book during a church service one afternoon. Doodling helps me to focus and listen, but [still] shh…don’t tell. I’ll share more about the project and a link to my sketchbook when it is digitized and uploaded to the site.
  3. I put a couple of my doodles up for sale!!! I designed two coloring cards [see image above] for Women’s History Month “just because,” but I realized they are really cute enough to sell.  Plus, this parent of a teenager who has 8th grade graduation and a class trip coming up could use a few extra dollars! I decided to sell the set of two cards for $3. My “little sister,” social media influencer, Brittany of Ordinarily Extraordinary Mom, shared to her page. I saw lots of positive feedback and interest there, and guess what! I sold ONE WHOLE SET! 😀

It’s a start. Besides, marketing and selling any type of creative work takes a lot of time and effort.

My friend Cy is encouraging me to keep at it. She strongly believes in the power of my doodles. As a matter of fact, she had me design her business card with one of the doodles. Wanna see? [I “erased” her personal details]

I crossed off very few of the items on my extensive “to-get-done-during-spring-break” list, but I can’t even feel [too] bad about that. Life is so much more than the lists, and look at what I did accomplish!

What about you? Have you stepped outside your comfort zone lately? Tell me all about it…

She Dances: Working on My Sway

“Flamenca Blanca”

To dance is to be out of yourself. Larger, more beautiful, more powerful. This is power; it is glory on earth and it is yours for the taking.  –Agnes De Mille

My friend Cy sent this amazing postcard a few weeks ago. She found this beauty in Madrid during her travels there. I fell in love with it. The lone woman dancing reminded me of my favorite part of Louis Delsarte’s mural “Spirit of Harlem.”

“Spirit of Harlem” [I was fortunate enough to be in residency at NYU the same time as the artist. Weeks after its unveiling, the whole group of “Scholars-in-Residence” took a trip to Harlem to see the mural].

I’m intrigued by these women who sway their hips without apology and dance solo in spaces obviously peopled by many. It seems the musicians—equally surrendered to their muses—play only for each woman.

I don’t have their gift. As part of the “rhythmless nation,” I’m not sure I will ever dance in public.

But—

I have been reaching for a metaphorical moment like this—of pure freedom—of yielding completely to the rhythms of life without fretting over consequences–“what ifs” or “therefores.”

I’m tuning in and working on my sway.

#ThursdayTreeLove | Blue

How do you see that tree? It’s [blue]? Well then, make it [blue], the best [blue] on your palette.  –Reduction of Paul Gaugin’s advice to his student Paul Sérusier [The actual quote below]

This has been the most rainy and dismal winter I’ve experienced yet. I was certain I would lose my mind if I woke up this morning to the sound of rain hitting the window. Thankfully, even though it’s still gloomy out, I awakened to silence. “Lo and behold,” there will be sun tomorrow, and, based on the forecast, we won’t see rain again till Tuesday. Woohoo!

I captured the tree above one morning last week on the way to work. I was drawn to the two trees leaning into each other and the mist rising from the earth (no longer visible), but I was weary of gray skies, so I turned the whole thing blue. 😀

How do you see that tree? It’s green? Well then, make it green, the best green on your palette. How do you see those trees? They are yellow. Well then, put down yellow. And that shadow is rather blue. So render it with pure ultramarine. Those red leaves? Use vermillion. –Paul Gaugin


I am joining Parul Thakur for #ThursdayTreeLove every second and fourth Thursday of the month. If you would like to play along, post a picture of a tree on your blog and link it back to her latest #treelove post.

#ThursdayTreeLove | Loved Thrice

Trees in Steamboat Springs, Colorado. Artwork by Christine B.

I prefer winter and fall, when you feel the bone structure of the landscape—
the loneliness of it, the dead feeling of winter.
Something waits beneath it, the whole story doesn’t show.
~Andrew Wyeth

I had a different tree love post in mind for today, but when my friend Christine B. sent (via message) two tree watercolors she completed while on vacation in Colorado, I decided to share one of her pieces instead.

Is there any better way to express tree love than through art?

Through painting, sketching, or drawing a tree, the artist loves the tree in at least three ways–with eyes, with hands, and with heart.


I am joining Parul Thakur for #ThursdayTreeLove every second and fourth Thursday of the month. If you would like to play along, post a picture of a tree on your blog and link it back to her latest #treelove post.

Holding on to Christmas

I thought about taking the Christmas decorations down today, but my not-so-little one convinced me to leave them up a little longer. I figured, if I take them down by Friday, I will still be about three months ahead of my normal schedule. 😀 .

Like my son, I’m having a little difficulty letting the Christmas season go. It took me a while to get in the spirit of things, but I’m not ready for the parts that I love so much to go away–unrushed mornings, Christmas movies, uninterrupted time with the guys, reading and writing, creating and crafting, and hours of contemplation without the nagging “things to do” list over my head.

I’m certainly not ready for the end of [receiving] über cute Christmas postcards from pen friends–like the card above.

My Love Notes pal and literary twin, Bianca, sent the sweet postcard featured. Immediately after retrieving it from the post office box–and before reading the message–I knew who sent it! Who else but Bianca would find in Germany a little girl with my skin color hugging a snowman? She always finds the perfect, most adorable cards that speak to some part of my identity, interests, or character.

The postcard was designed by Tanja Angermeier of Monimari, who creates “sustainable stationery for children’s hearts.” You can find more about Tanja’s work and Monimari by visiting her website. To get a steady diet of Monimari, you can also follow her on Instagram and even purchase some of the items in her Etsy shop.

Thankfully, even after the Christmas decorations have been stored and the last Christmas postcard has been received, we can still make the choice to carry the Christmas spirit with us all year. We can choose to walk with a spirit of love for humankind every single day. After all, that spirit is always in season.

A Dear Deer in the Snow

Watercolor Deer by Eileen V. “Frohes fest und die besten wünsche für das neue jahr.”

I promise I will not do another “12 Days of Christmas Postcards,” but I will share a few (?) of the super cute and original ones that come in–like the one above. The watercolor of an adorable deer relishing the snow was created by my Love Notes friend, Eileen V.

Don’t you love how she captures the deer’s delight? It seems humans aren’t the only ones who can’t resist looking up and losing themselves in the wonder of snow.

Interestingly, the card Eileen sent last year also featured a [rein]deer in the snow. Coincidence? Maybe, Eileen has a thing for deer. 🙂