poetry, The China Chapter, travel

इंडिया:This Is India

The sun sets in dust’s rise
as blackbirds take to flight,
the call to prayer a call to wings,
while in the streets the car horns sing:
“This is India.”

The pen stills in silence.
The words do not exist.
The skies to stars stretch up in ohms;
Earth meditates as twilight comes–
“This is India.”

Bed whispers now my name,
but sleep’s beyond my grasp.
When wildest dreams dance into view
you ponder life in darkest hues.
“This is India.”

Winter sun does not rise.
Sky lightens, brightens dust.
On red rooftop in rising day
a noisy night fades fast away.

This is India.

poetry, politics, The China Chapter

Unfiltered Thoughts

America’s dichotomized, cut in two,
and I can choose to be a red or a blue
but when the primary votes were trickling through,
I wondered, “What is this country coming to?”

Now I live in China, which is probably not the best,
where the government claims Red beats in the chest
of every man and woman throughout the land
who are too disenfranchised to take a stand.

And this morning I read on the news
that the UK voted to leave the EU
partially in fear that others want to live there too,
“So tighten the borders; that’s the smartest thing to do!”

Of course, we have to acknowledge the middle east
where a state of war is more common than a state of peace.
It’s the birthplace of the religion that we use
to treat any others the way that we choose.

And with this onslaught of global news,
we might ask, “What’s the world coming to?”

The answer is: Nothing. We are what we were,
people no better than ancestors before.
We might think we’d learned from the past—we’ve not
and you know that’s true when dancing clubbers get shot.

With Orlando’s rainbows waving down,
you might think the world would finally find love a common ground.
But as long as people can separate a “they” from a “we,”
there’s no need to find any commonality.

So we tighten our boarders and we ready our guns
and we elect a candidate who’ll put our nation on the run
and we pray to our god above that some day
we can create a hopeful tomorrow from a hateful today.

poetry, The China Chapter

插入语 – Parenthesis

He feels over committed,
having spent far too much time
waiting for a phone to ring.
He finally reminds himself it doesn’t matter;
this isn’t what he’d choose.
Disentangle now your heart
and you’ve nothing more to lose.

Like the back half of a coin,
on the flip side of the world
scampers city ’round ’em up,
a half forgotten girl who sits in the still remains
of slightly shattered dreams.
Just don’t expect anything;
disappointment kills esteem.

Two lonely souls roaming earth…
inch their way towards a collision?
Isn’t life about the words,
perfect with revision?  No. Life’s the (parenthesis),
the periods. the commas,
With the flow of human words
lies the space of human trauma.

Two lonely souls searching earth
live their lives in parallel.
They’ll never meet, desire, love,
always assume they will find their heart one kismet day,
celebrate all they have known…
But two lives in parallel
draw on forever alone.

China, poetry, The China Chapter

乘坐出租车在成都 – A Chengdu Taxi Ride

it’s a lite-brite night in the chengdu sky
and, taxi back, smile split
i sit
staring at a ship that fell out of the water
and tumbled into the middle
of 14 million pairs of eyes and arms
that point and stare a why.
the songs of jamming drummers may
cover the question,
but it’s still too early
and even if it weren’t,
the honking
drowns the sanity.
blackness stretches before us,
punctuated with the
that serve no purpose
other than laugh elicitors.
tunnels reflect constant noise
of rurring engines
as we weave beyond
ebikes and walkers and buses.
the black grows darker still around approaching headlights
until the purple lights in the plastic trees
(recalling a distinctly american vibe)
guide me–

poetry, The China Chapter

it might take two

day stretches
boring numbness

i am thirsty
drink your spit

fizzy bottles tempt

can i have?
yes, one
and him?
okay, two

it might take two

we slurp
we chomp

we guzzle until orange flecks
float in your green bottle

sidewalk hot
store dark
not a hard choice to make

we squint

we kick feet,
pumping them
like backyard swing power
as though bench is flying

we wait

we wait

we wait

it might take two

door opens
we scream and run
we jump and fly
laughing in a pile of warm cloth
and too-hot metal

doors close
windows down, music up

reverse and forward
giggly home

shoes wherever

we sit
puppy-eyed, knee up, grass down

day fades too away
summer short

it might take two

creative writing, poetry, The China Chapter

周五闪回 – Flashback Friday: Fades

Time for another high school poem I found while packing for China!  Oh, creative writing…I remember you.  This poem was written, according to the scrawling across my paper, in February of my junior year. I don’t know why I was in such a summery mood.

The room is bright,
Not by man’s light–
But daylight–seeping in.
It reminds me of lying there in bed
Being told sloth is a sin.
The sunlight drips down folded curtain;
Gateway to my mind.
In this tired summer afternoon
Dull winter’s far behind.

In the valleys of the curtain cloth
My soul rests in glory splendor–
Relaxes and lies, shrinks in size–
To the shadow’s sweet surrender.
I know not what tomorrow brings
Or what yesterday’s left behind
I only know the curtain’s filled
With shadows of my mind.

I only know, the room grows dim
And glows in fading hues.
I only know that day will die
And ‘morrow be renewed.
I only know I sit alone,
Sunlight seeping towards my core.
And I only know that dripping sunlight
Fades the curtain more.

China, creative writing, films, poetry, songs, teaching, The China Chapter

诗意搞乱- A Poetic Mess

It’s a moment,
then it’s gone.
Your heart catches in your throat
and you wonder if it was ever real
just a figment of a life you could imagine for yourself.

I realize I’m not making much sense here, mostly just waxing poetic.  I had so much to say about last week, but yesterday, when I went to write, my words froze in my fingers, hovering but a breath above the keyboard.  I spent time rearranging my discombobulated mind to the tunes of Cat-Stevens-turned-Yusuf-Islam and bathed myself in the comforting knowledge that music can wrap you in a tight embrace and make you feel so magically whole despite how crazily confused you might be.

But, being as though none of you have any idea what I’m talking about, I’ll stop with the self-analysis portion of this update and move into what’s actually been happening here in Chengdu…

Well, life’s been busy.  The first week after getting back from Bali, I spent a lot of evenings just eating Chinese food (Shao Kao and Chuan Chuan) with people.  Agh, I had missed that in Indonesia!

Last week flew by, but was punctuated with a few memorial events.  Wednesday afternoon, while the kids were working with partners to turn picture books into Reader’s Theatre scripts, I felt a bit of shaking.  It was a small, but noticeable undulation, especially when I saw the Smartboard rocking back and forth. “Uh…guys, let’s go ahead and get under our desks, okay?”  The kids immediately crawled under their desks, then peered up at me.  “Um.  Ms. Hannifin?  Why are we doing this?”  I love them and love that they would follow my directions first and then question me.  “Eh, I think there’s a earthquake.  And we just need to make sure it’s not a big one.  So we’re gonna stay under our desks for a few minutes and see what happens, okay?” “Yeah!  We don’t want things to hurt our heads,” one girl called out.  After a few minutes went by, it was clear the small disturbance was over.  “Alright, kids!  I think we’re good to go back to work. But if we feel anything else, we’re gonna get back under our desks, okay?”  “Okay.”  And back to work they went as if nothing had happened.  Earthquakes here might be fairly common, but I was very happy that the first one I felt with kids around was distant and handled very well by second graders.

Last Thursday, after Girl Scouts, two parents took June and me out to dinner at a Shao Kao restaurant.  It was completely unnecessary, completely delicious, and completely appreciated.  Then on Friday, I went out with coworkers to the typical hangout: The Beer Nest.  It ended up being a late night as more people stopped by as the evening stretched on.  But I made it home safely, albeit completely tuckered out, in the wee hours of Saturday.  I didn’t accomplish anything, really, on Saturday aside from Skyping with my old flatmate, Diana, and…napping.  On Sunday, Melissa and I went to go see the movie Seventh Son, which was…a rather interesting movie going experience, primarily because I am naive and China greatly confuses me.  It was a decent flick, though, and well worth the…$6…the entire outing cost us.

So that’s been about it, save my poetic nonsense (oh, brace yourself.  more terrible poetry is heading your way soon!).  I leave you now with a song that is probably going to be stuck in my head the rest of this week:

memorial, poetry

Maya Rises

You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may tread me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I’ll rise.

Does my sassiness upset you?
Why are you beset with gloom?
‘Cause I walk like I’ve got oil wells
Pumping in my living room.

Just like moons and like suns,
With the certainty of tides,
Just like hopes springing high,
Still I’ll rise.

Did you want to see me broken?
Bowed head and lowered eyes?
Shoulders falling down like teardrops.
Weakened by my soulful cries.

Does my haughtiness offend you?
Don’t you take it awful hard
‘Cause I laugh like I’ve got gold mines
Diggin’ in my own back yard.

You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I’ll rise.

Does my sexiness upset you?
Does it come as a surprise
That I dance like I’ve got diamonds
At the meeting of my thighs?

Out of the huts of history’s shame
I rise
Up from a past that’s rooted in pain
I rise
I’m a black ocean, leaping and wide,
Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.

Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
I rise
Into a daybreak that’s wondrously clear
I rise
Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
I rise
I rise
I rise.

-Maya Angelou (1928-2014)

creative writing, poetry

Flurry of Fury: In *Remembrance* of Snow

I remember the first day I saw you.
You were brilliant
and my breath caught in my throat.
You came to symbolize
cuddling in piles of blankets
and gazing
in a dream-like state
at the quiet
outside world.
Oh, how I adored you!
The way you moved,
the way you danced,
the way you clung stubbornly to the earth,
and the whisper-thin tread of your arrival to my life.
the normal apron strings of the day…
for you, I would forgo them all.
Oh how I love you so.

But the world shifted.
Ignored work simply piled up.
You began to annoy me.
I never thought I’d say that.
Not to you…
never to you.
But your constant presence brought turmoil
and afternoons spent cuddling in blankets
were also nights filled with thought
and mornings that stretched on in boredom.
I gave up so much for you:
that concert
that trip
that peace of mind.
And I resented you so much for it.

While I have made peace with the past,
you still impose upon me,
affecting my present
and future.
I need you out
You are the damned spot in my life
that cannot be scrubbed clean.
Every time I hear of your approach,
I grow angry
I want to remember you
how you were
when I loved you.
Not like this.
Not with me hating,
hating you
for your inevitable
of my existence.
I plea, poetically,
for you to leave,
to abscond from my world
at least long enough
for me to move on,
to set things right within myself
so that when I see you in years to come,
I can feel my breath catch in my throat
from your brilliance,
you beauty.

creative writing, poetry

Implacable Sweetness

I spent a while this evening reading Pablo Neruda, losing myself in his love and anguish, completely breath-taken and to the point of tears. I know that words lose a lot in translation, but a true poet can convey feeling so basic to humanity that their messages transcend the barriers of language and time.

I have never had his talent nor his insight into human nature, but I did write poetry once upon a time. I have decided it’s time to force myself to write more often, but for now, I scrounged up something I wrote back in ’06. As I tell anyone who reads anything I write…be gentle in your criticisms! (I’m no Neruda!)


Silk words tumble from lovers’ tongues
to bedsheets and twist themselves
up in the covers.
Legs entwine
in a bed full of arms that grasp,
reach and stretch
as man and woman unite,
gasping together in biorhythmic harmony.
Faces morph as time pulls
lovers’ smiles into frowns.
Terms once of endearment
become annoying
Man pulls from woman
and likewise woman from man
each annoyed at life’s rough nature
and a little sad
that love is not a paint
that can cover all the cracks.
Dishes smash in anger;
storms brew in once genteel hearts.
Emotion all in motion all building all stirring all wild until
silence–as silent as the grave–
and as fitting
as man sinks to his knees at her headstone.
Nothing more can be said
so he hopes he said it all–
that he loved her even when he was angry,
that she was sexy even when overweight,
that he couldn’t live without her
(not that he could never
but that true lovers should never
be forced apart by a cruel Death).
As he tuckers himself
into his bed at night,
he thinks of whispered words

and his passionate playmate,
wonderous wife.
As his life seeps away–
breath by breath by breath–
he takes shelter in being one breath closer
to the mortal lover of his immortal love.
At the moment of death,
he realizes as his heart slows,
the gravity
of slip-
pulls away the less important aspects of life
and who was wrong
and who was right
that one Saturday night doesn’t seem to matter.
But handfuls of words
are tossed back at his failing body
from a youth
d e e p within,
stirring and yearning for the
physical (display of love).
One last gasp from a dying man
as silk

softly to the pillow beside him.