Twenty years of November beaches,
some skies in electric blues
reflected in glassy seas -
others dredged in grey and
plopped into a roiling hissing cauldron
that only seemed to sizzle...

The best beach toy ever
was a battered old plastic sieve -
toss in the shells,
shake out the sand
and look at the treasures
left behind...

Mama searched for olives,
shiny jelly-rolled whorls polished
by the stomach-footed creatures
who called them home for a while...

Sophie wanted sharks' teeth
bits of unyielding black
glinting in the sunlight
playing hide and seek,
evading all but the most careful eyes...

The children gathered cockle shells,
ready for stringing on a necklace
or Christmas tree garland,
perfectly round little holes
drilled through
by perfectly hungry moon snails...

And me?

I looked for surprises.
Bits and pieces
in shapes and colors
that once were magnificent,
the leopard-spotted bit
sending my thoughts racing
and the unfamiliar curves
of a broken Scotch bonnet
drawing a million designs
in my unpracticed mind.


And are there unseen hands
that collect us for the winnowing?
And will their eyes recognize
that we broken bits,
in growing lined and weathered,
became more beautiful
for our pains?

Or will we be cast aside
in our imperfection,
like so much shell debris
waiting for next week's tourists
to come along?

Muddy 23/24 January 2004

Witchy's notes for teachers:

1st activity: (warming up)

Muddy has gone to the beach for the past twenty years in US to celebrate Thanksgiving. Do your students know the origins and the meaning of Thanksgiving Day? If not why don't you introduce this topic into one of your classes?

2nd activity: visualization and interiorization

And then you can get into the poem. Tell the students:

  • Don't try to rationalize every word from the start, just try to visualize the scenes described in the poem in your mind.(Advice: pour some NLP into it. Oh I forgot I must update the NLP section!!! It has been neglected so long and lagging behind... poor me! Sorry! Let's go back to our poetry class)
  • Try to hear the sounds the children heard and made
  • Try to smell the aromas of the place (or of the Thanksgiving's turkey, if you prefer!)
  • Take a large sheet and divide it into two parts by drawing a vertical line. On the left you can make a picture of one of the many Thanksgiving day described in the poem, the one you prefer and visualize best. On the right you can draw a day YOU spent at the seaside. What are the differences? Are there any differences at all?

3rd activity: comprehension

First make the students read the poem more carefully and compare it with the drawings they made. Then ask the students these questions :

  • Muddy uses poetical images to describe three types of weather. Can you describe the same days by using the objective words of a weather bulletin?
  • Warning: this is a difficult question! What's the difference between the two languages? I dont' expect you to find the answer easily...
  • What are the children doing?
  • What kind of games are they playing?
  • Are they touching and searching things or not?
  • And in what activity is the person who wrote the poem involved?
  • Is she interested in real objects?
  • What kind of objects attract her attention? Are they old or new?
  • Which of the two things looks better, in your opinion, new things or old ones?
  • What does Muddy, sorry! The poetress... ;-)) think about old and new things?
  • What human age does she associate with old things?
  • What's the image she uses to describe the attitude of young people towards old age?
  • What do YOU think about old age and old people?

4th activity: production

Give the students these instructions:

Forget about the poem you read; at least, forget it CONSCIOUSLY. Now think of a particular day you spent on the beach and which has remained impressed in your memory. Write a poem about it. Keep the sentences short and never tell things straight but tell them through images (this is the essence of true poetry after all...)

Good luck!

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