From Memphis with Love . . .



Crude is the word, is the word, is the word

“It’s got groove, it’s got meaning.”

Last night, we sat side by side

eating dried mango slices

watching John Travolta dance

in that way only he can.

I have waited for the day

when you would be old enough

to test,

wondering if you would get it,

if you would see the world the way I do.

If you would walk that subtle line

where crudity would sometimes make you laugh

because laughing at our flaws lightens

the burden, strengthens us to be better people.

And other times, if crudity would disappoint you,

even as you tried to understand it and let it point you

towards a better way.

As we watched the story unfold,

I listened to your laugh, heard your critiques

and watched you parse the beauty and


your recognition of Heaven and smut bound in our DNA.


Morning Routine

Too early for the sun

Your lips sprinkle my cheek and jaw

Whispered word penetrates sleep —

“I look upon you with great favor.”

A groggy mental eye roll, yet

my heart lifts, reaching toward

but my grasp is frail.

Grace slips away as you slip out the door.

I turn over, curling up

under blankets,

searching my darkness.

Your words play hide-and-seek,

until I fully awaken and remember,

my whole self wraps tightly around

your benediction, holding me together.

See, I do hear you sometimes.

Even when you don’t make sense.

Even when I find you hard to believe.

I get up, wondering what I will

say today.




Almost, not yet

My eldest son

16 years and 9 months old

you ask if I have my cell phone as I

rush to the door

“Of course.  I would not leave my children home alone with

no way to reach me”

My hand secretly searches my bag and finds my deVICE.

You smile smug.

“Or maybe, mom, you have a responsible son who charges your phone and puts it in your pocketbook”

You lean your cheek down, down into my kiss-giving range.


Yesterday, you inspected my truck before a trip,

testing the engine light — thoughtful.

I have raised you and trained you

Perhaps you are ready for release.


Then I remember opening a kitchen drawer

and finding a block of cheddar cheese

beside the potato masher and ice cream scoop

while you stand at the counter,

a rectangle of cheese on its way to your mouth.


And I remember last week,

your little sister met me at the door,

serious face, big eyes, head tipped to side

revealing a bruise under her jaw

marked by your big clumsy foot.

It was a fun wrestling match until

it was not fun anymore.


Maybe you are not quite ready after all.

I sigh

In Relief.

A night full and golden

My girl came home late,

long blonde hair snarled with sticks and leaves.

Brown smudges around her lips

clue to the hot chocolate she drank

in the cold dark,

waiting with her Daddy

for the travelers to Bethlehem,

so he could prophesy while she

pretended to be a log by their campfire.

No one saw her, and she was content

with invisibility.

Because she was with Him.

And that was enough.

I take the brush in hand,  fulfilling my role

and restore the tangled skeins.

Even Mama needs to revise

Dear Kids,

Yep.  It is true.  Even Mama needs to revise her writing.

I just don’t have the luxury to do it often.  But I squeezed in some revisions between trips to the turkey and dessert table.  The long drive to our Thanksgiving get-together was helpful too.

So here it is —- the reality of revision in the adult world, outside of school.

And with a bit of alliteration thrown in — “reality of revision.”  Unimpressed, huh?

That phrase popped into my mind, so I wrote it down, squashing that inner critic who whispers “Is that the best you can do, dearie?”  I encourage you to do the same thing during a free write or the writing a rough draft.  Write boldly.  Don’t worry if it is pretty.  Just splash your color onto the page.

My blogging activities usually show that free writing approach —– a quick jotting down of thoughts.  Time to revise is rare.  If I do revise, it is done after you have gone to bed, so you don’t see the process.

This time, I took photos of my revisions so you  can see that I do practice what I preach.  When time permits.  In the adult world, time is “wibbly, wobbly, timey, wimey stuff.”

Below is the poem “A Walk to the Mailbox” that I posted several days ago.  After I posted it, I printed out a hard copy, keeping it nearby, making small revisions as ideas came to mind.  Mostly, I focused on capturing how I felt and what I saw with stronger images and details.


Then I went to the computer, made my revisions and printed a revised copy.  I kept this copy nearby, even taking it with me on the long drive to visit family.  I made a few more revisions and even decided to change up the order of the stanzas because it made more sense in the timing of events.


Taking the above draft back to my computer, I made the changes, and now I offer the final draft of my poem below.

It will not enter the canon of great American poetry.  I am not even sure it is a “good” poem or whose standards would determine it good or mediocre.

What does matter — it is a poem about us, a glimpse of our lives.  We could have blinked and missed it.  But the attempt to write this moment inscripts it right onto our hearts, where we can retrieve it when we need to cling to something good.  And there will be days when we must cling to something good.

So go read your Mama’s poem.  Extra credit** goes to the first kid who can memorize and recite it.



**extra credit to be given in the form of chocolate




A Walk to the Mailbox


I had forgotten

how to breathe

until I walked away

from the computer, research and choices tensing my shoulders

and entered a different space —-

the space between you and me.


I had forgotten

how it felt to walk

outside —

my chest unfurling, hair on my skin reaching toward the November sun.


I had forgotten


until it reached into my ears,

delved into my heart —

the laughter of teenage brothers racing backward

down the long driveway slope,

their sisters trying too,

uneasy giggling,

trying to go fast, trying not to fall

on the sharp rocks.


We used to make this walk together

when all of you were little, clinging to my hands and skirt,

a mother hen with her little chicks huddled close.

I had forgotten.

But I remembered when I saw how far ahead of me you run now.

A walk to the mailbox

I had forgotten

how good it felt to walk

outside, breathing in the November sun.

I had forgotten

the sound of contentment

until it reached my ears

and delved into my heart

with laughter

as two teenage boys raced backward

down the driveway slope,

their sisters doing the same

at a slower pace.

I had forgotten

how happy I am to trade

the stale space in front of the computer,

the research and hard decisions tensing my shoulders

for the space between you and me that lets me breathe.


We used to make this walk together often

when you were all little and held my hands and skirts,

little chicks huddled around mother hen.

I had forgotten.

But I remembered when I saw how far ahead of me you run now.



**** A few days later, I revised this poem and posted the revision on this link, Even Mama Needs to Revise.

A bit of Robert Frost inspiration

This year, part of family school involves reciting and analyzing one poem all week.  Sunday nights, I write a poem by an American poet on our chalkboard, pairing our poetry study with our American history studies.

Typically, the children write the poem in their Engish notebooks that Sunday night.  Each morning of the following week, they are forced to listen to me or a sibling recite the poem and engage in a a wee bit of poetry analysis.  I try to keep it short and interesting.  Some mornings, we just read it and move on, leaving them with wrinkled brows and questions on their lips, teasing their thoughts and allowing them to wonder, to ponder.  Other mornings, we spend 5 minutes or so discussing meaning, symbolism, metaphor, rhythms, word choice.  Occasionally, we get carried away and spend 20 minutes discussing — so much for keeping it short!

Two of the 4 kids are jumping into poetry analysis with both feet and loving it.  One child seems oblivious more than half the time.  Even the poetry-hater is beginning to appreciate the power of words and how they can be used well to convey feeling and to persuade.  So overall, I am thrilled with how our poetry studies are progressing.

Homeschool moms everywhere can readily attest to the fact that student progress isn’t always apparent and that sometimes we just plug away, hoping that the messages we are trying to convey actually reach their destination.  So I figure when success happens around here, I had better record it, to bolster me for the harder days when teaching feels more of a struggle.

This week, the child who seems oblivious or bored or both during much of poetry time showed me a poem she wrote in her English notebook.  This was not an assignment.  It was completely her idea, her initiative — which is a key goal of my teaching!  Yay!

Her inspiration?

The poem “Dust of Snow” by Robert Frost that we studied many weeks ago.

The way a

mommy doesn’t

let you have chocolate

that might be wise

I’ll tell you why.


If you had some

today and a lot

you might get sick

so you’ve been taught.


So if she says

No again. Don’t sin.

Just hug and smile

it just takes awhile.


–Prairie Mandolyn Gaskins