Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Uncle Bob -- A Prose Poem

A jumble of memories

Uncle Bob was not my uncle. He was my dad's cousin, but the closest thing to family we had. He also was not a cowboy, but if you saw his slow, bow-legged saunter, his cowboy hat, his blue jeans and western snap-fasten shirts, that's what you might think. You wouldn't know by looking that he was the canniest dry-land farmer in the Great Plains of Eastern Colorado. He was born and raised in the part of Colorado without mountain peaks and rich soil. His landscape was wide and flat and dry. Dirt roads with thistle in the ditches marked the edges of native grassland pasture and wheat fields. Uncle Bob had a deep understanding of the land he farmed, never succumbing to "the grass is greener" mentality of irrigation. He was a dry-land farmer whose harvest depended on the land and the weather. There were good years with enough moisture, and plenty of years with dust devils and tumbleweeds before the rain came...or didn't come. In the summer, many a cumulonimbus cloud appeared on the horizon, only to take its rain elsewhere, but perhaps also its hail. A winter blizzard was a mixed blessing of wind that carried topsoil away and brought moisture that did or didn't cover the fields to nourish the winter wheat. Uncle Bob secured his success by collaborating with the land and the climate, but he allied with another of the vast natural resources of Eastern Colorado for his final venture -- harvesting the wind with graceful lines of enormous turbines.

In my mind, it is night. I stand in the dusty yard where I played as a child, rusty tractors along the fence, the Milky Way a bright smear across the impossibly dark sky. Uncle Bob is in it all -- land, sky, and wind.

Monday, April 22, 2019

Not Giant...Yet

I count baby oak leaves among the cutest of spring's babies. It's hard to imagine that these fragile fingertip-length leaves will be bigger than my whole hand by the middle of June. And the photosynthetic glucose factory inside each one of them...don't even get me started on that miracle.

There's a new Rhino in town, a watering can rhino, and she helped me write a haiku for the baby oak leaves.

your glorious life
grand, gorgeous -- so not giant
sweet home for my heart

©Mary Lee Hahn, 2019

Sunday, April 21, 2019

To Make a Forest

Flickr Creative Commons Photo 

To Make a Forest, After Emily Dickinson

To make a forest it takes one spring and eternity,
The delicate goddess of this spring mist and one enormous eternity.
Plus moments.
The sweet moments alone will do,
If eternity is few.

©Mary Lee Hahn, 2019

This is a "cross-out" poem, an idea shared by Laura Shovan in her Nerdy Book Club Poetry Month FB event.

It is also a magnetic poetry poem. Thank goodness FOREST was right on top in the box!

Saturday, April 20, 2019

Happy Birthday, Franki!

For Franki, On Her Birthday

You are an unspoken blessing to the teaching profession.
Your advocacy is a not-so-silent promise that all voices will be heard.
I know you are reluctant to accept the trophy of our accolades,
but where would we be without your impossible-to-ignore drumbeat of excellence?

©Mary Lee Hahn, 2019

Friday, April 19, 2019

Springtime Alarm Clock

Springtime Alarm Clock

Supposedly, time is a gentle songbird,
but someone forgot to tell
the robin outside my window
in the predawn darkness
who is singing jazz riffs
that would make Charlie Parker proud.

©Mary Lee Hahn, 2019

Here is my metaphor:

And here is Charlie Parker, who I chose randomly, but just learned is Charles ("Bird") Parker.

Thursday, April 18, 2019

After the Fire

After the Fire

The images of smoke and ash
spread from screen to screen around the globe.

As the loss of an ancient cultural treasure was mourned
by those who had experienced the holiness there
and by those who now would not,

a pair of girls enjoying a sunny recess in Ohio
searched the soccer field
for four-leaf clover,
eventually finding seven lucky clusters.

©Mary Lee Hahn, 2019

Wednesday, April 17, 2019


The classroom stuffed animals wanted to get in on the Haikube scene. Why should Hem and Rhino have all the fun? On the left is the hamster from Laura Shovan's book The Last Fifth Grade of Emerson Elementary, in the middle is a camel one of my Egyptian students gave me, and on the right is Grumpy Bird. They watched last week while their small humans took the Language Arts state test, and the classroom is now ready (all math charts hidden or removed) for the Math portion of the state test. They know how hard their small humans have been working, and they wanted to write a poem to encourage them.

realize sweet grace
you hold dynamic marvel
you have pluck enough

©Mary Lee Hahn, 2019

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Spring's Yellow

Spring's Yellow






©Mary Lee Hahn, 2019

Monday, April 15, 2019

Poetry is a Burning Blessing

Poetry is a Burning Blessing

your pen -- the matchstick;
ideas -- tinder, kindling, fuel;
poetry -- the fire

©Mary Lee Hahn, 2019

Sunday, April 14, 2019

Playing With Poetry -- With FIRST Graders!

I Went to the Mexican Store

I saw
rainbow vegetables.
the best part was
a pepper
reading a book!

©1st Grade, 2019

Holy Moly! First graders at the end of the day on Friday still have SO much energy and SO much creativity! Hats off to all the first grade teachers in the world! 

We were writing a 15 Words or Less poem and we had WAY too many words. One little girl took out four boring words ("green, purple, and striped") and replaced them with one juicy one -- "rainbow." Brilliant! You have to look closely at the top right corner of the picture to see the pepper reading a book. It's a green pepper in the corner of a cardboard box, but when you see it through first grade eyes, it sure is a pepper reading a book!

Saturday, April 13, 2019

Playing With Poetry -- With MORE Second Graders!

Pink Piglets in a Pen

You think I'm dirty.
I DO love
rolling in mud
I bathe in hay.

©2nd Grade, 2019

Another great group of young poets, and look at all we packed into that poem! Alliteration! Rhyme! Juicy word choices!

Friday, April 12, 2019

Playing With Poetry...With Second Graders!

The second grade team at my school has invited me to visit their classes as the "Visiting Poet" for their Poetry Month poetry writing unit. So. Much. Fun!

Yesterday, after I elaborated on what a poet actually does (lots of reading, lots of rewriting) and where I get my ideas (everywhere), we wrote a 15 Words Or Less poem together.

Our prompt was a picture of tire tracks in snow.

Our first draft was too long, so I shared my sneaky trick of using one of the lines as the title to reduce the word count. 

We wound up with this:

Today Might Be a Snow Day

The cars
make diagonal tracks
in the sparkly snow
dusk to dawn.

©2nd Grade, 2019

It seemed ludicrous to be writing about a snow day when the temperatures here in Ohio hit the 80s today for the first time this season, but I know our friends in Denver and the upper midwest are dealing with Winter Storm Wesley, which will likely downgrade to lots of rain for us in the coming days.

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Haiku for Hem

Hem didn't come running when I dumped the Haikubes tonight, so Rhino and I worked alone. Our haiku might not seem very flattering, but it's the honest truth. Hem is a rescue cat, and we're pretty sure he was taken too soon from his mother, causing him to miss out on some important early socialization lessons. He plays REALLY rough. He's ruthless. His favorite games involve trying to bite your hand when you pet him, biting your pants leg, and jumping human shoulder-height (after getting those wild tiger eyes) to try to bite the hand you are holding out. One of his nicknames is Mr. Bitey. Hem is a strikingly beautiful cat, but he's drawn blood from both of us many times, resulting in us calling him worse than simply a jerk. He is, however, quite the Daddy's Boy, and he is always able to charm his way back onto AJ's lap.

wild tiger eyes
wicked gleeful biting jerk
charm peace with the man

©Mary Lee Hahn, 2019

Tuesday, April 9, 2019

Promise and Power

Like the green of spring,
poetry is a promise
unspoken, yet heard.

(And on the flip side,
power is a glorified mirror.
Enough said.)

©Mary Lee Hahn, 2019

Monday, April 8, 2019

Light, Peace, Joy

Light, Peace, Joy

Yes, light is a peace of joy.
And so is the single daffodil at the base of the oak.

Yes, light is a piece of joy.
Sun streaming through the blinds onto the kitchen table.

In piece, we dazzle.
In peace, we glow.


©Mary Lee Hahn, 2019

(Prompt provided by one of my students.)

Sunday, April 7, 2019

Blessings and Curses

Last Friday, I put out the poetry tools I've been using for this year's NPM challenge and let my students test drive them.

Magnetic Poetry

Paint Chip Poetry

What a blessing I received! Leave it to 10- and 11-year-olds to remind me how to really PLAY with these "tools!"

They didn't have time to draft full poems...all except this guy, who asked for permission not to switch stations so he could finish a poem, which turned out to be a heart-wrenching tribute to his mother on the theme of "appreciate what you've got while you've got it."

Other blessings I received as I played alongside them were snippets of poetry they gave me permission to borrow. Yesterday's metaphor was created by our class' member of the school dodgeball team. The competition was last night (they wound up holding onto their championship for the third year in a row) and he was thinking more literally about curveballs than I was! I have a line of magnetic poetry to work from for tomorrow's poem, and today's poem started at the paint chip table. A quiet sweetie showed her spunky side by pairing these:

That got me going on curses. I made a few of my own while we played, and then this morning, I took a page from my students' PLAYbook and dumped out all the paint chip cards on the kitchen table to find more.

I jotted them in my notebook, then went to my Merriam-Webster app and jotted down all the synonyms for CURSE.

Malediction Incantation

I curse you
with cheese puffs in your eyes!

May there be a muddy puddle pox
on your blue suede shoes!

I bestow a hex of sticky nectar
in your genie lamp!

A plague on your bright ideas --
may they slip away like quicksilver!

May your bull's-eye be blighted by

and your starship be scourged by

Your happy ending? May it be jinxed
by an unforeseen

©Mary Lee Hahn, 2019

Saturday, April 6, 2019

Memory Throws a Last-Minute Curveball

Memory Throws a Last-Minute Curveball

your name, the punchline,
why I'm standing in this room --
all veer out of reach

©Mary Lee Hahn, 2019

Friday, April 5, 2019

Haikubes with Hem (and Rhino)

Rhino wanted in on the act this time. But just like the last times, the minute I dumped the Haikubes on the carpet, Hem came at a gallop.

He and Rhino worked amiably to help me pick out my cubes.

Almost ready!

I found a poem that's a wish for sleep tonight. I made the mistake of drinking a cup of hot tea after school yesterday, and I woke up with a busy brain at 2:00 AM. I read for an hour, then only dozed until the alarm went off just before 5:00. Please come, honest sleep. Bring me grace!

Thursday, April 4, 2019



The optimism of cream --

The power of frog legs --

The cheer of sunny sides --

©Mary Lee Hahn, 2019

Wednesday, April 3, 2019



Is time an organized file
brimming with figures and facts?

Or is time a play in the theater
with lines and scenes and acts?

Is time a glorified drum
beating the rhythm of life?

Or is time a well-honed blade
cutting through age like a scythe?

©Mary Lee Hahn, 2019

Tuesday, April 2, 2019


I have lots of magnetics to choose from for my Magnetic Poetry play day. I got a little crazy and chose one word from every bag. I'm not going to do that again!

people, teacher, ball, stare, yesterday, everlasting, catches the worm


History catches the worm
in an everlasting dance with destiny
while Future's teacher gets the ball rolling
past crowds of people
who simply stand

©Mary Lee Hahn, 2019

Monday, April 1, 2019


Hemingway helped me launch Playing With Poetry by reminding me to PLAY with the Haikubes. He LOVES the sound they make. When I dumped them on the carpet, he came running. At first he supervised while I made my choices.

But pretty soon, he wanted to click the cubes himself, then carry one away to hide under the couch.

Here's my haiku for April 1:

we, you, us...all wrong:
fortune will flock to places
parallel with peace

©Mary Lee Hahn, 2019

Friday, March 29, 2019



The first surprise--
on the logjam that crosses the river,
a mink.

Not a muskrat.
A mink.
In Ohio.

The best surprise--
turned to look upstream, checking the footing for my next step,
my eyes off the line and
a tug
a yank
a fight
a trout.

Not a bass.
A rainbow trout.
In Ohio.

The last surprise--
I've forgotten
the achingly numb feet
from a day spent standing in
fast flowing
forty degree water with a
fly rod.

©Mary Lee Hahn, 2019

Friday, March 22, 2019

Nothing Gold -- After Robert Frost

Nothing Gold
after Nothing Gold Can Stay by Robert Frost

Nature's first green is gold
or, in the case of that bush
with its six inches of new growth,

Or, in the case of that forsythia
on the south-facing side of the house,
an unbelievable shade of bright

Or, in the case of those new shoots
knifing up from exposed iris bulbs,
a simultaneously fragile but violent

All these early hues
in leaf, in flower
hard to hold as the earth moves
along its path
hour by hour
by day by day
by season by season,

not so much subsiding
as being subsumed
in the golden Eden
of Life.

©Mary Lee Hahn, 2019

Friday, March 8, 2019

The Women Who Made Me Who I Am

The women who made me who I am
     gave each other home perms
     led Cub Scout dens and Brownie Scout troops
     grew asparagus for the challenge of it
     ran the swimming pool and coached the swim team.

The women who made me who I am
     opened businesses
     drove tractors
     canned pickles
     read voraciously.

The women who made me who I am
     put meals on the table
     put kids to bed
     put petunias in the planter
     put family first.

©Mary Lee Hahn, 2019

Sunday, January 20, 2019


"The secret of happiness is low expectations." 
in Unsheltered, by Barbara Kingsolver. Chapter 17


Today I allow myself to say
it's too cold to go outside.

Instead, I watch the sky
through my window,

imagine the knife blade breeze
that stirs winter-bare branches,

and lie like a cat with the patch of sun
moving slowly across me; time measured in warmth.

©Mary Lee Hahn, 2019