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Life on the Deckle Edge

Poetry Friday - Embracing Summer with Issa (and wee bloggie break)

Image from The Graphics Fairy. thegraphicsfairy.com


Greetings, Poetry Lovers! 


It's been a while since I shared an Issa poems from David G. Lanoue's amazing treasure house of thousands of Issa poems he has translated (up to more than 12,000 now....)


So here are a few to welcome summer, and you can find details about these, and many more summer poems, here. (Just put any term you are interested in into the search box.  I found these with "summer.")


Haiku by Kobayashi Issa (1763-1828)



meeting at the fence--
an early summer rain
streams down



answering prayers
for the grasses...
summer heat



amid scented cedars
a bush warbler's song...
new summer robes



making the lawn
a sit-down teahouse...
summer trees



short summer night--
a deer pokes her face
through the hedge



All poems translated by David G. Lanoue and used with permission.  Learn more about David here


Wishing you and yours a fantabulous start to summer.  My blog will be taking a wee break for June as we have several trips planned, plus elbow surgery for the pup, who turns 1 at the end of the month. Our first little trip is to celebrate our Baby Grand's SECOND birthday - how did that happen so fast?! We have a wedding anniversay in June, too - number 40! (Yes, we were babes when we got married - Ha!)


I'll see you in a few weeks (and look forward to hosting in July). Be sure to start your first weekend in June off with all the poetic goodness hosted by the oh-so-talented Janice at Salt City Verse. She's highlighting Carol Labuzzetta's new anthology!

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Poetry Friday - Memorial Day - My Grandfather & Poetic Fields


Greetings, Poetry Lovers!  As we enter the Memorial Day weekend, my thoughts turn to the grandfather I never met.  He died four years before I was born.  I blogged about him before, I'm sure, and know I used this picture, though I can't put my finger on that post at the moment! 


John Hollingsworth Conditt was born in 1900, though he lied about his age to join the Army in World War I in 1917.  (Official records say either 1898 or 1899.) Both of his parents died in 1917; I'm guessing from the influenza pandemic? He was a fiesty one, a drinker and a fighter in his youth, as my mother Nita remembers being told.  From my forays through family trees and on Ancestry.com, his line of folks seems to be the most livelly and interesting in the family, on both his mother's and father's sides!  But I digress. 


He was wounded in France, was sent back and patched up, and returned to the fight.  Then he went with the Army to China for a bit.


My mother also told me once that after he returned home to Arkansas, he saw my grandmother working in a field and told his buddy, "I'm going to marry her."  And, he did!  Outside on the street, evidently, as her father had some sort of objection.  


He was reserved and devoted to his family.  In my living room I have a wooden box with maps pasted on the inside, something he made for my mother to put her doll in.  They were dirt poor tenant farmers, but they could make and make do like nobody's business. My grandmother bore six children, losing one as an infant and another at the age of four.  Times were hard.  My mother was the baby. 


She said her daddy never talked about the war.  As I was researching a few years ago, I discovered on his "Headstone Application for Military Veterans" that someone had written in "Silver Star" and "Purple Heart" in red pencil.  Looking at a few more of these types of applications, it looks like red marks were made by the government staff members who reviewed the applications.  Though he got himself into a bit of trouble during his service, my mother recalls, he was honorably discharged in 1922. In World War I, the award was called the "Citation Star" - the Silver Star was retroactively awarded to those recipients.  I only recently discovered that on his actual grave marker, it does say "SS" and "PH"!  The Silver Star is awarded for "gallentry in action" and is the third highest award for combat valor.


I've only seen one giant list online of majojr mililtary award recipients and didn't see his name listed (though a very close name attributed to WWII), but the list said the absence of a name should not be interpreted to mean one's family member did not receive the Silver Star.  So it's still a bit of a mystery, one I might have to hire a professional to help track down if possible.


My mother says she doesn't remember her father smiling.  Times were certainly different.  And those who came back from the front lines 100 years ago didn't have the resources we have available today.  (My psychiatrist hubby worked for 10 years with Marines and members of the Navy before starting his current job.)


Thanks for reading this family ramble.  I'm sharing two poems, a famous one associated with WWI, and an older one with a couple of similar images but NOT about war.  


Deep gratitude to everyone who wears or has worn a uniform, and to their families, especially those whose grief will be especially keen this weekend. 



In Flanders Fields

by John McCrae

(1872 – 1918)

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
    That mark our place; and in the sky
    The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
    Loved and were loved, and now we lie
        In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe: 
To you from failing hands we throw
    The torch; be yours to hold it high. 
    If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
        In Flanders fields.



This one was written by Elizabeth Barrett Browning, who died a decade before John McCrae was born. I wish peace like this for all who face any kind of battle.



Out in the Fields

by Elizabeth Barrett Browning


The little cares that fretted me
   I lost them yesterday,
Among the fields above the sea,
   Among the winds at play,
Among the lowing of the herds,
   The rustling of the trees,
Among the singing of the birds,
   The humming of the bees.


The foolish fears of what might happen.
   I cast them all away
Among the clover-scented grass,
   Among the new-mown hay,
Among the husking of the corn,
  Where drowsy poppies nod
Where ill thoughts die and good are born--
  Out in the fields with God.


This Just In - My mother read the post and offered a few more details that tugged at my heart:


"Flanders Fields" always brings tears and memories of Poppies which Daddy loved and respected. He always made sure we each had a red poppy to wear on National Poppy Day, which is the Friday before Memorial Day....TODAY! He always donated $10.00 to The American Legion to help provide Poppies which were given to people to wear. We kids gave him our 'savings' to help. $10.00 was a lot of money! ... I know we sometimes would donate and wear a poppy when you were young...American Legion members would be on street corners or in front of stores. Do you remember?


I do seem to remember those little red poppies, with paper-covered wires to wrap around a button or such I think. 


Thanks again for reading along.  Start your long weekend off with all kinds of poetry (and art) at More Art 4 All with Michelle (& blow out a birthday streamer in her honor!).


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Poetry Friday - Go See Patricia!

Quick wave from the Where-Did-the-Week-Go Dept.... Well, I'm not sure, but Patricia knows.  She's been up to SOME good and she's also rounding up this week at https://patriciajfranz.com/blog-poetry-friday-is-here/ - Go plant your roots for a bit!

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Poetry Friday - The Kindness of Strangers (& a Bit of Robert Browning)


Greetings, Poetry Lovers!  May is well upon us.  In my corner, our flowers are blooming, the trees are leafy and full, and the first brood of baby bluebirds has fledged. And, storms have been rolling through.  [We've been fortunate; prayers for those who have lost so much this week.]


Are you familiar with those NPR/Public Radio "driveway moments?" You know, when you become entranced by a story and even though you've parked your car, you leave it running to listen until the end? Recently I had that experience with an episode of the "My Unsung Hero" series.  It has stuck with me. It was about the life-saving power of a very simple kindness - just a smile - extended by a stranger. Here's the link to the 3-minute recording, or you can quickly read the text. 


In looking for some poetic May morsels to share, I turned to my oft-mentioned copy of THE ILLUMINATED BOOK OF DAYS edited by Kay & Marshall Lee with illustrations by Kate Greenaway and Eugene Grasset (G. P. Putnam's Sons, 1979.) There I stumbled onto the fact that May 7 was Robert Browning's birthday.  May 7 is also the birthday of our wonderful son-in-law, Matt! :0)


(Hang with me.  This all relates.) A romp through THE COLUMBIA GRANGER'S DICTIONARY OF POETRY QUOTATIONS (Columbia University Press, 1992) for a few inspirational Browning lines found me reading some familiar ones - but I must confess, I never knew the origin of the ones below!  They are from Pippa Passes, a four-part verse drama published in 1841. Here's the brief Encyclopedia Brittanica description: 


On New Year's morning, her only holiday for the entire year, Pippa, an impoverished young silk-winder, sings as she wanders aimlessly. In each section of the poem, people who are at critical points in their lives make significant and far-reaching decisions when they hear Pippa sing as she passes by.


Here's the excerpt from Robert Browning (1812-1889, British):


The year's at the spring,

And day's at the morn;

Morning's at seven;

The hillside's dew-pearled;

The lark's on the wing;

The snail's on the thorn:

God's in His Heaven --

All's right with the world!


I know it certainly doesn't feel like all's right with the world these days. 


I've just turned in some yearly freelance writing I do for a character education program, Core Essentials, and part of my contribution is choosing and writing about an animal to pair with each month's value.  For one of next spring's months, I picked the bluebird - a symbol of happiness but also of hope.  Last year, our pair of bluebirds built a nest, but babies never hatched.  (Perhaps a snake or some other mishap.) This year, I never actually saw the babies - but I heard their hearty high-pitched cries from the little nest box when I was outside.  Mom and Dad worked so hard feeding them, day after day after day.  I was afraid they might flege when I was out of town attending an SCBWI conference in Birmingham weekend before last, and evidently they did.  


I still think of them each time I take the dog out. Though I never laid eyes on them and the birdhouse is quiet now, I hope the young ones are making their way in the world to build their own nests some day.


Wishing you grace to receive a smile (or bluebird song) if you need one this week; appreciation if you're able to share with someone who does. 


Our gracious and mulit-talented Linda at A Word Edgewise has today's Roundup. She's sharing a fun tradition that makes poetic lemonade out of lemons!

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Poetry Friday - Go See Buffy!

Howdy!  HAPPY MAY!  This week has been a blur of wrangling deadlines, Etsy orders, and a big rambunctious pup to various vet appointments.  I didn't get a post ready for today!  But be sure to visit the ever-delightful and talented Buffy Silverman for the first Roundup of May.  Thanks, Buffy!

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The Kidlit 2004 Progressive Poem Parks HERE today!


Greetings, Poetry Lovers!  Welcome to the next-to-the-last day of the 2024 Kidlit Progressive Poem.  Thanks to Irene Latham for beginning this communal adventure years ago, and thanks to Margaret Simon who coordinates it now. 


This year's poem is unlike others we've had in the past.  Each poet is contributing a couplet rather than a single line, and the subject and theme are tied to realities that are timely, important, and fraught for people living through them.


We've come to care for our young narrator and the narrator's brother, worrying for them and wishing them success as they make their way with a group to the border. I've been a bit apprehensive about contributing my line(s).  I've known a couple of migrant families over the years, but I don't know anyone going through this now, and I don't have time to do the deep research I would attempt if I were writing something about migrant families myself.  I watch the news and pray for those seeking asylum, for those who weren't born into the same opportunities I was.


I must confess I'm not entirely sure which side of the border our children are on here at the end of the poem.  In my reading, they haven't yet crossed the border into the US (assuming the US is the final destination), but have found a freindly village to wait in? 


The end of this poem could go in more than one direction.  It wouldn't be unrealistic to leave everything unresolved, and leave our young travelers wanting.  Real children experience this, and families might wait for years before moving on. Also, I wasn't exactly sure how to continue the involvement of a beloved uncle recently introduced and spotlighted in yesterday's lines from Dave.  Whichever side of the border the children are on, Tío is on the other side. An uncle in the US can't sponsor nieces or nephews, but perhaps he can visit family members waiting in a village across the border?


I'm not sure.  But the "yet" in a previous line offers a tiny shaft of light.  It's my own bent to leave a bit of hope in any writing for kids, so, while acknowledging that many children suffer in this process of seeking a new life in a place far from home, I want to continue in a positive vein for our poem's characters. (My lines are in bold.)



Cradled in stars, our planet sleeps,

Clinging to tender dreams of peace

Sister moon watches from afar,

Singing lunar lullabies of hope.


Almost dawn, I walk with others,

Keeping close, my little brother.

Hand in hand, we carry courage

escaping closer to the border


My feet are lightning;

My heart is thunder.

Our pace draws us closer

To a new land of wonder.


I bristle against rough brush—

Poppies ahead brighten the browns.

Morning light won't stay away—

Hearts jump at every sound.


I hum my own little song

Like ripples in a stream

Humming Mami's lullaby

Reminds me I have her letter


My fingers linger on well-worn creases,

Shielding an address, a name, a promise–

Sister Moon will find always us

Surrounding us with beams of kindness


But last night as we rested in the dusty field,

Worries crept in about matters back home.

I huddled close to my brother. Tears revealed

The no-choice need to escape.  I feel grown.


Leaving all I've ever known

The tender, heavy, harsh of home.

On to maybes, on to dreams,

On to whispers we hope could be.


But I don't want to whisper! I squeeze Manu's hand.

"¡Más cerca ahora!" Our feet pound the sand.

We race, we pant, we lean on each other

I open my canteen and drink gratefully


Thirst is slaked, but I know we'll need

More than water to achieve our dreams.

Nights pass slowly, but days call for speed

Through the highs and the lows, we live with extremes


 We enter a village the one from Mami's letter,

 We find the steeple; food, kindly people, and shelter.

 "We made it, Manu! Mami would be so proud!"

 I choke back a sob, then stand tall for the crowd.


A slapping of sandals… I wake to the sound

Of ¡GOL! Manu's playing! The fútbol rebounds.

I pinch myself. Can this be true?

Are we safe at last? Is our journey through?


I savor this safety, we're enveloped with care,

but Tío across the border, still seems far as stars.

He could not yet come to this new place

But Hermana moon, kiss his tear-stained face


¿Dónde está mi querido Tío? (Where is my Dear Uncle?)

¡Mi corazón está muy frío! (My heart is very cold)

Emerging from clouds, the sun warms my back.

A deep voice calls; Manu freezes and I spin around.  



In addition to providing those heart-touching lines in Spanish, Dave also updated the list of participants and links  in his post.  Thanks, Dave!  

Here are the folks participating this year, without the hyperlinks. (Sorry – been out of town at a conference and under a tight deadline.)


April 1 – Patricia Franz at Reverie 

April 2 – Jone at Jone Rush MacCulloch  

April 3  – Janice at Salt City Verse 

April 4 – Leigh Anne at A Day in the Life 

April 5 – Irene at Live Your Poem 

April 6 – Margaret at Reflections on the Teche 

April 7 – Marcie at Marcie Atkins 

April 8 – Ruth at There is No Such Thing as a God-forsaken Town 

April 9 – Karen at Karen's Got a Blog

April 10 – Linda at Teacher Dance 

April 11 – Buffy at Buffy Silverman 

April 12 – Linda at  A Word Edgewise 

April 13 – Denise at Dare to Care 

April 14 – Carol at Beyond Literacy Link 

April 15 – Rose at Imagine the Possibilities 

April 16 – Sarah Grace at Sarah Grace Tuttle 

April 17 – Heidi at my juicy little universe 

April 18 – Tabatha at The Opposite of Indifference 

April 19 – Catherine at Reading to the Core 

April 20 – Tricia at The Miss Rumphius Effect 

April 21 – Janet, hosted at Reflections on the Teche 

April 22 – Mary Lee  at A(nother) Year of Reading 

April 23 – Tanita at (fiction, instead of lies) 

April 24 – Molly at Nix the Comfort Zone 

April 25 – Rest 

April 26 – Karin at Still in Awe

 April 27 – Donna at Mainely Write 

April 28 – Dave at Leap of Dave 

April 29 – Robyn at Life on the Deckle Edge 

April 30 – Michelle at More Art for All


I am grateful to hand off the poem to Michelle Kogan for its ending.  Through Poetry Friday and poem swaps in recent years, I've come to appreciate how Michelle's words and art are full of thoughtfulness, compassion, a sense of justice, and pleas for peace.  Take it away, Michelle, and thank you!

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Poetry Friday - "The Mouse" by Elizabeth Coatsworth

Detail from the cover of DICKENS MICE by Kim Poovey, illustrated by Robyn Hood Black.


Greetings, Poetry Lovers!  Can you believe we are in the final week of Poetry Month?  How did that happen?


Also, apparently I have a teeny wee mouse in my studio in the basement.  How did that happen? 


Well, that's easier to explain, as the renovated basement WAS an unfinished garage space, and it butts up on three sides to the ground, including whatever space is under the front porch.  Ah, well. My hubby says he'll take a look at trying to seal some questionable cracks. A few weeks ago, I noticed some teeny bits of shredded paper and insulation inside the little compartments of one of the old wooden printer's trays (inside an old metal flat file) that I use for some of my way-too-many tidbits.  Cute, but I did remove the shreds and sprinkle some peppermint detergent in there.  This week I found a few little bitty "deposits" in the closet I've also taken over with my art/packaging supplies (the tiny room right beneath the porch).


In THE POET'S CRAFT ( Helen Fern Daringer and Anne Thaxter Eaton, 1935), I came across an unknown-to me poem by Elizabeth Coatsworth (1893-1986) which takes the mouse's side.  She wrote for both children and adults, and won the Newbery Medal in 1931.


The Mouse


by Elizabeth Coatsworth


I hear a mouse

Bitterly complaining

In a crack of moonlight

Aslant on the floor -


"Little I ask

And that little is not granted.

There are few crumbs

In this world any more.


"The bread box is tin.

And I cannot get in.


"The jam's in a jar

My teeth cannot mar.


"The cheese sits by itself

On the pantry shelf. - 


"All night I run

Searching and seeking,

All night I run

About on the floor.


"Moonlight is there

And a bare place for dancing,

But no little feast

Is spread any more."



Poor Mousey. But I do love the image of mice dancing in the moonlight!


Waltz on over to see our talented Ruth at There is No Such Thing as a God-forsaken Town for this week's Roundup, and be sure to catch up on the Progressive Poem, which is parked at Still in Awe with Karin Fisher-Golton today. (I have Monday's line - wish me luck!)  Apologies in advance if I'm not swift in responding to comments this weekend - I'm off to the SCBWI Southern Breeze conference in Birmingham!

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Poetry Friday - Little Birdie and Knockout Roses


Greetings, Poetry Lovers!  Here we are in the middle of Poetry Month, and I have something short and sweet.


This winter, I lamented that the rose bushes at the front of our house looked gangly and scraggly.  We didn't prune them as early as we had last year, and I wondered what they would look like come spring.  Also, my husband had added three more little bushes beside the driveway.  They weren't forlorn looking, but they were small. 


One day this week, I walked out the front door and was knocked out by all the knockout roses - it's as if they all buffed up and bloomed overnight!  Actually, I had been out of town a few days, and there was a fair bit of rain during that time.  But it still felt like magic to me. The picture above is one of the "new" small bushes - which transformed from a teepee-like bundle of sticks and a few leaves to this!


The roses reminded me of a song my mother sang to me, from my grandmother, and that I (and my daughter) now sing to our almost two-year-old Baby Grand, Sawyer. 

Was this little ditty in your family?



Little Birdie in the tree,

in the tree,

in the tree,


Little Birdie in the tree,

sing your song for me.


Sing about the roooo-ses 

on the garden wall.


Little Birdie in the tree,

sing your song for me.


I also recorded myself singing this for Sawyer's Tonie Box .  Do you know about those? It's a fun little box (no screen) that little ones can play songs and stories on, and there's a way to make your own recordings for them, too.


I wondered about the origin of this song and asked the Google.  I found a brief entry on a Library of Congress site.  The song was attributed to Ray Wood with a date in April (!) of 1939.  The lyrics are a bit different, though - I'll have to ask my mother if she knows how they came to be the more pleasing version above in our family.


Here's the recorded version:




Little birdie in the tree, in the tree, in the tree, Little birdie in the tree, Sing a song to me.


Sing about the robin, Way up in the sky; When you go out callin, Do your children cry?


(Repeat first verse)


Sung by Ray Wood, Houston, Texas, April 13, 1939.




I didn't do a deep dive to find Ray Wood, but I couldn't find anything in the shallow end of the internet.  Anybody know anything about him?


Well, I hope whatever ditties are passed down from generation to generation in your family bring a smile, and delight that blooms like April roses.


Happy Earth Day on Monday!


Our earth-loving and rosy Heidi has the Roundup today at My Juicy Little Universe, and Catherine adds a line to the Progressive Poem today over at Reading to the Core.

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Poetry Friday - Go See Jone!

Howdy!  I am traveling this weekend but Poetry Month marches on!  Please see Jone Rush MacCulloch today for the Roundup. Don't forget to follow along with the Progressive Poem, parked at Linda Mitchell's place this Friday, and check out Jama's Roundup of Kidlit Poetry Month Events.  Take good care, Robyn

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Poetry Friday - Canticle of the Sun

The Graphics Fairy - vintage image


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