Friday, December 31, 2021

Poetry Friday: Bells

December's challenge was to write a poem about bells.  Any kind. Any theme. Any form. 

My fellow poets in our ZOOM session had amazing ideas, about clever bell metaphors, and delicate bell sounds, and astounding bell stories.  And I had nothing but the vague feeling that I was dancing on the surface of a very deep ocean. Maybe it was because the older I grow, the more I realize how much I don't know---about bells or anything else. 

So I decided to write about that not knowing (which begins with not noticing) and for my form-- 
I took the shape of this tower:

Robert A. Taft Memorial and Carillon

What does a democracy have to do
to get noticed in this town? 
How could I—
walking, as I do, in my city—
America’s capitol city—
not notice a hundred-foot shaft
of Tennessee marble, host
to twenty-seven pedal-struck bells?

Not notice
the bells are a carillon— 
(which must, therefore, number
more than twenty-three— 
or be deemed but a chime.)

Not notice the bourdon,
a booming seven tons of bell—
(and also the word for the droning 
largest pipe of a organ, and the word
for bumblebee, and some clever soul
pinched the word for a fizzy drink 
that will—you guessed it— get you buzzed.)

Perhaps because noticing
leads you, on and on, 
(until your ears ring.)

So I walk again to the carillon.
It is true. Solid. There. 
Isn’t it?  

After all, these bells
honor President Taft’s son—
(WHO?—well, he served in the Senate, 
I’m told— he sought the Presidency
three times—oh, did he?)
—now I’m on unsteady ground

but—with a bit of noticing—
I see his life rang out to his fellow Senators— 
(this is the Capitol grounds, after all—
and these bells are “a summons
but noticing this, I feel 
a great silence—

I dig again, to ease
the unease.

Carillons, they say, rose here after war,
an echo of those in Europe
where they were exceedingly noticed,
for the Nazis (hungry for metal)
stole all the bells—(classifying their worth
from Grade A to D) melting
the most unworthy into weapons.
Bells upon bells upon bells
were heaped in Glockenfriedhöfe—

bell cemeteries. 

Oh, how that noticing, now googled,
in hot pursuit of those two words, unearths more—
that (in some cemeteries and times past)
well, you know…someone didn’t
notice they weren’t really dead,
weren’t really lost—

are we?

I walk back to the carillon,
to what we command,
(by Senate Concurrent Resolution 25)
to be sounded with song every July Fourth,
at two in the afternoon.

I’ve never noticed it, you know—
not the *carillonist (chosen
by the Architect of the Capitol)
issuing forth his yearly Anthem,
his America the Beautiful—

wasn't she?

the hourly strike,
the daily clamor,
the steady keeping of time—
and not even that, if my mind
is elsewhere—

            ----Sara Lewis Holmes (all rights reserved) 

I'm guessing he gets into the tower by this official looking back door: 

My poetry sisters are posting about bells here:


If you’d like to write to our theme for next month, we are going with “poetry inspired by something overheard.” Our friend Susan Thomsen at Chicken Spaghetti has done several of these as a form of “found poem,” and it seemed like a fun challenge. Here's a link to one of Susan’s poems.

Poetry Friday is hosted today at Carol's Corner


Friday, November 26, 2021

Poetry Friday: An Ode to Making Caramels

Salted Caramels
from America's Test Kitchen's 
"Made From Scratch"

November's challenge was to write an ode to some aspect of Autumn, and to try (emphasis on TRY) to avoid praising only the usual suspects.  I'm not sure if caramel qualifies (at least it's not pumpkin spice) but when I read up on odes, I learned that they not only can praise a person or thing, but also an event.  So, this is my ode to making caramels (and other lovely things.)   Recipe follows. 

Ode to making caramels

I only make caramels
with my daughter, a scientist versed
in the precise ways of heat and time;
an Autumn queen, blistering sugar
to brown gold; regulating—

without mercy— the length of summer’s heat;
quelling with a swirl of wooden spoon 
the angry sputtering; one eye 
on the thermometer, raising the heat again—
false summer, dog days, before

she commands a river of salted cream
to foam the pot; now all is downward 
warmth until she sluices desiccated sunlight
into a leaf-thin parchment sling tucked 
into the waiting pan; later, she will score 

the stiffened caramels into perfect cubes; 
equinox at last. I wrap each one
in tender scraps of waxed brown paper; 
I pinch and twirl and seal. I’m grateful 
to be her sous-chef, her apprentice, 

her lab assistant. She's unaware—
I think—of the miracle she wrought, 
it’s only the removal of water from sugar,
this caramelization; only waiting, 
only creating goodness 

slowly precisely perfectly. And even
as the baby kicks inside her, 
even as we eat, unwrapping 
what I just wrapped, no number
binds the miracles she has yet to do.

                ------Sara Lewis Holmes (all rights reserved)

Salted Caramels
from America's Test Kitchen

My poetry sisters have made some lovely odes to other aspects of Autumn.  Find them all here:


Poetry Friday is hosted today by Ruth at thereisnosuchthingasagodforsakentown

Friday, October 29, 2021

Poetry Friday: Word Play Poems

October's challenge was inspired by Nikki Grimes' invitation to create word play poems. And by that, she means:

"studying a word from top to bottom, and inside out, considering every aspect of the word:  What it looks like, sounds like, feels like. What it does, how it's used, etc.  The idea is to bring all of your senses into the act."   

I love word play, so this challenge wasn't intimidating for me.  The only truly hard part was picking a word, because there are so many wonderful ones (just look at this wall from Planet Word!) 


At Planet Word,
a great new museum
 for word play in Washington, DC

In the end, Laura saved me by rolling her metaphor dice during our Zoom writing session and gifting me with three choices. I recommend the same, if you have such dice, or pointing to a page in a book, or having someone else give you words. (Or visit the Planet Word wall!) 

The idea is to look at the word in a deeper way, so beginning with a word you're not overly invested in helps. So does Nikki's instruction to write a full paragraph (or two or three) about the word before you start to compose a poem. If you'd like to see the free-write paragraph about my word, it's posted at the end. And Michelle Barnes has a lovely post about Nikki and word play poems here.  


Memory is
a melodic word,
a murmur of stream word,
waiting to be fished.
Memory is 
a secret door word,
a round hobbit hole word,
a peephole to the past.

Memory is
a tell me mmmmore word,
a long-tailed word, 
ending with a squeal. 

Memory is a loaded word,
a step carefully word,
a word you might have to
make yourself forget.

----Sara Lewis Holmes (all rights reserved)

My fellow poets' word play poems are found here:

Poetry Friday is hosted today by Linda at TeacherDance

My free write paragraph is below. I find it funny that my line lengths grew as I dove deeper into the word.  You can see that I pulled images and lines from my free-write, and then re-ordered and refined them to make a poem. The free-write was done on one afternoon, the poem creation on another. 

Memory is a word
with a long tail. But it starts with a
mmmmmmm  of pleasure…or is that just
the sound you make when you think? 
There’s a more in the middle, as in:
more, tell me more! Meme means the same
or even in  French….meme pas is not even 
la meme chose is one of the few phrases I remember from
high school French.  Three syllables, Mem-or-y…
That “o” is like door in  the word, like a hobbit door,
inviting you to peep through,  to see what you can find.
OR…yes, the word also has Or in it…you can remember me OR
you can forget.  Or is it more like ore….something to  dig for, something of value,
but  something that  needs refining?  We dig for memories, we “treasure” them…
we “value” them.  Memorial service. Remember. Memorandum. Memo.
Memento. Memory is  melodic, a word without harsh sounds….
everything is hushed, soft, almost like fog or soft water bubbling in a stream...
a stream of memories, waiting to be fished.  Mnemonic? Something to help you remember…
How funny there are so many meds/illegal things to help you forget but not many
to help you remember.  If you could remember ONE memory, what would it be? How would it change you? Would it be better to let it swim in the stream, uncaught?  Memories can be sorted by “bad” or “good” but is that just how we label them? Even good memories can be sad, or  remind us of what we don’t have now.  And bad memories are still ones that we survived. That long tail of the “y” is also a long tail of a sound at the end…..eeeeeeeee, going on and on and fading into the quiet,  But…eeeeeee also makes your mouth smile…. or squeal???

Friday, September 24, 2021

Poetry Friday: Tankas in Conversation

September's challenge was nothing much: simply peruse years of my dear poetry sisters' archives and write a tanka in response to one of them. (Tanka = a haiku with two added seven syllable lines. See Kelly's informative posts for a deeper explanation.

Well. That went as well as you'd expect. I flailed in a sea of gorgeous choices. I mired in indecision. I gave up on equity and justice and fairness to all my sisters, and picked two poems.  One because I'd missed commenting on it the first time it was posted (sorry, Liz!) and the other because she wrote of sunrises and birds (thanks, Laura!) and I'd just come from Kiawah Island, where I'd also communed with both. 

First, here is Laura's #poemsketch. I adore her easy way with lines (both drawn and written) and her knack for evocative detail.  

And here is my tanka in  response:

Next, a stunning poem from Liz.  She wrote it in response to our challenge to write about "Ponderous, or based on an image of a hippo; written in any form"---a challenge I LOVED, by the way, but somehow, I failed to comment upon Liz's killer poem when she posted it back in September of last  year. Here's a taste:

Stones in the River

When she was seven
and everyone had
make-believe friends
and make believe families
and make believe long hair,
my sister had hippos,
two make-believe hippos,

    (go read the rest here. You really don't want to miss it.

And my tanka, in conversation: 

What a poet wants

what all of us want:
salt, honey, territory
a push upwards, grace 
seven ways to carve rivers
names for the things that surface

     ----Sara Lewis Holmes (all rights reserved)

My poetry sisters' tanka can be found here:



Mary Lee





Poetry Friday is hosted today by our own Laura Purdie Salas

Friday, August 27, 2021

Poetry Friday: Deeper Wisdom Poems

August's poetry challenge is so simple that it beckons you to come play: Write a poem in the style of Jane Yolen's What the Bear Knows.  

If you click on the link, you'll see that Jane's poem is direct and profound. It features short lines that rhyme, every other one. Lovely. 

Alternatively, Joyce Sidman offers us another model for this kind of poem. In hers, she asks: What Does the _______ Know? before each of two stanzas, answering the question in three rhyming lines. She calls these Deeper Wisdom poems.  

I decided to try both models, and opted out of rhyme for the first one. Each is based on my experience last weekend helping a refugee family who had fled with nothing but each other. Our group offered them what we had brought by U-Haul, SUV, and small cars: a sturdy brown couch, Disney-themed sheets for the three girls, a first-aid kit, trash cans, a laptop, kitchen chairs, a roasting pan, Tupperware, cell phones, a tool kit, and much more. One woman brought a child-sized umbrella, which the littlest girl popped over her head immediately, making us all smile. Another woman brought orange roses. And why not?

What do orange roses know?
     Not everything needs assembly. 
     Roses aren't just for lovers.
     A bloom is a seed, shared. 

What do orange roses know? 
     Saying tangerine makes you smile. 
     A stem is sturdiest near the thorns.
     Flames of friendship start small.
                    ---Sara Lewis Holmes (all rights reserved) 

My own daughter, long ago, with her umbrella

What the Umbrella Knows 

You can’t stop the rain.
Open gifts now.
Nothing falls in vain.
The world needs little yellow ducks,
brave in a hurricane.
                ---Sara Lewis Holmes (all rights reserved)

If you have interest in sponsoring a family,  Lutheran Family Services offers support, as well as many other organizations. 

My sister poets are having fun with this form, too:


P.S. If you'd like to play along for September's challenge, here it is:  

Choose a poem by someone in the Poetry Friday universe and write a tanka in response or inspired by or in conversation with that poem.  Kelly offers a great introduction to the tanka here. 

Poetry Friday is hosted today by Elizabeth at Unexpected Intersections. 

Friday, July 30, 2021

Poetry Friday: The Dichotomy of Villanelles

I wasn't sure about pairing villanelles with the theme of dichotomy. After all, the form is all about repetition, with the first and third lines echoing throughout the nineteen line poem. Didn't that make for an argument of accumulation rather than one of division?  

Of course, there are only two end rhymes---a and b---so maybe that could hold some opposites. Or not. I honestly was stumped, and had done zero prep for our ZOOM write-in. But when I opened my document to noodle around during our session, I found a gift---the "dud" line that Linda Mitchell had given me in last month's "clunker exchange:"  

"A year, or maybe a century ago"

Hey! That was, if not exactly a dichotomy, at least a contradiction. And as for the idea of time itself, that's also rife with paradoxical fact, my first laughable line to pair with the so-called "clunker" was a bona fide stinker:  

Does time fly, or does it flow?  

Didn't matter. I was headed somewhere. I had words on the page. And eventually, I wrote my way into a villanelle, and perhaps some delicious dichotomy. 

A year, or maybe a century ago
we were bitter young; we were freshly old
our hearts a creek in overflow

what we might do, where we might go
too weak to bear, if not be bold
a year, or maybe a century ago

the questions stung, but blow by blow
answers came, not one pre-told
our hearts a creek in overflow

broken neat, we mended calico
embraced by time’s sweet stranglehold
a year, or maybe a century ago

we brightly sunk to yawning low
crested yet in rivulets of shadow-fold
our hearts a creek in overflow

making of the rocky earth an archipelago 
unbounded yet, a swelling unconsoled 
a year, or maybe a century ago  
our hearts a creek in overflow.

-----Sara Lewis Holmes (all rights reserved)  


My poetry sisters are here:

Mary Lee (welcome to the poetry sisters!)







Poetry Friday is hosted today by Becky at Sloth Reads

Friday, June 25, 2021

Poetry Friday: Zentangle-ish Poems

Have you heard of Zentangles?  I had not, before this challenge.  It's a form of meditative drawing, explained better here

It's also, I learned, a way to enhance a found poem. (A found poem is one drawn from words "found" in existing texts.) The idea is to use Zentangle patterns to block out unneeded words, and also, to accentuate the shape and flow of the poem itself.  Here's a lovely explanation and several examples. 

Well, readers, I did not exactly "un-tangle" my thoughts about this challenge before I Zoomed with my Poetry Sisters, so I had questions. LOTS of questions.  And fears.  Found poetry, while fun, is frustrating because while you can select your words, you cannot re-order them.  Worse, I'm not great with precise patterns or lines or drawing in general.  The idea of using large sections of small marks to block out most of a perfectly good page was frightening. Plus, working in pen---so no going back! 

But, like most things, She Who Whines the Loudest...Falls the Hardest, and I wound up loving this challenge, once I made it my own. I gave myself the grace of working on multiple copies of a piece of text until I was more sure of the words I picked.  I learned that I didn't have to cover every inch of a page, nor did I have to use established patterns.  I could make my poems Zen-tangle-ISH.  

In the end, I created three poems in two days.  I'll share them in the order I created them.

First, a poem I created from a text in Michael Sims' book, Adam's Navel, A Natural and Cultural History of the Human Form. I chose this text for its juicy words (too juicy, it turns out, because I kept being distracted by sentences like "The tongue is seldom noteworthy in birds, but the flamingo is cursed with one so muscularly tasty that Roman emperors served them by the bowlful."  Yeah, try competing with THAT.) 

 Anyway, I found a poem fairly easily, but was unhappy with my initial attempt to connect the words with lines. I wound up finding a better answer in one of the found words: encodes.  What if I simply encoded (or over-coded?) the rest of the text in a binary "ones and zeros" pattern?  

Language encodes
 a diverse sweetness
providing the throat
and peaches

----Sara Lewis Holmes (all rights reserved) 

Not bad.  I liked the poem. The drawing---eh.  Not much.  I tried again.  This time, I used a page from a Food52 catalog, and I left most of the underlying text intact, using graphics to show the reader how to read it.  

A well-balanced summer:
Start with sun.
Add wild flowers.
When in doubt,
bring friends...
and read. 

----Sara Lewis Holmes (all rights reserved) 

Better.  And as a bonus, I discovered a trick of word selection. I didn't have to select an entire word; I could truncate it.  In that last line, "read" was "bread."  I also liked how the poem and the visuals and underlying text interacted.  (Relating the background text to the found poem is not part of the challenge, but I liked the extra layer. You could even create a poem that strongly contrasts with your background text---a poem about peace taken from a war declaration, for example.) 

Finally, I created a third poem from an article in the Hill Rag (a local paper here in DC.) The text was about a Little Free Library, something I plan to put out front of our house now that we've stopped moving and I can tend it. Capitol Hill is home to many Little Free Libraries (and even one Little Free Art Gallery) and they fascinate me---the unique designs and the people who dig through them, and often, the quotes that the owners will affix to the side. Truly, they are small wonders. 

However, my poem turned out to be about something more elusive:  the magic of making things.  

You'll probably have to zoom in to read the poem as the original text was quite small and printed on newspaper. 


a recursive
 natural thing

a precise 

a chance to 
obsessively build 
the unbelievable. 

        -----Sara Lewis Holmes (all rights reserved) 

Maybe I overdid it on the bricks (we recently had the bricks in our 1880s house repointed so I'm hyper-aware of their shapes) ....or maybe I didn't go far enough....could I cover more of the page to make the words of the poem stand out?  Perhaps it doesn't matter because I loved making this one.  It felt meditative. Zen-ish. As if my mind un-tangled for a brief time. Magic.  

See how my Poetry Sisters tangled this challenge below (a few of us are taking a break)


Poetry Friday is hosted today by Linda Mitchell at A Word Edgewise.  (BONUS:  Linda is offering a fun "Clunker Exchange" where you can exchange one of your poetry lines for one of hers.)  

Friday, May 28, 2021

Poetry Friday: Grief Cages Her

May's challenge was to respond to a work of art, using any poetic form---i.e. ekphrastic poetry.  Here is a lovely post about the many ways to do that.  

What the post doesn't mention is that choosing a piece of art can be complicated....and in this case, it also turned out to be a sleuthing adventure. Tanita tried to make it easy for me, and supplied some wonderful photos of paintings we could respond to, but since I'd helped set the challenge, I felt I also needed to provide at least one art source. So I dove into my photos from visits to DC museums, and shared this: 

Unfortunately, I couldn't find the photos of the accompanying information on the piece-- not the artist, not the name, not even the museum I was in.  I only had the date, gathered by my phone:  February 2017.  Oh, and these additional photos of the object being worn. Wowza.  

Too late. I'd already shared the thing with the other poets.  And I was obsessed. What WAS this thing I'd photographed?  All I had was another photograph taken at the same exhibit, of the artist playfully sliding down a rock face:

Too bad he doesn't have on a name tag. And too bad that repeated googling of "artist wire dress" and even "artist sliding down rock" and various combinations of those words only brought up a totally different female artist.  I was stuck.  So I decided to go with what I had: the date. Maybe if I could find out what shows had been on exhibit in DC in February 2017, I could find the information I needed.  After striking out at the archives of the National Gallery and the Hirshhorn (two places I visited regularly), I thought of the American Art Museum. I'd been there for a show in some special ground floor hall....hadn't I? 

Yes, yes I had!

 As soon as I saw the online archives of the exhibit "Isamu Noguchi, Archaic/Modern," I knew it was the one.  Noguchi was a remarkable artist who was born in L.A., but educated in both Japan and the United States. He was known as a bicultural ambassador, as well as a multi-faceted artist and inventor. (That's me with another of the artist's amazing works, "Sculpture to be Seen From Mars.")

Noguchi made it in collaboration with the famed American dancer, Martha Graham.  Noguchi had designed about twenty sets for Graham, and this piece was for The Cave of the Heart, which tells the Greek mythical story of the sorceress, Medea, who left her home (and her father, the Sun) to be with the human man, Jason (he of the Golden Fleece), bearing him two sons.  But Jason, faithless soul, left her for a princess, and all hell ensued---multiple murders, including Medea slaying her own children.  

For most of the dance, the dress broods on stage, sitting stop the other Noguchi piece in my first photo-- "The Serpent." Then, at the climatic ending, the wire "dress of transformation" (another term the artist used) is donned by the dancer playing Medea. She whirls about the stage, encased in metal quivering spikes, as Medea burns in revengeful glory on her ascent back to the Sun. *

Whew.  Now that I knew all this, what possible poem could contain such a tale?  

Tricia to the rescue.  In our monthly ZOOM meeting, she suggested a restrictive form known as a 4 x 4. Created by Denise Krebs as a varation of the French quatern, it has four stanzas, of four lines, with four syllables each.  In addition, one line repeats four times, once in each stanza, but moves down a line each time.  Enough structure to support such a potent story, right??

Medea burns

Grief cages her;

It binds her to

him, to them, blood

years spent, now gone.

She cuts at her

grief, cages her

love, becomes all

spines, a weapon.   

She will ascend

having broken

grief’s cage. Then her

heart will be brass.

She dances, a 

wheel of blades, yet

again again

Grief cages her. 

    ----Sara Lewis Holmes (all rights reserved) 

My Poetry Sisters responses (to this and/or other art) are found here:







*Do you want to see that cage dress actually on a dancer? Actually being moved in?  Yes, yes, you do. I did some sleuthing on that, too, and here it is, in a clip from this lecture from the Library of Congress. It's at the 40 minute mark.  And if you want to know what the dancers thought of wearing Noguchi's often painful designs, here's a story from the Washington Post.  You're welcome. 

Poetry Friday is hosted today by Michelle Kogan

Friday, May 21, 2021

Mary Lee: You've made a thing

 When I think of Mary Lee, I think of two quotes.  The first is from Parker Palmer:

"Truth is an eternal conversation 

about things that matter conducted with passion and discipline." 

Mary Lee, thank you for teaching and blogging and writing with passion and discipline, and for the chance to be in conversation with you. (And oh, how I wish more of that conversation could've been in person.)

The second quote is from Billy Collins.  It's about poetry, but it speaks to Mary Lee's life's work as a teacher, a blogger, and a writer: 

"To the reader, a poem may seem to be about love or separation or celebration or whatever. 

 But to the poet who is in the process of writing the poem, the poem is about only one thing:

 its make a thing that can stand on its own after you leave the room."  

It's hard to improve on those two quotes, but this poem is for you, Mary Lee. 

After you leave the room

Kids will still murmur; 

books will cast their spells;

pencils, jammed in a jar,

will gossip; desks will chatter

against the floor;

but beneath that, more—

a deeper, singing current,

for you've made a thing,

my friend. It flows out

and on, binding us

together, each voice

brighter, each more true,

standing on our own,

in conversation

with you,


        -----Sara Lewis Holmes

Mary Lee,  you've made a blog. You've made friends.  You've made many, many true poems. You've made a classroom, year after year. And now, as you "leave the room" we rejoice in everything that stands brighter and taller because of you,  and we can't wait to see what you make next.  

Many blessings, and happiness on the river to you!


For more posts about #MarvelousMaryLee, head over to the Poetry Friday roundup today

Friday, April 30, 2021

Poetry Friday: In the Style of Linda Hogan's "Innocence"

I love our "in the style of" poetry challenges.  It's a chance to dive into a poet's work, to find themes, observe structure, play with new techniques. It can also be intimidating.  It's hard to shake the desire to live up to the perfection of the original. That's not possible, of course. Not really the point. We imitate by intention,  sure, but not to exactly copy; we allow for our own experience to color things. Still, YIKES.  

The best way to banish my fear is to study the poem we're striving to mimic as deeply as I can. Luckily, I also have my poetry sisters, who see things that I don't. This month, our chosen poetry model was  Innocence by Linda Hogan.  A beauty of a poem, it slowly unfurls in a descending set of stanzas, beginning like this:

There is nothing more innocent

than the still-unformed creature I find beneath soil,

neither of us knowing what it will become

in the abundance of the planet.

Wow.  So incredibly profound already.  But as we discussed the poem as a group, we were able to pinpoint more of the ordinary.  Kelly observed that the line count is 10-6-4.  I noted that the poet uses a thematic structure of observation,  question, challenge. (Or you could call that discovery, wonder, growth.) Liz pointed out that we could model our poems after just the first line, and see what flowed from there. "There is nothing more _____ than _____. "  (Or go Mad Lib style by stripping more lines down to their underlying structure, as Andi offered.)  We could also, Tanita quietly said, continue to play with the fertile theme of innocence by mining our earliest memories.

Well, reader, what would you do?  So many choices. If you want to try the challenge before you read my response, first read the rest of Linda Hogan's poem here.  Think about what you find of essence in it.  And then give it a go.  Or you could check out all of our takes, and make yours an answer to ours.  Wherever you end up, it's all good. 

In the end, I decided to follow quite a bit of the poem's structure: the line count, the thematic three stanzas, and even a bit of the specific grammar of a few lines.  I learned so much about the original poem, and loved where it took me.  

And what do you know? After this challenge, I feel both less innocent (oh, so that's how she did it) and more (wow, it's still a wonder of a poem.) 


There is nothing more candid

than a tree. Its limbs record what it pushed

aside to find the sun. Every twist and jink splayed 

open, arms caught reaching for light. Below, 

more honesty: thread-thin roots break concrete

with their greed; knots, fat as elephant knees, 

swell to dead ends. Yet, the tree bears pruning

as if shears were but tweezers, growing heavy 

afterwards with the furry nubs of leaves.

It blooms furiously. 

I take picture after picture, 

wondering: how does

this tree admit 

the fullness of each day,

let all be marked, 

tell the beauty in the bent?

The same confession must be my own,

to stagger in pursuit of light,  

be witness to all,  

allow what is.  

                          ----Sara Lewis Holmes (all rights reserved) 

See how my fellow poets played with Linda Hogan's poem here:






Poetry Friday is hosted today by Radio, Rhythm and Rhyme.  

Friday, March 26, 2021

Poetry Friday: Dizzying Dizains

I think Tanita was kidding when she suggested "dizzying" as a requirement for our March dizain challenge. But maybe not. Writing in a form with several rules can be head-spinning. That said, I quite like this form, having written two in the past few years (Squaring up the Dizain and If Digitopolis Had a Chapel.) The line count (ten) equals the syllable count (ten per line) which makes it compact and sturdy.  As does the core of double couples in the middle of a solid rhyme scheme (ababbccdcd.)  

So I thought it safe, in such a well-built poem, to play with the dizzying wanderings of life.  And even though the completely square form of a dizain is counter to the lovely curves of a labyrinth, I find exploring them both to bring a sense of peace. Exploration within boundaries, life both circular and purposeful.  


If everything adds up, days fairly squared,

if I mark my hours, no circling around,

even then, I am undone, unprepared

for the arcs of my years, how I am bound, 

bent, broken to the curve of old ground;

battle lines not straight but a swelling spin;

what I leave behind circles, floods back in;

seeking center, even math undulates: 

all was once, all will be, all will have been;

what is life but the path our dance creates?

         ----Sara Lewis Holmes (all rights reserved) 

Poetry Sisters links:







Poetry Friday is hosted today by Soul Blossom Living

Friday, February 26, 2021

Poetry Friday: Happiness is a Spoon


February's challenge was to write a poem inspired by a roll of the metaphor dice.  After several duds, I rolled "Happiness is a Spoon" and although I don't use that metaphor in my poem, it's inspired by that...and my mother-in-law's spoon drawer. She follows our group efforts on Facebook and is in hospice care as we sit with her today. She can't eat much, so people are feeding her with music. I'm not a singer, but she loves poetry, too, and especially rhyme, so this Poetry Friday is for her.  



Never play with knives, 

but spoons? A way to slap 

knees to music tunes or waste 

an afternoon; soon cards 

are strewn, time as jammy

as a day in June, until noon

by noon by noon, time is

upside-down too soon.

Come let us open then

the drawer of spoons,

stem by stem, lift the

silvery blooms, cold-shined,

and sized (if held just so)

to hold the moon. We will sing, 

then, we’ll be full, on sips of tune; 

no bottom to this lagoon cupped

spoon by spoon, in voices,

not a one by tarnish ruined,

ballooning forth, a swoon 

of spoons, holding love, 

more love, see it there, 

soon, oh soon…

                    ----Sara Lewis Holmes (all rights reserved) 

My poetry sister's links can be found here: 







Poetry Friday is hosted today by Karen Edmisten.

Friday, January 29, 2021

Poetry Friday: Dictionary Time Travel

This month's challenge was a fun one:  using your birth year, tap into the Merriam-Webster "Time Traveler" site to generate a list of words new to the dictionary that year. Write a poem (any form) from the result. Here's a screenshot of some of "my" words:  

Words, words, words...

First of all, the complete list of words from 1963 was eye-opening. Who knew zip code wasn't in the dictionary until then? And while some words have gone out of style (phat and snarf) and some tech out of use (dot-matrix printer, anyone?) others words have become ordinary (mind game, upscale, scam.) 

Beyond that, though, this challenge sparked a discussion among the Poetry Sisters about word choices, and how language can be behind or ahead of cultural change. For example, sexism was officially recognized by M-W in 1963. Of course, sexism has existed since the beginning of time, but being able to name it was a sign we were also seeing it more clearly. Maybe. (For an explanation of what "first use" of a word means, see here.

The challenge, though, was not just about words. It was about how to use them in a to create something more than a word salad (not a 1963 word, that's 1904.) For example, was writing a sonnet possible with vocabulary like "checkbook journalism" and "support hose" or was free verse the only answer to employing such sore thumb choices? Should we select words that already had something in common (sports words or culturally-charged ones or medical jargon) or should we string words along a personal narrative of memories from our year? 

As usual, having so many choices didn't make the challenge easier. Liz called her first attempt kin to making modern art. Mine was more like graffiti. (Graffiti as a noun---1945, graffiti as a verb---1964.) 

In the end, I found structure in a definition poem. Perhaps an obvious choice for a dictionary challenge, but I didn't plan it that way. As I told my Poetry Sisters, I rarely start with a plan...I write in order to find out what my plan IS. And after some scrounging (1909) and scrawling (1612!) this poem wanted to talk to me about love.  

1963 words are in purple.

Love is….

Love is not a bully 

pulpit or a bodysuit

zipped to fit. It’s not 

mind game.

Not a mini-series, bent

on one-upping itself. 

Love is a space walk. 

Love is a play-action

pass. Love is phat. But oh,

my dragon fruit, love is 

passing rare. We’ll fall off 

the leaderboard. We’ll be

the after-burn of slings

and arrows. We’ll be 

elevator music. What a

dirty trick, and yet…

there we fly, doubled

on a banana seat bike, 

plastic fronds thwapping

from the handlebars. We

ride because love is 

a gut check. Love has

no delete key. Love is 


           ------Sara Lewis Holmes (all rights reserved) 

My poetry sisters time-traveling poems can be found here:







Poetry Friday is hosted today by Bookseed Studio.