Monday, January 29, 2007


The mommy poem hangs
on a line between two birch trees
overlooked unless you happen to be
opening the wooden pins to let it fall.
Or maybe a photographer attentive to taut
fabrics in wind, lit by its own sun.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007


Today's Oprah was about why Elizabeth Vargas stepped down from being co-anchor of ABC's World News Tonight, a job she worked for 20 years to attain.

Elizabeth says she wants to clarify something about her departure from World News Tonight. Despite some reports to the contrary, she was not forced out. "We got a letter of protest from [the National Organization of Women] to the president of ABC saying, 'This is a step back for working women and she was pushed out because she's pregnant.' At one point I said, 'I think feminism means we all get that chance to make our choice. And if it just isn't right for me, it isn't right for me.' … For me it just wasn't working."

In Elizabeth's first reporting assignment at 20/20 after maternity leave, she did a special report on working moms in America. She says it was an eye-opening experience. "I was surprised when I found out how far the United States does lag behind other industrialized countries when it comes to paid maternity leave or family flexible policies," she says. "We are actually one of only four countries in the entire world that doesn't offer a national maternity leave program—Papua New Guinea, Swaziland and Lesotho are the other three countries. A lot of our European counterparts who have more socialized governments offer paid maternity leave. But even Japan, which is a capitalist society, offers paid maternity leave."

Elizabeth says she was also surprised to hear of the resentment that some childless people feel toward their colleagues who have kids. "Listen, I have to tell you. I was in the workforce as a childless woman for 20 years," she says. "I had no clue how hard it was for my colleagues who were parents all that time until I became one. I just have to say it's really hard to imagine until you're actually in that position."

For the show they polled more than 15,000 women—both stay-at-home and working moms—here are the results.

Monday, January 22, 2007


Thank you Poetry Hut for this link, it is indeed a classic!

It is also especially timely since my husband just started teaching biology 211 in the new year. This is his first college-level lecture course. I was skeptical that he would be able to fill 2 1/2 hours twice a week including lecturing and lab work. Then I remembered, I married a man who can literally talk to a wall, a self-confessed "motor mouth," he claims to have had the gift of gab even before he kissed the Blarney Stone. But I shouldn't talk . . .

Saturday, January 20, 2007


Apparently, I'm quotable . . .

I received an e-mail from a photographer asking to use a line from a poem of mine. Cesar J. La Rosa is the photographer living in Lima, Peru. He accompanies most of his work with quote, or a line from a poem or song. The best part of this whole random connection is meeting someone from another part of the world and seeing his beautiful work.

Another cool thing is hearing how a poem connects:

I was looking for a quote or something to go with my photo and as a teacher, I think I had been looking for something that expressed what I felt once last year when I was allowed to get into the empty classrooms of a small school to take some photographs. It was so quiet without the children, it actually made me feel very sad; a classroom without students is simply a room waiting for them to come back and fill it with their laughter, their voices and their light." ~Cesar J. La Rosa

Here is the photo . . .

Since I posted the poem on the blog, it has been revised with that line serving as the title. I'm not sure if it is done yet. I'm not sure if poems are ever done.

An Empty Classroom is the Loudest Kind of Quiet

j.b. rowell

Chairs hold their legs
up on tables, waiting for floors
to be swept. Layered walls,
fabric and paper framed
by scalloped borders.

Click, clicking in the hush,
wood on wood, I am 33
learning how to knit, taught
by the ones I teach.
Learning with them.

Bamboo needles looping
rust yarn, shimmying up
toward point to drop off
soothed in therapy
of busy hands.

Too tight in my new efforts,
I loosen to the rhythm of
thinking fingers.
It will find you, this meditation,
this practical use for hands.

Friday, January 19, 2007


Cravings called for fried chicken . . .

I also tried the chopped BBQ with the mustard/vinegar sauce, mashed sweet potatoes, hush puppies, pinto beans, greens, and apple cobbler.


Click here for a thorough review of this family-owned, Durham institution.

Thursday, January 18, 2007


I will vent more about the fact that my kids and I had to go to school this morning in the snow and ice later . . . all other public and private schools around us were closed. Remember—this is North Carolina—we are not equipped for snow and ice, and people certainly don't know how to drive in weather on the wintry side since it doesn't happen often. So I would have appreciated the safety of a snow day. But alas.


I arrive at school a wee bit cranky only to learn the middle school rule, "Leave the snow on the ground."


These kids see a brief glimpse of snow every year or two, and we're supposed to keep them from it?

Forget about it—instead of teaching in vain—I head out with a handful of kids (those who actually come to school) and we play: snowangels, snowballs, tiny snowpeople, and we just revel in the strange, fluffy stuff falling from the southern sky. I even let them throw a few snowballs at my back, I mean, come on. Let the poor kids throw the soft stuff, it's not like I'm letting them throw hammers!

My little act of civil disobedience resulted in the best e-mail from a parent . . . ever:

Thanks for going out this morning to play in the snow with the kids. __________ really appreciated it and was sorry you got in trouble with _______! It seems to me that the only reasonable consolation for having to go to school in the snow is an opportunity to throw snowballs at a teacher.

Monday, January 15, 2007


I am proud to be a small part of the inaugural issue of ~*~WOMB~*~, a new online journal for poetries by women (but for everybody), just launched today.

Click below to check out the issue, edited by Michelle Detorie, which includes poetry (a wide range from visual to experimental), as well as an extensive list of links and resources:


Speaking of wombs . . . mine is contracting many, many times today, and for the past few days. I do this. I contract earlier and earlier with each pregnancy (I still have 12 weeks to go!), and if I go into the hospital, the contractions inevitably stop and I am sent home with condescending looks. I guess I'll drink lots of water, put my feet up, watch the Golden Globes, and pretend I don't have a bag full of papers to check . . .

Speaking of wombs . . .

Nick And The Candlestick

by Sylvia Plath

I am a miner. The light burns blue.
Waxy stalactites
Drip and thicken, tears

The earthen womb

Exudes from its dead boredom.
Black bat airs

Wrap me, raggy shawls,
Cold homicides.
They weld to me like plums.

Old cave of calcium
Icicles, old echoer.
Even the newts are white,

Those holy Joes.
And the fish, the fish-
Christ! They are panes of ice,

A vice of knives,
A piranha
Religion, drinking

Its first communion out of my live toes.
The candle
Gulps and recovers its small altitude,

Its yellows hearten.
O love, how did you get here?
O embryo

Remembering, even in sleep,
Your crossed position.
The blood blooms clean

In you, ruby.
The pain
You wake to is not yours.

Love, love,
I have hung our cave with roses.
With soft rugs-

The last of Victoriana.
Let the stars
Plummet to their dark address,

Let the mercuric
Atoms that cripple drip
Into the terrible well,

You are the one
Solid the spaces lean on, envious.
You are the baby in the barn.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Sunday . . .

I have a t-shirt that says "Sunday . . ." that's been around for over a decade. A sad confession, but true. I also have decade-old shoes I still wear, sweaters from the 90s (80s even?) that never see the light of day, and dresses from college I will certainly never wear again. We have always been on a tight budget, so there is a fear of getting rid of anything, especially clothes, because what if you actually need it again some day?

This t-shirt used to be worn (white, with a tiny script of a word) just about every Sunday when I lived in Chicago. I was dating my husband, and that day was "couples day." We'd hang out and read the paper, walk along the lake front (depending on the weather), eat at this great delicatessen that you had to wait and wait just to get into. The day was truly a day of rest.

Now our Sunday rituals are few, or maybe they just don't seem like rituals. Responsibilities? Even obligations? We try to sleep in until 7:00 and then attempt to have the kids eat something healthyish. This morning my husband and I managed to have a cup of coffee at the kitchen table, across from each other, alone, just talking. It brought me back . . .

The kids' favorite ritual is watching "This Old House" - oh how times have changed.

What Proximity Brings

j.b. rowell

Every Sunday morning, a neighbor sweeps
the side of the road, the cement edge
where leaves and trash collect, with a broom
and a bucket just for this ritual occasion.

He talks to everyone. Explains what he is doing,
why, makes sure everything is ship-shape
for the week. Nods at thank yous. Stops
at the corner and turns back, a final check.

I want to know this clockwork, a life so geared,
that on a self-appointed day, just after sunrise,
I head out to tidy periphery
and take trash home.

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