Carry My Spirit Home


Ziziphus mucronata. Buffalo thorn. Duel barbed spines.

You draw us with red round fruit, then hold us fast: wag-‘n-bietjie.

Why don’t you ever release us — are you lonely, wanting love?



Day Twenty

Prompt: Write a sijo (Korean 시조, pronounced SHEE-jo). This is a traditional Korean poetic form. Sijo are written in three lines, each averaging 14-16 syllables for a total of 44-46 syllables. (The lines usually are written in a 3-4-4-4 pattern, the last line grouped as 3-5-4-3.)

I (once again) chose the Buffalo Thorn (Ziziphus mucronata) as my theme. The tree enchants me. When I sit at my desk I look out on a beautiful specimen. How wonderfully it adorns my view! Often hosting a variety of birds (especially when the fruit is in season), it also attracts assorted antelope and squirrels. Its zig-zag twigs are quite striking in the winter when they stand out against the blue sky.

BUT those who know the tree keep their distance. For the Buffalo Thorn, armed with pairs of thorns, one hooked and the other straight, catches human prey and refuses to let them go. Those who struggle to be released are often further entangled. The Afrikaans name for the tree is “wag-‘n-bietjie” which means “wait a bit” (as you will not be extricated easily!). In Zululand when a person dies, their spirit is thought to remain in that place. Branches of the Ziziphus mucronata are used to catch the spirit and return it home with the body.

Pet Peeves


Few things get my dander up
as much as cars parked ON the lines,
or EMPTY bottles in the fridge,
or hearing an incessant whine.

And I can blow a gasket
when others jump a queue,
or abandon dirty dishes,
or leave the top off of the glue.

It drives me right up the wall
when people table-floss
or talk straight through a movie
or kiss-up to the boss.

Chewing with an open mouth —
I go off the deep end!
And don’t call me by some nickname
to sound like you’re my friend.

Borrowing without returning
certainly takes the cake.
And what really gets my goat
is whinging about every ache.

Grammar REALLY matters;
Grandma knows it’s true.
When you’re is your, their is there
and to and two is too.

I suppose it truly takes all kinds
to make the world go ’round.
But I can go ballistic
when stupidity abounds.


Day Nineteen

Prompt: Write a humorous rant.

caterpillar poets


they sing
the most beautiful song of all —
writing each word
with ink of silk,
repugnant styli,
encasing themselves
in metre
and metaphor,
in simile
and symbolism,
pulling each phrase
until there’s no room for air.

then —

the images swirl,
tat themselves
into intricate lace.

silent rumination,
one day,
they burst forth —
breath-taking poems —
gliding on a warm summer breeze.


Day Eighteen

Prompt: Write a poem based on the title of one of the chapters from Susan G. Wooldridge’s poemcrazy, freeing your life with words. (Click on the “Look inside” feature.)

I am so happy to have been introduced to Woolridge’s book! I used the chapter title “caterpillar poets” from the Light and Mysteries section of poemcrazy, freeing your life with words. And then I ordered the book!

New Moon


She . . .s l o w l y
removes her clothing
……(like an onion
……layer by layer)


v a n i s h e s

after dropping her petticoat
into the sea.

the celestials
to swathe her
in starry gossamer.

But she scurries
across the sky

t r
……a i l
………….i n g

milky thistledown
behind her.


Day Seventeen

The Prompt:  Write a poem that is about, or that involves, the moon.



Once upon a morning fog,
creeping through a squishy bog,
comes a creature (or maybe log?)
grinning like a drunk sea dog.

His toothy smile seems to say,
“Time to bring the breakfast tray.
I’ll have croissants and tea today.
And it’d be lovely if you’d stay.”

But just beware this faithless host!
While he entreats with forceful boast,
you’re not a guest he admires most.
You’re on the menu, served on toast!


Day Sixteen

The Prompt:  Write in Skeltonic (or tumbling) verse. In this form, there’s no specific number of syllables per line, but each line should be short, and should aim to have two or three stressed syllables. And the lines should rhyme. You just rhyme the same sound until you get tired of it, and then move on to another sound. Skeltonic verse is a fun way to get some words on the page without racking your brains for deep meaning. It’s a form that lends itself particularly well to poems for children, satirical verse, and just plain nonsense.

Guess who!



Busy, busy,
much to do.
Don’t sit down
until you’re through.
Wash the dishes,
scrub the floor.
Iron, dust
(there’s always more).
Naps are for tots
(a waste of time).
Clean the windows,
cut oven grime.
Launder clothes,
then hang to dry.
Tend the garden;
Water bonsai.
Busy, busy,
much to do.
Don’t sit down;
you’re never through.


Day Fifteen

The Prompt:  Write a piece that explores an early memory of your parent engaged in that habit, before shifting into writing about yourself engaging in the same habit.

My mom never did sit down. This was a problem for me when (busy like my mom) I married a man who is a firm believer in afternoon naps.

what’s in a name


I delight in etymology —
finding threads and following them back
through the tapestry
to their birth.

The word
which represents myself
was thrust upon me
by my father,
shortened by my mother
(who lives to abbreviate the world),
and nearly lost.

I ignored it,
scorned it,
accepted it,
then adored it.

I went in search of an origin.
But each path led to the same conclusion:
stuck bits and pieces of allsorts
into an obscure collage.

So I hacked it into its original fragments
and caught hold of the kernel.
Like Jacob
I refused to let go,
demanding a blessing.

And the stone cried out:

So anointed,
I opened my hands,
embraced the summons
and sat
in humility,
to learn
(like the sister of Martha)
at the feet of the master,
who calls me
by his own name.


Day Fourteen

The Prompt:   Write a poem that delves into the meaning of your name.

Eleven years ago I wrote about the origin of my name, “little learner.”
It was fun to take a step back and rework the piece for this challenge.

Listening (on Broadway)


Last week,
at West 46th Street and Broadway,
James Henry Monroe
unfolded two camping chairs
(in the midst of all those lights
……………………………and noise
………………next to McDonald’s
………..under massive posters for upcoming shows)
James Henry Monroe
sat down.
He held a simple sign
on his lap:
I’m here to listen.
And all day
(from 6am to 6pm)
that’s what he did.
He listened . . .
…..to a tourist from Ohio looking to meet a star,
…..to a mother searching for a teenage daughter,
…..to a man working three jobs, angry at the government,
…..to an off-duty policeman,
…..to a communist, a capitalist, a dreamer, a sceptic.
The next day
John Henry Monroe
was joined by
Debra Ann Colson,
who brought two plastic stacking chairs,
sat in one with a sign
that read:
Need to talk?
And all day
(from 6am to 6pm)
Debra Ann Colson
James Henry Monroe
Every day
more people came
(multiplying like Fibonacci)
with chairs,
until today —
there were 610 people,
1220 chairs
filled with people


Day Thirteen

The Prompt:  Write a poem in the form of a news article you wish would come out tomorrow.

Wouldn’t it be great if there were more listeners than speakers?

Ficus sycomorus


Wild, ancient Syce,
pushing toes deep into the sand,
you stretch from Terra
to touch Astrum.
You hide your flowers
within a shell
where only copper wasps
can find them.
Like your northern brethren,
(meliade, daphnaie, hama)
you stand guard
over the flowing naiads
in an endless cycle of life.
Men nurtured you in Egypt
(where you bore their kings),
but here is where your heart lies:
on the banks of the Olifants.


Day Twelve

The Prompt:  Write a poem using at least one word/concept/idea from each of two specialty dictionaries: Lempriere’s Classical Dictionary and the Historical Dictionary of Science Fiction.

I chose to use Syce (from the Classical Dictionary, referring to the dryad of the fig tree) and Terra (from the SciFi Dictionary, referring to earth (and Astrum is for the stars).

The Ficus sycomorus (or Sycamore Fig) is one of my favourite trees. This photo was taken on the banks of the Olifants River which is lined with these magnificent arboreal delights.



Dear Body,

Before I begin,
lemme just say:
Thank you
for being such a brick
through the years.
You’re no all-star athlete,
(that’s for sure)
but if life were a race,
you’d definitely be a marathon.
That’s my simple way of saying
you’ve met every challenge head-on
and stayed the course.
So, yeah . . .
Having said that —
I am a little annoyed by how much we seem to have slowed down.
I am still sharp-as-a-tack
and ready to paint the town red,
but you poop out so early.
Remember how we used to stay up till dawn
(wondering why people waste so much time sleeping!),
and now you’re out-for-the-count at 8 p.m.
Give me a break, Grandma.
And what’s with all the aches and pains?
Get over it already!
What’s a little arthritis?
I am also avoiding the mirror these days.
I mean, REALLY!
Honey — you even LOOK like your grandma (no judgement).
But I am still quite vigorous and young
and (if I may say so) attractive.
You’re giving people the wrong idea!
Have you seen the dismissive glances that come our way?
Just saying.
I am beginning to feel like new wine in old wineskins —
and you KNOW that ain’t good!
So — buck up, Missy!

Your operator,

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Dear Psyche,

Suck it up.
I going to take a nap.



Day Eleven

The Prompt:  Write a two-part poem, in the form of an exchange of letters. The first stanza (or part) should be in the form of a letter that you write either to yourself or to a famous fictional or historical person. The second part should be the letter you receive in response.

This piece is self-explanatory.

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