Anchors or Wings


The New Yorker 

June 10 & 17, 2019

Price $8.99

“Bedtime Stories” 

by Bruce Eric Kaplan 

a middle aged couple 

is in bed 

in a high-ceilinged 

city room 

in this black and white 

cover drawing 

each has 

an artless frame 

hanging above them 


over the bed 

the couple is sitting propped against the headboard 

staring at their own separate bedside table stacked with books 

in a pile 

at least as tall 

as they are 

fighting lamps

for table space 

the window is black

except for the sill

flowered curtains draped back 

dark of night outside 

both seem startled by these stacks-

their hands over their mouths-

as if the books 

suddenly appeared from nowhere 

not a single title is legible  spines are facing different ways


one false move 

and a game of book Jenga could go painfully wrong 

I wonder about this cover 

have these two ever even met?


is this a high-rise hotel 

or an apartment? 

are the books even real

or are they the true but yet unwritten stories of their lives that they wish could be changed? 

or are they book 

hoarders who suddenly realize 

they have accumulated 

far too much 

and feel the anchors of ownership 

sucking them down 

into the thick 

black abyss? 

or has Santa come and left the gifts of wings to new horizons for two retirees who were wondering what to do next?

covers like this one perplex 

and haunt me



A Baker’s Dozen Motivational Cookies for the Reluctant Writer ​Session Notes Presented by the Pike County Teaching and Learning Team

Dr. Jenny Allison, Director of Teaching and Learning Dawn Lanca-Potter, Curriculum Coordinator

Kristi Connell, RTI Coordinator

Dr. Kim Johnson, District Literacy Specialist

Focus:​ Content-Area Literacy, Writing, Vocabulary

Session Overview:​ Participants will follow the wafting scent of fresh-baked cookies to this session: a welcoming writing kitchen, where we will share verse writing idea recipes that will inspire even the most reluctant writer – and we’ll even bake a few practice batches of our own! Teachers will gain confidence to inspire students to discover the​ fun​ of writing – and will be able to model these processes for students. These writing inspirations are adaptable for all content areas, all ages, and will include manipulatives to ensure student success for a wide range of ability levels. (A Sneak Preview: We’ll show you how to create Jenga blocks and other tricks that will enable a student to write ​without a pencil!) Participants will take away ideas that they can immediately begin implementing in their classrooms. We will provide a handout summarizing each idea we share, along with resource links – including demonstration videos! Best of all: our recipes are calorie-free!

*Writers need to feel they can be successful if they are to accomplish the task.

*Feedback is critical in the writing process. “​Acceptance makes. Red pens break.”

*Good writing is not limited to the five paragraph essay or the research paper – or the novel.

*ALL students are writers – some have embraced it, others just haven’t realized it yet.

*Writing implements are not limited to pencil and paper – manipulatives and voice recorders work, too! *Our stories make us better writers.

*Bite-sized writing tasks are good places to start with reluctant writers – marathons begin with meters.

Motivational Writing Cookies

Please have a pen and journal handy if you wish to practice writing with asterisked ideas:

1) Mashed Potato verse​– Give each student 6 of the large tongue depressors and ask them to find favorite lines of verse (random). Write the line of verse on one side, and author/title on the other using Sharpie markers. This will build a bank of lines that students can use to re-frame existing verse into new arrangements. You can also add magnets on the back for using with cookie sheets if you wish.

Mashed Potato YouTube Link: ​

 Variation: Borrowed Line verse​ – use lines of existing verse as a way to overcome the hurdle of getting started. Students can borrow lines at the beginning, middle, and/or end of a work of verse and then expand from the borrowed first line.

Borrowed Line YouTube Link: ​

Found/Blackout Poetry​ – Contact your Media Center to ask for discarded novels. Students “find” words on a page to create their own word arrangement. Decorate the page using art or design.

Found Poetry YouTube Link: ​

 * ​Hashtag Introduction Acrostics ​– Invite students to write their names vertically, and add a hashtag in front of each letter in their name. Use these as the beginning of words/phrases that

they might use on Instagram to describe themselves in selfies/photos that they would post Hashtag Acrostic YouTube link: ​     

Rory’s Story Cubes​ – Roll the cubes and use the pictures on the dice to inspire a story! Rory’s Story Cubes YouTube link: ​

Blockhead Jenga​ – ask for donations of Jenga blocks or pick up sets at thrift stores. Cut colorful and interesting words from magazines to put on the blocks. Students can arrange these into verse.

Blockhead Poetry YouTube Link: ​

* ​Six Word Memoirs ​– students find six words to write their memoir.

Six Word Memoir YouTube link: ​

Magnetic Verse​ – Magnetic poetry kits are easy to make with your own themed vocabulary words. Run a magnetic sheet through the printer, cut apart the words like break-and-bake cookies, and let students use cookie sheets or magnetic dry erase boards to create masterpieces!

Magnetic YouTube link: ​

Haikubes​ – use Haikubes to inspire Haiku poetry.

Haiku YouTube link: ​

* ​Golden Shovel Poems ​- Use a line of existing verse written vertically so that each word in the line becomes the starting word of a new line – – in this way, lines of poetry are expanded into new creations of thought!

Golden Shovel YouTube Link: ​

Metaphor Dice​ – use Metaphor Dice to roll metaphors that students can elaborate to explain. There are red (concepts), white (adjectives), and blue (objects) dice. These dice are available at, but there is also an app for $1.99.

Metaphor YouTube Link: ​

  Extra Metaphor YouTube Link:

Paint Chip Poems​ – You can buy a pre-designed set or ask Lowe’s or Home Depot for their discontinued paint chip samples. Distribute to students and challenge them to use these words in descriptive writing pieces.

Paint Chip YouTube link: ​

 Collage Verse/ Remade Ransom Poems ​- Allow students to cut words/phrases from magazines to generate a word splash that can be used as a word bank for creative writing. Try sorting into piles of nouns, adjectives, and verbs and blend some unexpected descriptive pairs.

Remade Ransom YouTube Link: ​

* ​List Poems ​ – Just like “My Favorite Things” from The Sound of Music, lists can become favorite poems/lyrics and offer a unique daily writing format that enables students to share about themselves with teachers and friends.

List Poem YouTube Link: ​


  Additional Strategies:

Notes – Microphone Recording – Reluctant writers can use the talk-to-text feature on a phone/device to tell a story or write what they would say. Email/convert to a document to give a student a starting point from which to begin editing.

I Remember – This can work for narratives (memories) or for informational pieces (content). Set a timer for one minute. The student writes EVERYTHING he/she remembers for a solid minute – the goal is to keep the pencil moving. Use these ideas to generate further writing ideas.

I Remember YouTube link: ​


 The New Yorker 

July 10&17, 2017

Price $8.99

“Off the Leash” 

by Mark Ulriksen

on a sunny summer day 

in the 

central park playground 

in manhattan

a black poodle 

wears jeans 

a tight red shirt 

white sandals 

gold hoop earrings 

a silver star choker 


with coffee cup 

held on her crossed knees converses 

with a chocolate lab 

in a spiked collar

denim vest 

black skirt 

and cowboy boots balancing her own coffee on crossed legs 

have they been to the coffee shop together 

or is this a coincidence? 

a black and tan dachshund mother in the background 

wearing a purple shirt jeans and sneakers 

and carrying a white bag helps her dachshund son down the steps 

into the park 

where the three swings 

in the background 

are already full 

of sky touchers 

a small hound sits crisscross applesauce smiling and blowing bubbles 

a Boston terrier 

awaits his turn 

atop the spiral slide

as an airedale 

finishes her descent 

a bull terrier wheeeeeees on the tire swing 

a small beagle 

tosses a beach ball

a corgi mix

prepares to




the steps 

on his bike 

a chocolate lab puppy 

hardly crawling age 

chews a stick 

and another crawler 

a black poodle 

creeps up to join the fun

oh, the unleashed freedom 

leave it to the dogs

                          to get it right 

Silver Linings


Silver Linings 


The New Yorker

January 29, 2018 

Price $8.99 

cover “Cruellest Month”

by Roz Chast 


flashback two years ago

before the pandemic 

a calendar 

counting down 

to the last day of January

starred, colorful, yellow

like sunshine 

clearly the finish line 

of a marathon month 

of hurdles 

all listed 

day by day








7- SUNSET AT 11 A.M.



10- WET








18- UGH

19- FLU

20- FLU

21- FLU












a lone woman stands

surrounded by snow piles

shivering at a bus stop

green coat, lilac pants 

matching lilac pompom hat

black shoulder purse, black boots


framed by a solitary street pigeon

a snowman

a cityscape of skyscrapers shadowed by cold clouds

a hand-knitted scarf draping down the left edge, 

intermittent bands of springtime yellow and lilac


is this her calendar?

which day is she living?

maybe the cover date – January 29, 2018


but maybe not, since she isn’t lying on the pavement

after slipping on ice


no, she seems somewhere in between slipping

and looking relieved at the finish line

but clearly over having lost her scarf


she’s waiting on the bus to the dentist


did the prophetic artist

of “Cruellest Month” 

Roz Chast

know that the cruellest year 

ever – 2020 –

was on its way?

that we would be rewriting this calendar 

in daily



at-a-glance cross-sections

of COVID-19 cruelty?


I envision a moment 

somewhere in this murky haze 

a teary smile of gratitude

on the face of the passenger

who discovered

the warmth of

a hand-knitted scarf

on the seat of the train


there are some silver linings


-Kim Johnson



i take literary license

           and claim the freedom! 


                            after so many years 

                                                   of teaching 

     the technicalities 

                           of grammar

                                        i’m more drawn 

          to writers 

                                     with errant styles

      quirky personalities 

                                                  ways with words  

               than the world’s libraries 

                          of gray flannel suit writers   


   r             s

   d            p

   e     b      i 

   r      o     n

   e      o     e

   d      k     s

without a backbone

                              give me the rule breakers!


                  more critically

                                                       let me be one! 

When the Towers Fell

When the Towers Fell

Shortly before the towers fell, my colleague Genevieve Gresham and I were seated at a table in her classroom having our picture made for the Hilton Head Elementary School website. 

We both smiled as Colleen Skibo took our picture and uploaded it. The full picture did not print, but if you could see the whole frame, you’d see Genevieve seated to my left and the American Flag hanging proudly over both of us, allegiance soon to be pledged by a classroom of yet unknowing students and their teachers. What can be seen is the clock on the wall, the date on the board, and what one typical second grade classroom looked like, frozen in time, before the world was forever changed. 

Today I remember the many heroes who gave their own lives to save others. I pray that their family members feel the arms of these heroes wrapped lovingly around them as they relive the day we will never forget. 

Where were you when the towers fell? 

High and Low


The New Yorker 

          December 15, 2014 

                            Price $6.99 

I study each weekly cover 

of the New Yorker


when it comes in the mail.

the most fascinating cover (to me) in the past six years was December 15, 2014 – a glimpse into two studio apartments at Christmas 

“High and Low” by Ivan Brunetti 

upstairs, closed door, sparsely furnished room – room to think, to breathe, to focus without distractionswalls painted cool grey – a young woman in a green sweater and a red plaid skirt seated at a computer table, staring at the screen

downstairs, open door – eclectic clutter! walls painted warm yellow – everything everywhere, scattered, a young man in a green overcoat, jeans, a red knit pom-pom cap. and a gray scarf entering the flat balancing three gift boxes and a gift bag 

upstairs and downstairs, the same doormat

the same hardwood floors 

the same layout 

upstairs, a floor vase holds a stripped branch adorned with a string of round Christmas lights 

downstairs, a potted balsam Christmas tree topped with a white dove, full of ornaments, minus the lights, sits on a table 

one gift underneath 

upstairs, a wall shelf lined with three Christmas cards on display sits above an electrical outlet where nothing is plugged in – three empty hooks by the door positioned over the light switch – modern and sleek gray light fixture hangs 

downstairs, two bookcases, a snowman decoration, a globe, an antique clock, a gold framed painting, a December calendar with Santa, a framed photograph of a lone subject, an antique radio, and a Mickey Mouse phone on a table, sit underneath a garland lining the fissured ceiling, where a traditional chandelier-style fixture hangs

upstairs, no pets – not even a computer mouse

downstairs, a white cat watches – he spilled a few bites of his food from the dish nearby 

upstairs, a modem and laptop sit on the single gray computer table occupying the room, accompanied by a to-go cup of coffee, green and white like Starbucks, complete with plastic lid 



a place to sit – one black chair! 

downstairs, a wooden coffee table piled high with two stacks of work flyers or brochures sitting atop an unopened envelope, white porcelain saucer and cup of tea with a spoon nearby – also, an antique phonograph with a 45 under the needle, an open cardboard box of outgoing cards, a marked book on the floor, a laptop desk near the table, and an unstarted crossword puzzle, with a stray pencil near the fringed area rug

and I can’t help wondering how the ceiling got cracked

The Wardrobe


The Wardrobe

…some say Aslan 

is an allegorical 

Christ-like figure 

and the four Pevensies 


that may be true 

my brother 

says Narnia 

is about 


beyond the realm 

of possessions 

into the world 

of possibilities 

known only 

to untethered souls

“…it was never about the wardrobe,” he reasons

“…it was always about the world on the other side of that drab mansion of antiques….”

….and on this we can agree:

the real value of Narnia 

is in the discovery 

of new worlds 

with broader horizons 

we never could have imagined

we never would have known 

if we hadn’t 

stepped out 

of the old one…..



Labor Day weeding

we found Templeton 

hiding in the 



herb garden 

between the onion chives 

and the rosemary 

black and gray 

going his way 

until Mr. Johnson spied him and became 

a maniacal Mr. McGregor smacking wildly at the ground

with a large red shovel

we demolished 

the herb garden 

such a cute Pinterest idea 

never envisioned it 

the multi-story 

rodent mansion maze 

it became 


a menace to 

Mr. Johnson McGregor 

but to 

Mrs. Beatrix Potter/

EB White/


now a homeless survivor 

of the farmer’s 

cruel garden tools 

and a champion 

among rats

RIP #420

tri-color pygmy goat, 1’ tall 

#420 at the Buggy Days Auction

sold! for $175 to # 2178 (me!)

420? a marijuana goat? MaryJane?

#420 at auction

you ate animal crackers in my 

      lap on the porch swing 

420? Maryjane? Janey! perfect name

but you got sick- pneumonia,  

       weakened quickly 

you ate animal crackers in my lap on the porch swing 

not just a goat! you were my kid 

but you got sick – couldn’t stand, still bleating sweetly mercy and tears: sleeping pills crushed in a baby bottle,     

       mixed with one single    

             hollow point 

not just a goat- you were my 

      favorite kid

bought! loved by # 2178 (me!)

mercy and tears – sleeping pills    

    and a single hollow point 

tricolor pygmy goat, 1′ tall