Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Catch the Big Yellow Poetry Bus


After all these weeks of running to catch the Poetry Bus, I'm finally at the wheel, and what do I bring?  It's the Big Yellow School Bus!

What else would I drive?

I'm what you might call a Schoolmarm. Counting this school year, which began for me this week, I've been in schools for fifty years as a student, teacher, school leader or district level administrator. It's as natural as breathing for me to plan a field trip!

So....sharpen your pencils, kiddies! Grab your papers and your lunch boxes, and come along! We'll start here in West Virginia, head north for Professor Semi-colon, then make our way across the country, picking up a Bug or two along the way. We'll make a brief detour to pick up some Canadian Kats before we reach the coast. After we fuel up on Enchantment, it's back to the Atlantic, by which time the TFE should have solved the Problem of the Day: How do we get a big yellow bus full of poets across the sea to London and Dumfries and Dublin and highways and byways between and beyond?

Well, that's the magic part of our art! I promise this bus will go as far as your words and imaginations can travel. Just meet the simple Poetry School Bus challenge for this week: write a poem about school or schooling. Leave your URL in my comment box, and I'll link it in the sidebar below my profile-->

The bus runs on Monday. Don't forget your permission slips, boys and girls!

* New Passenger : Judy Clem at
Welcome Aboard, Judy! 

Just for a warm up, here are a couple of mine:

SCHOOLMARM (that's me)

At three o'clock
When school is out,
She gathers up her things.
If she had an old hat,
She'd jam it on her head;
If she had an old horse,
She'd plod down country lanes,
Stopping here and there to pick tall stems
To take with her on her calls.
She'd sing along the way.
There would be dinner with the families,
A different one each day.
They'd watch their grammar,
Put out their better plates,
Offer her the choicest cuts of meat, good bread.
Later, they'd stand on the porches and wave
Until she was gone from sight
Before the washing up.
If she had a hat, a horse,
A country lane
At three o'clock --
If she had a hat and a horse
In her life.

This next one is dedicated to a wonderful poet friend with whom I survived the messed up college years. Her K is Name Lawson. Or something like that. She'll recognize herself here, and you can find her outstanding poetry here:


I still recall your stance
before the class,
so compact,
thick black curls
around your head,
eyes big as china saucers.
You're telling tales
of cars and barracudas
and mixed up names.
At night we pick black circles
from our eyes and rub them
on the smooth white page,
drawing lines round truth and beauty,
knowing it for what it (is) (is not).
At eighteen, we think we know
who we are.
And youth.
We drink our wine
from plastic cups
and sleep with youth
between us,
tangled in our separate dreams,
riding who we (are) (are not)
to places where we'll someday
know our names.


  1. First, thank you for the dedication. It's quite an honor. hahaa...Yes, my Kay was name Lawson one day, with Eva looking on - was it nerves or the night of drinking wine that got to me?? Could have been all those romantic poets that made me stammer and stare! This poem touches my heart in a very special way, Karen. I had forgotten about the black circles! Those days were unreal - reading so many volumes of poetry and literature we thought our eyes would fall out...but we loved it. I better stop now, or I'll write a thousand words. Thank you for your beautiful poem. I do love it.

    Your Schoolmarm poem is just great. I see it play out like a scene from a movie! The descriptions have a radiant quality - like the best gems.

    I will do my best to catch the bus...

  2. Oddly enough if she wouldn't mind picking up some carry ut on the way to the house I'd pay her back when she got here for dinner.

    So college was gettin; all likkered up and stayin' up late and developing attitude for the future? Cool, but if I go by my own life I went to college for 29 years.

    Oddly enough I mentioned school and learning in today's piece.

  3. Great prompt Karen, why didn't we think of it before?.Schooldays hold joys and terrors galore for everyone.Hold tight, could be in for a bumpy ride.Yeehaw!

  4. Yes ma'am, I'll be there at the bus stop!

  5. great prompt - will be on board as always

  6. Oh, I LOVE this prompt and your poems, Karen. As a member of this same profession (began as a teacher of the Deaf/Hearing Impaired/Gifted to the current university level), August has always been a month of excitement. It begins with family birthdays followed by that surge of energy making plans for those students who will be my responsibility for the next few months. This is PERFECT!

    The semi-colon: a sure cure for comma splice-atosis! ; )

  7. Okay, I'm up!

  8. School. And school dinners! "The Piece of Cod that passeth all understanding"

  9. Please miss, this might be the last bus I get onto for awhile - great prompt. I'll be sure to bring my permission slip! Really enjoyed both pieces

  10. Wow! Speechless after SCHOOLMARM (that's me).
    Really touched me, so gently done and ran so deep.
    That aside, you're not updating on my dashboard! I only arrived because of TFE's link. Hmmm. Still, see you on Monday...

  11. Ok I'm up for my last Poetry Bus ride for a wee while

  12. What a unique and special stature worn by the schoolmarm. Many roles wrapped into one.

  13. Two lovely poems Karen, love the horse and the hat and the three o'clock but the last few lines of the second are wonderful.....'tangled in our separate dreams,
    riding who we are/are not
    to places where we'll someday
    know our names.'

    I love that...'to places where we'll someday know our names' could roll it round my mouth, and in my head, for days.Pure poetry!

  14. "just for a warm up" - ha!

    i love both of these. the schoolmarm for how it's wrapped in wistfulness - the romanticized idea she had of teachers as a girl. "They'd watch their grammar, / Put out their better plates," - like a country preacher on sunday. and it makes me think, too - for as far as we think we've brought education - we've lost a lot too. more information, less connection.

    and who we were is wistful too, but in a different way. a beautiful tribute to a friend who shared that unique time, "At eighteen, we think we know / who we are. / And youth". those bonds seem to last forever no matter how much time or how many others come and go.

    i'm going to try to catch this bus. and if i'm a little late it's just because "school" and "on time" are hard concepts for me to reconcile. :)

  15. Love the schoolmarm poem - did teachers really have that much respect once?
    Anyway, I'm up -

  16. Kay - Thanks, Kay. I'm glad you didn't mind being my subject. Those were good ole bad ole days for certain. Boy, they went fast, as has the rest of it! I hope you catch the bus! I'd love to have you join us!

    TWM - I think we read about your hard knocks school quite frequently! A few more than 29, I think! :-)

    TFE - I was certain someone would beat me to this one. I know it's something we all share, although in VERY different ways! Should be interesting.

    Weaver and Niamh - We'll be waiting. Don't be late, young ladies!

  17. Jeanne Iris - I knew you were a marm! We're all the same at heart. You'll understand this: I'm almost nostalgic for chalk! Remember chalk? Ha, ha, ha!

    Doctor - Here, we call it "mystery meat".

    Gwei Mui - I'm so sorry to hear you're going to be absent for a while, but I'm glad you're ready to roll on this one!

    Titus - Thanks! I hope you get the Blogger issue fixed. I have no idea what that could be! See you Monday.

    Jason - Very much a thing of the past, unfortunately. Today, it's email and facebook and online grape posting. Face to face? Respect? I'm afraid not.

    joaquin - Thank you, as always. I certainly hope you catch the bus! I almost asked for rhymed verse, but that's one assignment that I'm afraid would cause shrieks and groans (except among a know who you are). I can't wait to see your take!

    Peter - They did! Bygone days, for sure! Glad you're along for the ride.

  18. Now retired, a chance to get back into the classroom, if only in memory and imagination, so thanks for the opportunity. I shall definitely be aboard - possibly a day early on Sunday.

  19. Two very fine poems. A lot to follow, but will do my b est.

  20. Thanks for the task! Poem posted:

    I like the way WHO WE WERE grapples with that idea that it takes longer to grow up than we think (or, in fact than we're often led to expect): "riding who we are/are not
    to places where we'll someday
    know our names."

  21. I'm up!

    I love your first poem best - nostalgic & lovely.

  22. I've contributed a limerick called Poetry Bus Drummer. It's about our primary school orchestra.

  23. Karen . . superlatives are not enough!

    Daydreams and disasters HERE
    (Hope you will forgive the indelicacies, but schoolboys will be boys)

  24. A bit premature maybe, but I'm on!

  25. I like being an early bird. My cheeps are HERE

    I had to run hard - but I made it.

  27. I'm hoping I can use this old ticket, although it's been in my jacket pocket for a while now.

  28. Just posted my hastily written effort. As it used to say on my school report 'Could do better'!!

  29. I'm aboard!.. love your two delightful poems, my favourite is the first one, there's something very nostalgic about it, almost sepia even!

  30. i LOVE POMES!

  31. Gas up in the land of Enchantment in a wee bit. I'm still at recess.

    Your poems are evocative and full of wistfulness. They make me want to hug you.

  32. i simply love that second poem. it's great. i never stayed in a school dorm before. i went to a community college and spent my nights at home, sigh. i guess i missed out huh? good luck with the school bus tour. have a great night.

  33. I love so much your poems, Karen. I think I told you before that sometimes I just can't find words to let you know in what special way they fill my heart...
    Thank you for such beauty!

  34. Hi Karen. Have checked the link and it seems to be working fine. I do have comment moderation switched on for posts older than five days, though.

  35. Hi Karen,
    I'm on board and have an excuse slip for you regarding my cheating. You can read and initial it at the link below and I promise never to cheat again!
    A reunion ride on board the old School (Poetry) Bus.

    I absolutely LOVE both of your poems!

  36. Hi
    Am aboard thanks to the bank holiday and a nice lie in:-) About to go round and read so I apologise in advance for any harsh comments, this one has really stirred me up.

  37. am aboard now, thanks for driving!

  38. I take it all back ... there are a lot of angry people out there!

  39. Here's my bus pass!

  40. Enjoyed both your poems, Karen. 'Schoolmarm' made me think of Miss Honey from Roald Dahl's 'Matilda' (a favourite book, and movie, of our daughter's).

  41. That's me up Karen, here:

  42. I like to think if she had a hat and a horse. It's stunning how things have changed.
    But what does she do in their absence?

    My schoolbusticket is here:

  43. Now catching my breath, after waiting at the wrong stop.

    "..At night we pick black circles
    from our eyes and rub them
    on the smooth white page,
    drawing lines round truth and beauty.."

    I love this.

  44. Thanks!
    Anything animal- anything sports-
    those doodles and day dreams kept me alive!

  45. Oh gosh I'm breathless as usual. Am I late for the school bus? Can you get them to wait for me PLEASE!!!!

  46. I'm here, Miss! My pome is up here now. Be round to visit and comment soon.

  47. I enjoyed both poems, the slightly wistful tone fo the first and cleverness of the second "to places where we'll someday/know our names." I'm nearly fifty and I'm not sure I know my name yet.

  48. Once again, I've been on the road, and how nice it is to come home and read your work, Karen. Both poems are awesome. In SCHOOLMARM (that's me), I love that she imagines putting on a hat and plodding on an old horse down country lanes. I also love the human element and how the poem emphasizes the importance of teachers in the community. You may not have a horse or a hat, but you are valued by many.

    And I gotta do you do it? I'd have a hard time dealing with some idiot parents. My sister is a fourth grade teacher, so I hear all the stories, both good and bad. She doesn't name names, but some of the descriptions of situations make my head spin.

    They don't pay teachers enough!!! But I know you didn't do it for the money. It takes a big heart that's full of love.

    The poem about Kaye is also awesome. I can picture the two of you (with a smile). I've only seen a picture of K, but the black curls and large eyes is so fitting. I love how you let the reader in on the jokes just enough to let our imaginations run with it. It is a beautiful tribute to a dear friend and a wonderful portrait of youth.

  49. ok, i'm on the bus. in the back. up to no good. but you probably know that. :)

  50. i got my weeks confused and posted my response on the wrong site - my pome is up

  51. Clattering in, late for registration on my first day at this school, here's my excuse. (Click on the name link.)

  52. Really enjoyed your pairing of schoolmarm and the dreams and illusions of youth, Karen.

  53. I enjoyed both of these poems immensely, Karen. I will be envisioning that plodding horse with the lady in the hat for many years to come. I also find the allusion to the "ride" in both pieces very interesting. Really well done.

    Wonderful Poetry Bus this week too!


  54. Hopping aboard for the first time: my poem is here