What Is She?

With her black and white speckles
and her stubborn streak,
Bea leads the way,
jangling as she trots,
tail unflagging,
always on her toes.
She plows headfirst into each moment,
black patches covering both eyes and ears,
sniffing every splotch on the sidewalk.

When people ask, "What is she?",
we tell them what the shelter said, but nobody believes it.
They can’t resist a guess: "Maybe pointer?"

When she meets another dog,
she plops to the ground, tail a metronome,
waits for the signal it’s okay to play,
takes the first step in the introduction dance,
risks a quick pounce, feet splayed, head down,
woofs, and bounces.

What is she? We don’t know.
She’s a mutt.
She’s Bea.
She’s ours.


According to the calendar, it’s spring.
Outside, the sky is dull and wintry gray.
Darkness lingers over everything.
We haven’t seen the sun at all today.
But faith makes us perform our yearly rite:
We hang sliced oranges outside and wait.
At last we are rewarded with the sight
Of one brave oriole nibbling the bait.
It dips into the fruit with pointed bill,
Tips back its head to drink, starts at a sound.
With orange feathers fluffed against the chill,
It’s brighter than the fruit, and just as round.
Ah, there it is! The sun we hoped to see,
Perched outside our window in a tree.

Frigid dancers sway
to rushing, burbling music
in lacy tutus


Brilliant scilla weave
a blue cascading carpet
for spring to walk on.

Snowdrop Sonnet

Just when I think I cannot bear the sight
Of one more drift or crusted bank of snow,
When all the world is camouflaged in white,
And clouds pour shadows on the earth below,
When winter’s stillness muffles every sound,
And winter’s cold has gripped me to the bone,
I stop to catch my breath and look around:
It seems that winter’s all I’ve ever known.
But there, beneath a clump of leafless trees,
Nestled in a niche the wind swept bare,
Rising up like hopeful memories,
Snowdrops dance on gusts of frosty air,
Reminding me that winter’s end is near
And sweet green spring will once again appear.

Some of My Favorite Poetry Books

Poetry Collections for Children

Cullinan, Bernice, editor: A Jar of Tiny Stars: Poems by NCTE Award-Winning Poets

Dotlich, Rebecca Kai: Lemonade Sun and Other Summer Poems, In the Spin of Things, Over in the Pink House: New Jump Rope Rhymes, When Riddles Come Rumbling

Esbensen, Barbara Juster: Cold Stars and Fireflies: Poems of the Four Seasons, Dance With Me, Echoes for the Eye: Poems to Celebrate Patterns in Nature, Swing Around the Sun, Who Shrank My Grandmother’s House? Poems of Discovery, Words With Wrinkled Knees

Fleischman, Paul: Joyful Noise: Poems for Two Voices, I Am Phoenix: Poems for Two Voices, Big Talk: Poems for Four Voices

George, Kristine O’Connell: Old Elm Speaks: Tree Poems, Little Dog Poems, The Great Frog Race and Other Poems, Hummingbird Nest, Little Dog and Duncan Poems, Swimming Upstream: Middle School Poems

Graham, Joan Bransfield: Splish Splash, Flicker Flash: Poems

Harley, Avis: Leap into Poetry: More ABCs of Poetry

Heard, Georgia, selected by: This Place I Know: Poems of Comfort, Falling Down the Page: A Book of List Poems

Hoberman, Mary Ann: The Llama Who Had No Pajama

Hopkins, Lee Bennett: Best Friends, Marvelous Math, and many others

Hudson, Wade, selected by: Pass It On: African-American Poetry for Children

Hughes, Langston: The Dream Keeper and Other Poems

Janeczko, Paul B.: A Poke in the I: A Collection of Concrete Poems

Kuskin, Karla: Dogs & Dragons Trees & Dreams, Near the Window Tree: Poems and Notes, The Sky is Always in the Sky, Moon, Have You Met My Mother

Lewis, J. Patrick: Doodle Dandies: Poems that Take Shape, The Bookworm's Feast, A Hippopotamusn't and Other Animal Verses, and many others

Lyne, Sandford, compiled by: Ten-Second Rainshowers: Poems by Young People

Michael, Pamela, edited by: River of Words: Young Poets and Artists on the Nature of Things

Prelutsky, Jack, selected by: The Beauty of the Beast, The 20th Century Children’s Poetry Treasury

Ruddell, Deborah: Today at the Bluebird Cafe: A Branchful of Birds

Salas, Laura Purdie: Stampede: Poems to Celebrate the Wild Side of School

Schertle, Alice: Advice for a Frog, Keepers, How Now, Brown Cow?, I Am the Cat, A Lucky Thing, Button Up! Wrinkled Rhymes

Sidman, Joyce: Song of the Water Boatman & Other Pond Poems, Butterfly Eyes and Other Secrets of the Meadow, This Is Just to Say: Poems of Apology and Forgiveness, Dark Emperor & Other Poems of the Night, and more

Singer, Marilyn: Fireflies at Midnight, Central Heating: Poems about Fire and Warmth, Footprints on the Roof: Poems About the Earth, Mirror Mirror, and more

Spinelli, Eileen: Feathers: Poems About Birds and others

Yolen, Jane & Andrew Fusek Peters: Here's a Little Poem : A Very First Book of Poetry

Poetry Collections for Young Adults

Janeczko, Paul B., Selected by: This Delicious Day: 65 Poems, The Place My Words Are Looking For: What Poets Say About And Through Their Work, Very Best (Almost) Friends: Poems of Friendship, Wherever Home Begins: 100 Contemporary Poems

Livingston, Myra Cohn: I Am Writing a Poem About...

Nelson, Marilyn: Carver: A Life in Poems, Fortune's Bones: The Manumission Requiem, A Wreath for Emmett Till

Nye, Naomi Shihab, Editor: What Have You Lost?, This Same Sky, The Tree Is Bigger Than You Are

Nye, Naomi Shihab and Janeczko, Paul B., Editors: I Feel a Little Jumpy Around You: A Book of Her Poems and His Poems Collected in Pairs

Rosenberg, Liz, Editor: Earth-Shattering Poems, The Invisible Ladder: An Anthology of Contemporary American Poems for Young Readers With the Poets' Own Photos and Commentary

Books About Writing Poetry

Ciardi, John: How Does a Poem Mean?

Janeczko, Paul B., compiled by: Poetry from A to Z: A Guide for Young Writers, Seeing the Blue Between: Advice and Inspiration for Young Poets

Janeczko, Paul B.: How to Write Poetry, A Kick in the Head: An Everyday Guide to Poetic Forms

Kennedy, X. J.: An Introduction to Poetry

Koch, Kenneth: Making Your Own Days: The Pleasures of Reading and Writing Poetry

Livingston, Myra Cohn: Poem-Making: Ways to Begin Writing Poetry

Oliver, Mary: A Poetry Handbook: A Prose Guide to Understanding and Writing Poetry, Rules for the Dance: A Handbook for Writing and Reading Metrical Verse

Turco, Lewis: The New Book of Forms: A Handbook of Poetics

Some of My Published Poems

“Five Little Wishes for You,” Highlights for Children, March 2004

“We Are the Early Risers,” Stories from Where We Live: The Great Lakes, Milkweed Editions, 2003

“Foggy Vision,” Cricket, August 2002

“I’m Growing,” Ladybug, October 1999

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