He can sing the last word of every line—

the swing song I sang to his father,

that my mother sang to me.


In his small world, the garden

is still green and the wideness

he sees is safe. “Turn up your toes,”


I tell him. And I push him

on the orange soles of his shoes

and he laughs. Later, we’ll have


lunch, and maybe he’ll take a nap.

I can protect him from bees,

from sunburn, from sharp knives,


from tumbling down the cellar stairs.

Not from overturning boats,

from hunger and guns. Pushing


the swing, singing away,

I think about grandmothers

lifting children above the waves,


breaking the last bread,

huddling behind the last wall.

Their strength, their tears.


What can they do

but hold tight and die too.

There is no fiercer love.




The old women are cranky.

They turn, squeaking, resistant.

They like their routines:

coffee, silence, good bread.

What’s the point

of bad weather?

Of more books about childcare and food?

Those people in Washington—

well, what do you expect

if people stare at a screen all day?

Somebody has to make the bread

and wash the quilts

and feed the kids

and walk the dog.

Somebody has to remember

the reasons,

tell the stories,

sing the songs

everybody used to know.



The white plaster image

of crucified Jesus hangs

above the altar.  Its feet

are deep in potted Easter lilies.


I’ve always prefered Christus Victor

to dead Jesus, and I do not care

for potted lilies, sitting there

in their green-foil pots, trying


to represent Resurrection and Spring.

They smell like overheated rooms

full of unnecessary things. It’s odd—

the white lily is one symbol of Mary


who had no idea what she was getting into

when she said yes to the improbable task.

Look at those Renaissance paintings—

the poor girl looking up from her prayers


at that angel with its lily.

When I am an old lady

confined to my house or some other place,

I pray that no young minister will come


calling on the fifth Monday of Easter,

bearing a potted lily.

When I was a young minister,

I bore far too many,


though I suppose I meant well.

The old ladies, who knew a thing

or two about prayer, were,

for the most part, gracious.


Found in Longman’s English Grammar, 1917

This paper is smooth and white;

in other words it has the qualities

of smoothness and whiteness.

The smoothness and whiteness 

cannot be separted from the paper,

but in our own minds we can think of them

as something apart.


Again, running

is an action, but the running cannot be

separated from the runner. It is only

in our minds that we can think of it as

something apart.

So slavery

is a state or condition that cannot

be separated from the slave, but that can

be thought of as something apart.

This drawing away

with our minds the quality from the thing

which has it, the action from the thing

which does it, or the condition from the thing

which is in it, is called abstracting. 


Pick out the abstract nouns.  

The room is twenty feet in length.

Lazy people take most trouble.

The driver behaved with cruelty.

The beauty of the scene gave us much pleasure.

A little learning is a dangerous thing.

A little weeping would ease my heart.

The quality of mercy is not strained.

There was darkness over all.

Honesty is the best policy.

The sun gives warmth.

Virtue is its own reward.

Charity covers a multitude of sins.

Wisdom is better than strength.

A thing of beauty is a joy for ever.

MEMERE–prompt #75


Prompt #75: Invent a Grandparent


Once she stopped a runaway horse before

the horse ran over a little boy. The boy’s

father was so grateful, he got her pregnant.

He set her up in a shack on the edge

of town and paid her every month, enough

to get groceries for herself and my dad.

That grandfather died before I was born,

and I am just as glad.


Memere always had dogs, stray ones she tamed.

She could tell fortunes by watching crows.

I liked visiting her. Dad didn’t mind,

but Mother worried every time.

I used to sleep in her loft

on a feather bed she made.

She taught me how to kill chickens,

how to bait a hook,

how to build a fire with wet wood.


Memere had different names for the stars.

She had three books:

The Oxford Book of English Verse,  

My Antonia, and

Moby Dick, which she knew by heart.

She never did believe in God, she said.

What went on in the woods and sky

gave her enough religion to get by.