Saturday, May 31, 2008

Head to Head Haiku at Bay Middle

The haiku poet
speaks sincerely into the mike,
holds heart in clenched fist

The Haiku emcee
invites the poets to bow
from waist in respect

Each greeting is met
with reverberating gong
as the poets bow.

The audience is
silent as the fallen snow.
Words glisten. Applause!

Gong Girl misses cue,
sneaks in a few extra bongs.
Incurs Emcee wrath.

We write what we see.
Peaceful poems heal our hearts
when we share the words.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Haiku takes a hike at Bay Middle

Says it all about the end of the school year, eh? Wednesday and Thursday Michael and I hiked and wrote with the Bay Middle School sixth grade as part of an outdoor experience planned for the last full week of the school year. I have written countless poems during and after hiking around the woods adjacent to Bay Middle -- this is my old neighborhood and it felt good to be back walking the familiar root tripping trails. Thanks to the kids for helping me find my way, thanks to Salinger for the photos.

Windows of the school
look out on the grassy lawn.
Minds go out to play"

Birds with yellow beaks
winging across the courtyard.
Can I fly with you?

Crosswalk at corner
students writing on the grass.
Watch out for the cars!

Yellow goal posts reach.
Green field lies flat on its back.
Scoreboard is empty.

No players run.
Lacrosse net outlined in orange.
Who will score next goal?

Four bases in the dust.
A raised mound for the pitcher.
Who has a baseball?

are annoying.
I walk across the field in spring.
Bugs get in my hair.

Bubble in his mouth.
Now it has four pink sections.
He sucks it back in.

Now a wrecking ball,
swings from a string of gum.
It hypnotizes.

No Parking, Fire Lane.
Keep off the Athletic Field.
Way too many rules.

Bikes thrown on the ground.
Not chained up to the bike rack.
Free! Ready to roll.

Cars parked in spaces,
mini vans, wagons, sedans,
waiting at the gate.

One bird on a wire
looks down at me on the field.
We make eye contact.

Students on a log.
they write Haiku in notebooks.
Save today in poems.

Crowded bushes sit
shoulder to shoulder, crunched close.
No grass grows beneath.

Leaves above, below.
Is that plant poison ivy?
Don't touch, just in case.

Domenic won't write.
He says that he is too bored.
Boredom? Writer's friend.

Quiet. Caw! A crow.
Fat bellied robin whistles.
Songs bounce through the trees.

Park bench holds five friends.
They sit, hip to elbow and
try to find Haiku.

The branches open.
A window for the warm sun.
Light falls in sprinkles.

Tree roots in the path.
I sniff the honey suckle.
Whoops! Forgot to watch.

Still water muddy brown.
Tip toe across the round rocks.
Oops! Yish. Wet. I slipped.

, blue jeans,
sweat shirt, sneakers, and back pack.
This is middle school.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Granny Camp

"It was my Granny who taught me to sew. . ." That's a line from a poem I wrote years ago watching Kelly and Katie grow up with so many more opportunities than my Granny had. Granny had 9 grandchildren, first a group of us six girls and then Uncle Bobby FINALLY married and she got one more girl and two boys out of the deal.

As kids we always got to spend a week at Granny's house in Goodyear Heights in Akron, OH where we ate watermelon, broke her china, sampled her Pond's moisturizing cream, raided her goody drawer and ate her fried chicken -- the major meal of the day served at noon when Pappy got off of his shift at Goodyear. AND she taught us all to sew, taking us to the basement of Polskey's where one summer I remember touching every single bolt of fabric until I finally picked out red corduroy and red and white gingham for a shift jumper and blouse. We laid out the pattern on the fabric in the upstairs hallway, crawling up and down while she helped me place the tissue just right to maximize the use of the fabric and minimize waste. Granny was not a wasteful person. That outfit, the smell of the fabric, the hum and rush of the sewing machine sitting under her bedroom window are as fresh a memory to me today as if it had been last summer.

Somehow she managed to make us all seem special. I remember growing up with a sense of pride about being a Holbrook. Not that the family was perfect -- far from it -- but it was a family that went out of its way -- sometimes great distances out of the way -- to stay close. And us cousins each treasured our weeks at Granny's -- often shared with one other cousin. Because of these weeks and annual vacation trips, we cousins grew up and remain close -- although we are scattered from North Carolina, to Ohio, to Colorado, to Arizona. We grew up and count among us an artist, a poet, a dentist, a doctor of psychology, a business owner and yoga instructor. Three of us have become Grannies ourselves.

This year, in a grand experiment, we will all travel to Debbi's house in Tucson to paint, hike, visit the desert museum, touch a cactus, sing around the campfire, write in our journals, and learn to know our faraway cousins and Grannies a little better. Granny Camp for cousins ages 6 and up.

In preparation, Kelly and Ben made a video introduction that not only introduces him, but looks to be part of the long process of dealing with the death of the cousin with whom he was the closest, our Stephie. While Stephie will not be traveling with us to Tucson, we will carry her smile with us in our hearts, on this trip and for always. For more information about Kelly's process in doing this, visit her blog.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Conneaut Schools

The kids at Lakeshore and Gateway Schools in Conneaut, OH were prepped and hoppin' ready for poetry when I arrived this week. One teacher commented (caringly) that I must have my "gameface" on to be there working with the kids considering the tragic circumstances of these last weeks. And to tell the truth, I drove there thinking that I might have to paste on a smile -- but that was not the case at all. We sat in the library (and the gym) and talked about the truth of poetry and connected eye-to-eye, nothing artificial.

I heard rumors (you KNOW how teachers love to talk!) that kids were writing poetry AND becoming much more dramatic in their poetry performance after the assemblies at Gateway. I might have had a small hand in that (follow the arrow in the picture) but real kudos go to the teachers, media specialists and reading specialists who got the kids all jazzed before I got there. THANKS!

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

A Question of Family

Today I visited a school and at the end of the assemblies the questions were regular, how old are you? how much money do you make? how old are your children now? We are all a lot older than we were a few weeks ago. What I have learned from past surgeries in my life is that scar tissue comes back tougher than the onion skin nature gives us to begin with.

photos by sarah edleman
From left to right, Michael, me, Katie, Tom (Katie's and Kelly's dad and my ex-husband) Ro (Tom's wonderful wife and my dear friend) Darcy (Ro's daughter and Katie and Kelly's stepsister and Kelly. I wouldn't have thought that we needed to be tougher -- but that is what we must become in order to support one another.

Gratefully, no one asked me how many grandchildren I have. The six pack is off balance. Now we begin to try and remold our family (again) and grow around the painful gash where darling Stephie used to be. The question I ask myself tonight is: how much longer, how many more days or weeks or months will it be before I can call any one of my family and just say "what's up?" and not mean, are you still standing? Can you breathe today?

Family is what the universe gives us to teach us how to love, how to share, how to fight, how to make up, how to live, how to rejoice, how to heal, and how to go on. Kelly asked me this morning (when we were checking to make sure we were both breathing) if I could imagine what it would be like to go through something like this alone.

I can't. We are so blessed.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Claire's Day

Claire's Day is a reading celebration in Toledo that is held once a year in honor of a 10 year old girl who went to summer camp and never came home. She had a cardiac arrest. I had been signed up to present for at least a year in advance. I went thinking it would either be a very good idea to go or would bury me in another wave of sadness. Turned out to be very good. It is wonderful the vibrant event that the Rubini's have built in Claire's memory.

Loved talking to the kids -- although I must confess, I don't think it was my best show of all time. I'm struggling with finding enough enthusiasm to breathe, let alone perform. But as usual, the energy comes from the eyes of the kids in the audience and they never fail me.

Two of my cousins, Karen and Debbi, and I are planning a Granny Camp in Tucson this summer. The planning emails are starting to fly back and forth. My own grandmother (who I called Gigi) used to say, "the living take care of the living." And so we do, weaving the future out of frayed heart strings.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Why are you teaching us to write poetry?

Not a smart mouth, not unkind. Just a question from a third grader today at R.C. Waters Elementary in Oak Harbor, OH.

The morning assemblies were actually a comfort -- it was good to be with happy children without parentheses of pain about their eyes -- like stepping from a darkened theater into the sun, it required some adjustment. Why was I there teaching them to write poetry?

Yesterday I spent much of the afternoon putting in a new garden in Katie's back yard, made up of plants gifted in memorial. A lilac bush, an azalea, two hyacinth, and lots of forget me nots. After that I drove 90 minutes to Toledo, checking into a hotel. Late last night, Katie called me to read me a poem she's written, composed after listing pages of words collected from the wishes, fears and medical reports of Stephie's last days -- a strobe of a poem that made my eyes water.

Today the third grade writers were listing details about their bathtubs. From hair in the drain to bubbles up the nose, we talked about the importance of details in making clear images for our poems. The blond girl had a pencil in one hand and her paper in the other, sitting on the floor, when she turned to me and asked with a genuine interest in my response, "why are you teaching us to write poetry?"

"Because someday you will need it. I can't tell you when, but you will."

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Thank you

So many notes and calls -- meat platters, fruit baskets, plants, flowers and a tree. We can't thank everyone enough for all your caring thoughts and feeling hearts. We remain off balance, a bright star missing from the mobile of family.

So much support from community -- our wide community of teachers, students, friends, neighbors, writers, children, elders, businesses -- an overwhelming tidal wave of love to help buoy our family. The pain is too great to carry alone. Grateful thanks to all who have contacted us to ask if they could help shoulder a piece.

Yesterday along with all the tears were also smiles. Stephie was a happy girl, loved and loving. Please visit my daughter Kelly's blog and fliker site for more images.

Jane Yolen wrote this reminder to me: "We are so accustomed to believing in forever, we forget to celebrate the now moments. Borrowing from tomorrow." Yesterday we celebrated the now along with grieving for the lost tomorrows. Life is fickle, you just can't trust it.

But I have been reminded of what we can trust, and that is the love of family and community. Thank you. Thank you.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Stephanie Lufkin

STEPHANIE LYN "STEPHIE" LUFKIN, age 7. First Grade Student at Normandy Elementary School, Bay Village. Precious princess and cherished daughter of Katie (nee Traynor) and Douglas; loving sister of Scotty and Sara; adored granddaughter of Sara Holbrook and Michael Salinger, Thomas Traynor and Rosemary Breehl, Joe and Lyn Lufkin of Tampa, FL.; sweet niece of Kelly "Tee-Tee" and Brian Weist, Dave and Cyndi Lufkin, Darcy and Doug Zehe, Cheryl and Dan Belic, Tom Lufkin and Max and Frank Salinger; awesome cousin to Benny, Danny, Tommy, Mason, Conor, Angela and Big Money Nick; best-est friend to Miss Clare Matthews and deeply loved by all who knew her. Seven years ago Stephie danced her way into our hearts and cart-wheeled through life. Passed away, Thursday, May 8, 2008. Funeral Services, Bay Presbyterian Church (Lake and Columbia Roads) TUESDAY May 13th at 11:00 AM. Interment Lakewood Park Cemetery. Friends may call in the McGORRAY BROS. FUNERAL HOME OF WESTLAKE, 25620 CENTER RIDGE RD. (Just West of Columbia) MONDAY from 2-4 and 6-9 PM and TUESDAY MORNING AT BAY PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH (In The Great Hall) from 10:00 AM TILL TIME OF SERVICES. In lieu of flowers, family suggests memorials to The Stephanie Lufkin Memorial Fund at Charter One Bank, 411 Dover Center Rd, Bay VillageOH 44140.