My Gift to You

My Gift to You

You may think I took the easy route

Since I didn’t buy a
Thing and wrap it

Since I didn’t make up a fancy
Metaphorical analogy like
A light bulb with your name on it

But this gift took some thought
Which counts —
Some would say
The thought is what that counts

And my time is worth
I believe it is a gift
That shows I value you, too.

So here it is, my gift to you:

I’m not going to tell you what to think about

You get time
To think about whatever you want.

It’s only going to be 10 seconds,
So use them well.

Here it comes. Think about whatever you want…
Starting now.
I hope you liked it.
I hope it “fit.”
Feel free to pay it forward.
You’re welcome.
Have whatever kind of day you want to have.

Highlighting Poetry in April

I challenged myself and my students to read or write a poem everyday in April. I’m not necessarily going to share every poem I write, but at the end, I will share the poems I read — and I’ll share some of the poems I write. Here’s one from this morning…


I saw a former student
Who reminded me
That her sister currently
Has me in class.
She said,
“You’re her favorite student!”

And I wanted to correct her
But I just accepted
The compliment
Because to be a student’s
Favorite student

Makes me seem wise

But as she was walking away
She said,
“And that’s so ironic”
Which I realized
Moments later
Really meant
That the sister I was speaking to
Didn’t like me as a teacher

(Maybe because she felt
She hadn’t taught me anything)

But that didn’t negate
The compliment
From her sister.

So yeah.


Confidence Speaks Her Mind

(Here’s a poem that was an assignment for my 8th graders. We are giving advice and the speaker is not necessarily the poet. In this poem, confidence…or maybe over-confidence…is speaking.)

Listen only to
Your heart.
You know
You need.

Inform you.
Only you
What is right
For you.

Your mistakes
Will be
Your greatest teacher.
What goes wrong
And change.
You will own
Your behavior.

You are really listening,
You will doubt
My words.

Good for you.

Two Poems at 3 AM

Yesterday’s Pocketful of Pretend

“Promising title”
Says his therapist,
Wanting him
To stay
In the moment,

Not trusting
The title or
The lines to
Really have

It would take
More than a
Few clever words

To wake him
From his
His fiction
He calls a life,
His now.


The Night Growth

Poetry grows
best at night
like the hair on my face —
only to be cut short
every morning
by the light
in the bathroom.

Time to grow
a beard. Time
to harvest
the night growth.

That Poem I Promised You

Let me preface this poem with a bit of an explanation. A couple blog entries ago, I wrote about my time in South Dakota at the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. It was a powerful, moving experience that, like many important moments in my life, I needed some extra time to more fully reflect upon. A few days ago, this poem popped out of my head/heart/hand in the wee hours of the day. It might be about my experience in a sweat lodge from South Dakota (read more about what that is in my July 23rd entry). Or it might be about being born. Or it could be about being re-born. Or maybe it’s about all those things.

“If I Had Words”

Never Forget and Always Be Thankful

For years, I have meant to read a book by Chris Bohjalian. He has become a well known author and is Armenian (like me). Besides a few early poems, I had not delved completely into one of his works until now. I found the audio version of The Sandcastle Girls (follow the link for short reviews and a deeper plot summary) at the library and began listening to it in the car a few days ago.


I chose the book, partly, because it deals with The Armenian Genocide quite directly. This is the centennial of those horrific events that my four grandparents survived, but from which more than a million Armenians perished at the hands of the Ottoman Turks. The story deals more with the plight of the hundreds of thousands of refugees, like my grandparents, that were scattered from Turkey throughout the world as a result of the killings. It’s a gripping book, that actually had my eyes filling with tears before I was two hours down the road.

My emotional reaction came mostly from being able to connect what was happening in the story with what I have been told about the genocide (as well as from Bohjalian’s excellent writing style). It’s been awhile since I read Peter Balakian’s Black Dog of Fate (a must-read on the topic) and I think Bohjalian’s characters seem fairly real to me because several of their names are the same as my relatives: Armen, Annie, Nehvart, Garo, and Taleen.

I am proud to be Armenian and enjoy the food, dances, snippets of the language I remember, and the other facets of our culture. I am, however, quite disconnected from the Detroit Armenian community. My extended family keeps me informed of bazaars, which we attend from time to time. Two things that have united the Armenian community for as long as I can remember are to never forget the genocide that our ancestors experienced and to always be thankful for every aspect of our current lives. I was unable to attend a centennial service in Livonia this week, but I heard that those two aspects were emphasized. It was the first time that five different Armenian churches had come together and according to my family members was an emotional and powerful experience.

This year, I felt compelled to share the story of the genocide with my 7th and 8th grade English classes. After reading the book and seeing so much in the news about the 100th year remembrance, I thought they might be interested. I was pleased that they were surprised and curious about it once they knew the basics. They bombarded me with questions and I did my best to answer them. I hope that our short discussion got them talking about it at home and sparks their curiosity about that time in history (check out the additional resources at the end of this post if you are also curious), as well as their own background (which many of them don’t know).

Years ago, I wrote the following poem and it’s been hard to find a way to say it any better; the Sandcastle Girls inspired an additional stanza in the middle.

A Hope Unspoken

Dedicated to my grandparents:
Mardiros and Kagazig Godoshian and Giragos and Annig Kabodian

Sometimes I forget
they lived with the pain of their parents’ murders
no safety net,
no example, no peace
life was of their making
with a daily pain remembered

Sometimes I forget
they were so young and came so far
it could have been any place
but they settled here
led to this more perfect place

Sometimes I forget
they spoke from their hearts
but were not understood
for their words were foreign
this new land distrustful

Sometimes I crave water
but I don’t really know thirst
And I’m exhausted at the end of the day
but my day has never been
A torturous walk into barren lands
at the beckoning of a gun

Sometimes I forget
they coped with little
provided for many
complained minimally
praised the Lord

They laughed, sang, danced, hugged
with a hope unspoken:
my life

Additional Resources:

* Read the prologue to The Sandcastle Girls on Amazon — click on the link on the left that says “look inside” or “listen.”

* 100 years, 100 facts — An amazing storehouse of information related to the causes and effects of the genocide

* A beautiful, musical/artistic video representation of the genocide

* Turkish Foreign Minister on CNN attempts to give Turkish side

* Excellent NPR story on the last Armenian village in Turkey

* Katie Couric’s report on the Armenian Genocide

* AGBU (Armenian General Benevolent Union) News Magazine online

I woke up with an idea for a poem

Here’s a draft of yet another rhyming poem; maybe I’m a songwriter and I didn’t know it.

It’s My Addiction, Leave Me Alone

There once was a time
I can still recall
When I didn’t
Need it at all.

I lived a normal,
Public life.
Didn’t crave
My tobacco knife.

Now I can’t stop
I need a stab
Makes perfect sense,
Can’t you understand?

I crave my knife
When I get up,
Just like you
Crave your cup.

There are things
That we all need.
They hurt us, though
We don’t bleed.

Yours is accepted,
Yours is “good.”
When I take a stab
I feel as I should.

It keeps me able,
It keeps me sane.
With my tobacco knife
There is no pain.

So, don’t be a hypocrite.
Don’t want to hear you moan.
It’s my addiction,
Leave me alone.

I said,
It’s my addiction,
Leave me alone.

P.S. Aaron is about to leave Texas. Here’s a link to the map of his progress. Will he slip into Oklahoma briefly or will he dive directly into Arkansas? Only he knows.

Poem for the day

I’m writing a poem a day this month, National Poetry Month. I won’t be sharing many, but here’s a rare rhyming attempt.

Trying to be a Wise Guy

Planning for the future
Is never a waste of time.
It gives us hope and purpose
When our world won’t rhyme.

But live for today,
For each moment is a present —
A unique and delicate flower
Of infinite beauty and singular scent.

Think fondly on the past
And learn from it what you can;
It’s a bittersweet fruit
Of the tree from which we began.

love, that blissful complication

I opened 100 Selected Poems by e.e. cummings and this is what I saw:

if i love You
(thickness means
worlds inhabited by roamingly
stern bright faeries

if you love
me)distance is mind carefully
luminous with innumerable gnomes
Of complete dream

if we love each(shyly)
other,what clouds do or Silently
Flowers resembles beauty
less than our breathing

And somehow it was what I needed to hear/read. Love is that hard to understand relationship that keeps me going. It’s ultimately worth it…and wondrous…though mysterious.

Happy Birthday, Bob Dylan

Dylan is 73 today. This singer-songwriter who confused and amazed me growing up is a survivor. For awhile there, I thought I was supposed to understand every word of his songs. The beauty and metaphor of his writing evaded me until my mid-twenties. I didn’t get it. The more I put time into my own writing, the more I started to appreciate the rhythm of his words and the depth of his thoughts. And my son, Aaron, elevated my love of Dylan by playing his Tombstone Blues over and over until I was telling people “the sun’s not yellow, it’s chicken.” More recently, I read his autobiography, Chronicles: Volume One. His personal story and musings gave some insights and spurred me to buy a book of his lyrics. And just when I was starting to feel like I almost-sorta understood this mystery man, I read Joe Henry’s tribute to him on Facebook today. And I realized that I still don’t get it.

This blog entry is really about Joe Henry. Yes, I went to high school with him, but we weren’t close. And yes, I’ve seen him in concert with Lisa Hannigan and was blown away by them both. Even shook his hand and told him I enjoyed the concert. However, none of that means I really “get” him either. Read on and see if you hear Dylan in Joe’s voice. Read on and see if you can imagine writing/creating this art. Here’s Joe Henry’s Facebook post for Dylan’s birthday. I bow to you, Joe. Thanks.

So what, really, are we to make of this bumpkin –this speed-thin freak? This flashing comet circling back to feast on its own tail? This lurking gypsy poet bandit scoundrel demon shaman: hiding in plain site, dangling the very keys to the kingdom yet poised to set them on fire right here in front of both you and your mother?

He: angry and coy, bashful and funny; a cheap date and a most expensive habit; he with the worst taste in wine and the most exquisite taste in boots; he with the beagle in the front seat and hat so wide he needs to leave the driver’s side window rolled down a bit. He with the unwashed teeth. He of the dated maps and the rusting bent blade; he of sworn testament and witness protection; he of the bible and the television, the child bride and the lonesome carney stare, with licorice whips and a clown tattoo; he with the errand boy’s inside story and forged history; with dead parents and a pinstripe suit, with the thick glasses he pretends not to need as he points you out to the captain with such casual certainty that even you yourself do not protest when they drag you below in chains. He on the white mule.

I have been breathing his fumes and eating his dust for decades and can’t stand the sight of him; have been finding his thorns in my mattress for so long now that I have learned to make tea out of them and like it. I who have worked his ruined plantation without pay. I who did not invent the airplane. I who ought to goddam know better and do. I who knew the mustache was a phony and still admired it when he asked me to.

What are we to make of this real-deal counterfeit lawyer with the slinky dancers and an ironclad alibi and a car waiting? And what on earth might we do for him, now that it is his birthday?