May 20, 2013
Please do not touch the furniture.
I’d fingered the worn green leather
of Charles Dickens’ writing desk
in great expectations
that the magic might rub off on me.
Please, sir, I want some more
of your plot-weaving powers,
your character-conjuring spells,
to rescue my languishing fiction
from the poorhouse.
April 22, 2013
Last Monday was a perfect evening for a walk around the neighborhood in crop pants and sandals - warm, with a slight breeze. Rays of light burst through the clouds like a preview of Christ's return, and Nature sang His praises! Jet behaved perfectly on her leash, staying by my side, not pulling ahead as Shadow used to. I wonder if the young volunteers at the animal shelter trained her to do this. Even Carmen's three Pyrenees dogs kept their distance, and Jet didn't bark at them the way she does when in the front yard. We saw one swallowtail, one blue jay, two robins, three flocks of cedar waxwings, and a pair of cardinals in their customary nesting tree on Woolsey Road. The redbuds are in full bloom, later than in previous years. I prayed for the residents of these white and pink frame houses and mobile homes, especially the kids in an aging population. God is blessing our little corner of the heartland.
March 1, 2013
From "76 Trombones" on the radio, to our hometown band’s rousing rendition of "Blaze Away," to the bagpipes of the Grenadier Guards at Windsor Castle, to the Sousa tunes of my adopted country—I’ve always loved a good march. It’s in my blood.
Today I march forward, not in lockstep with anyone, but to the beat of a different
drum. I look back only to see how far I have come, and to glean material for stories.
Though I camp out frequently for spiritual refreshment, or to help a fledgling writer,
the movement is ever forward, never in retreat.
Along the way, I leave touchstones to celebrate victories large or small, reminders of
why I set out on this crazy venture. Fan mail from students. My first royalty check.
A napkin from a launch party. The blue star Miss Downer gave me in kindergarten
for my retelling of “I Saw a Ship A-Sailing.”
Single-minded as a foot soldier along a straight, solid Roman road, on the
foundation laid by writers who marched before us, I keep marching.
Step by step, word by word, sentence by sentence, paragraph by paragraph, page
after page, chapter after chapter, to completion of another book.
And another. And another.
I’m a writer. It’s what I do.
January 21, 2013
This poem was published in KANSAS VOICES 2011, a book of winning poetry and prose from the annual Winfield Arts & Humanities writing contest. I wrote it while living in The Colony and teaching 3rd grade in Carrollton, north of Dallas, Texas. The judge's comments appear below.
CRYING FOR CRIDER (Adult Runner-Up)
I’ll miss you, Crider Road,
when you close for good tomorrow.
I’ve grown to love your curves and turns;
each bump and crack feels like a friend.
Today I took you extra slow,
admiring morning glories.
As green makes way for asphalt,
glass, and brick—a shopping strip,
a parking lot—I’ll miss the gentle herds
that grazed, their chestnut heads arched
over the fence, to taste the juicy grass
beside your sloping shoulders.
One afternoon at the top of the hill
all traffic stopped for a cow who jumped
the wire and crossed to the old white house,
now gone, burned down mysteriously.
I’ll miss the black-eyed Susan, daisies,
Indian blanket, along this slice of country
not yet dozed or razed for office blocks
and gated homes. Dear Crider, you weathered
water, drought, and hail throughout
my three years’ rural commute.
Sunrise lit my way accompanied by trumpets
as I conducted March of the Day on WRR.
Avoiding mudslides at the last bend,
I skirted ditches, ever expecting
an ambulance and diversion signs.
Laid off, redundant, dead you’ll lie, blocked
by barriers. The Josey Lane extension beckons,
broad, straight, flat. Swoosh! The traffic whispers,
Join us. This is progress. This is good.
"Hazel Spire's poem, 'Crying For Crider,' has the quality of a slow reverie. It successfully evokes the sadness of a pensive woman recalling details of her daily commute on a country road the day before the road is 'laid off' for good.
What strikes me most about the poem is its remarkable musicality. The poem's speaking voice, believable and natural, flows smoothly in and out of a lulling iambic pentameter: 'I'll miss you, Crider Road,' the poem begins simply. A few lines down, the rhythm changes; 'I've grown to love your curves and turns; each bump and crack feels like a friend./Today I took you extra slow.'
In this poem, Spire, a fine wordsmith, manages many poetic devices: assonance (curves, turns), consonance (dozed, razed), alliteration (sloping shoulders, weathered, water). These devices never seem overdone, but work together with rhythm and tone to create a longing in the reader for beautiful, temporal places like Crider Road."
~ Nedra Rogers, Poet & Teacher, Lawrence, Kansas.
December 31, 2012
As a 2nd/3rd grade teacher, on the first day back at school each January, I would borrow bells of all sizes from the music teacher and let my class ring in the New Year. Later when I taught art, I had 5th graders paste the double face of Janus (Roman god of gates and doorways) in the top center of the paper, looking forward and back. They would draw a memory (good or bad) from the old year on the left, and one thing that might happen in the New Year on the right.
Since retiring, I’ve had the luxury of time in which to reflect on my life and write more chapters of a memoir, BUGSY, SLUG, THE BEATLES AND ME. Last year my old my high school class in England held a reunion that I couldn’t attend. Instead, I sent this prose poem listing memories from 1st Form thru 6th Form (the equivalent of grades 6-12 in the US) at Sandown Grammar School:
NOSTALGIC ACROSTIC ©Hazel Spire
S triped summer dresses and swimming at the Blue Lagoon.
A rt teacher Mr. Binch’s encouragement: “That’s interesting!”
N eville Anderson’s solo “O Valiant Hearts” in the Little Hall.
D ancing the foxtrot, Virginia Reel and Strip the Willow in the gym.
O ut on the field in all weathers – jolly hockey sticks!
W illie Wiseman our heart throb, along with Adam Faith and Elvis.
N etball practice for Sandham house, Grassy towering over the net.
G erman with Hinny and Helmut; my penfriend Gerlinde.
R omantic poets with ‘Lit’ English. Did she have a first name?
A nthems I still remember from the choir in Assembly.
M r. Fennelly (Flan) scrabbling in the dirt at an archaeological dig.
M usic with Pastry, including a song he wrote for Speech Day.
A lgebraic and chemical formulae, unused, long forgotten.
R ailway crossing on a blue Raleigh bike, my 13th birthday present.
S ewing a yellow gingham apron with Buster Rogers.
C od Cooper’s bulging briefcase; Bert Ayling’s red cushion.
H at that I dared not remove because I lived opposite Miss Tovey.
O ld Owens (Taffy) tapping his ring on the radiator; and the
O M skipping in plimsolls at the Inkies’ Christmas Party.
L atin declension, conjugation and Caesar’s Gallic Wars.
Our Prairie Writers homework this month is A NEW BEGINNING, for which I wrote a similar piece, but looking to the future:
OPTIMISTIC ACROSTIC ©Hazel Spire
A nticipate everyday miracles.
N o recriminations over last year’s failures.
E very nook and cranny of the office filed and dusted.
W riter’s Market on hand with homes for manuscripts.
B ooks to finish, books to publish, books to read.
E xpand my speaking/teaching platform.
G oals to be set, goals to be met, but with grace periods.
I magine myself a morning person, fit and trim.
N ever neglect the arts—painting, piano, poetry.
N ational Gallery visits, via calendar and in person.
I sle of Wight in May for a high school reunion?
N ephew’s gift, a journal to record my journey.
G ear up for 2013. This could be the best year yet!
December 3, 2012
[No character is intended to represent anyone I know, alive or dead.]
NOT THIS CHRISTMAS
Every year, we dragged from the attic a dusty, plastic tree.
We decked its flimsy boughs with tarnished balls, despondently.
“Not this Christmas,” Father said,
“Now that Aunt Matilda’s dead.”
“I agree,” said Uncle Bruce.
“Let’s cut down a fresh, green spruce.”
Each of us would draw one name, recipient of one gift.
It led to deep resentment and created many a rift.
“Not this Christmas!” Momma joked,
“Since your Aunt Matilda croaked.”
Cousin Doug said, “That’s good news.
Give whatever to whom you choose.”
She used to make low-fat, low-carb desserts that no one liked.
Woe betide a guest who brought some eggnog that was spiked.
“Not this year. We’ll have a blast,”
Said Grandpa. “Old Matilda’s passed.
Lace the punch and sweeten the pies.
Ask Santa for clothes in a larger size!”
Lunch was always somber. Kids were seen, but never heard.
Pets were banished from the house, even a cat that purred.
“Not this Christmas. Bring your dogs!
Matilda dear has popped her clogs,”
Said Grandma. “You are free to play.
Enjoy a loud, rambunctious day.”
Year in, year out, through Auntie’s gripes and gossip we had sat.
“God rest her soul,” my sister sighed. “She’s gone, and that is that.”
Then Uncle Ron proposed a toast
To banish Aunt Matilda’s ghost.
So all the women, kids, and men
Cried, “Not this Christmas. Never again!”
© Hazel Spire 2012
October 23, 2012
I wrote this poem a number of years ago when we lived in Texas, on our way to visit family in Kansas, knowing we would eventually retire to the country. It has been published in Runnymede News, Poets' Gallery, and Homeward Tracks.
Sunflowers bow dead heads,
their glory spent. Mimosa fades
with summer dreams, shudders
beneath a gray flannel sky laced
with wires. The swallows flit
in dark, shifting patterns.
The river lies drained, cobalt
shapes conforming to a copper bed.
Cream-faced cattle plod and graze,
plod and graze. Across the highway
stubble smokes where children
used to romp barefoot.
Today they ride a yellow bus:
It plows through the dust, past
the shuttered one-room schoolhouse
to the gyms, computers, labs
of a busier town. Established 1917
the drugstore keeps its corner watch
with vacuous eyes wearied by change.
Pear-laden boughs extend an offer
of pies for community suppers,
preserves for winter pantries.
Leaves skip down the church’s
tin roof, scurry like squirrels around
the sign below: Fall Revival.
September 30, 2012
When I retired from teaching and moved to rural Kansas, I needed a routine in order to pursue my second vocation, freelance writing. Over the years I had saved enough pretty letterheads from rejections to decoupage two trashcans, but also published magazine pieces, two poetry chapbooks, and two middle-grade mysteries. In theory, with so much extra time at my disposal, it should be possible to submit even more manuscripts and widen my audience.
On the other hand, it was tempting to sleep late, take craft classes, read all the books on my bucket list, and make new friends in the community. If I wasn't careful, writing and writing-related activities would be squeezed out of my schedule. So, I bought a colorful, user-friendly planner and wrote the acronym POEMS down the left margin of each day for the coming week.
P = Promotion:
Whatever puts my name and book titles out there in the public eye. Update my web site. Post news and evites on Facebook. Contact a store or school. Print bookmarks.
O = Overarching:
Sentence by sentence, chapter by chapter, add new words to the current work-in-progress. Do background research. Plot. Create character bios. Ask "What If?"
E = Exercises:
Clustering. Word Association. Writers' group homework. Prompts from poetry. Pages in Write-Brain Workbook. Nature walks with pocket notebook.
M = Markets:
Read Writers Digest. Send for magazine samples and guidelines. Look at online
catalogs online. Browse children's shelves at the library. Mail mss and queries.
S = Scripture:
Meditate on Daily Bread devotional. Prepare Sunday school lesson. Jot ideas for themes to write on. Pray my writing will reflect God's truth and enrich readers' lives.
Whenever I complete a task, large or small, in any order, I check the appopriate category in my planner. An overview of the past week shows me which areas need more attention. Often these activities overlap with other areas of life. Over lunch with friends I pass out brochures for my next book signing (P). Reading for pleasure counts if related to my work-in-progress (O). Catnaps can be productive if I write down my dreams (E). In the doctor's waiting room I study Highlights magazine (M). God's Word informs my words and nourishes my soul (S).
This simple acronym silences the voices in my head that tell me I'm not a real writer!
September 4, 2012
Like generations before me beginning a new school year at Sandown Church of England Primary School, I lined up with the eight-year-olds near an inscription in the stone wall: A.D. 1853.
“I’ve seen Miss Wheeler lose her temper,” Jean-Ann whispered. “She goes as red as a beetroot!”
My knees knocked as the (more…)
July 5, 2012
4o years ago this week my father went ahead of us to heaven, at age 55. I feel as if I've been living on borrowed time ever since I too passed that double-nickel birthday, all the more determined to make every day count.
Daddy worked hard on the Isle of Wight County Press, covering (more…)