Community Collection 9: MAKING CONNECTIONS with Cynthia Grady

Welcome to Poetry Month 2018 at No Water River!
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Today’s Guest…

is a poet and librarian known for her moving poetry and prose on historical nonfiction topics. Please welcome …






  • Recall an encounter you have had with an animal—any animal except a pet or someone else’s pet that you know well. It could be a stray cat, like the one I encountered in the woods. It could be a fly buzzing along a windowsill. An animal at the zoo. Anything.


  • Next—think about a problem or change in your life that you don’t understand and are having trouble adjusting to. I chose to think about my mother before we moved her into a long-term care hospital. She was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, a condition where people, mostly older people, have trouble with their memory, and they sometimes start doing strange things. My mother had been buying batteries.


  • Now – find a way to connect the two– your animal encounter to your problem.



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In My Classroom

Like the tiger I saw on exhibit at the Washington Zoo,
he paces back and forth.
He lunges at the door.
His roar frightens his classmates as, unlike with the tiger,
no bars protect them.
His actions speak, but no one listens;
he does not belong in this cage.
He does not understand why he is here.
Neither do I.

© 2018 Colleen Murphy

Bear With Me

Since my recovery,
from the tumbling,
our mountain.
I sense an urge
to scale this
monster once more.
our mountain.
And there she is
Momma Bear,
doesn’t run,
doesn’t move,
our eyes lock,
I make hustle,
the leaves rustle,
my mind travels back
to the fall.
Bear in mind,
I’m a bear of very
little brain.

© 2018 Robyn Campbell


The bearded dragon
clings to her shoulder—
his human pedicab.

He depends on her,
desperation defined
by sharp nails that sting.

Curious, he is safe
to learn about the world
from his lofty perch.

My daughter can’t explain,
but I know—
she is a dragon too—

safe to explore her world
but from a dependent cling
that may sting.

© Sherry Howard

Bird Lab

Now I suspect the crows mistook
my small black umbrella for another
corvid, because every Sunday they greeted
me with the same cacophony of caws
as if I’d arrived to feed them with a dead
crow tucked under my arm saying,
“Hey, I’ll show you a murder of crows.”
No wonder they squawked.
No wonder Wasco always bit me.
But back then I feared they’d perceived
some darker side of me I couldn’t yet see.

Fear can fool you into seeing what’s
not there – or make you avoid what is,
which is why I still imagine I’m
that young woman striding across
campus in the rain, feeling a strange
affinity for Wasco’s slick-feathered
kin swooping and cawing her past
the fountain, past the library, and into
the quad filled this time of year with

the pale pink of cherry blossoms.

© 2018 Gabi Snyder


I don’t wait for a rider.
I don’t have an empty space
above the curve of my spine

made for you to sit in –
it’s my back.
The air rushes over

my spine as I run.
Maybe my mane tickles,
my back in the wind

but it’s not for you!

Like the wild one,
an idea flies across
the space of my brain

open to the whispers
the tears of memory
the longing to capture

but now it’s away –
and not yet for me.

© 2018 Carol Coven Grannick


I watched her grow for three seasons,
munching away mostly in safe areas–
Occasionally I had to run her out.

When winter set in I saw her hunkering down.
If I gave her space, there she’d sit stoically–
Braving cold, in her heavy-lined coat, and fine-twitching nose.

But move a step to close, off she’d scamper,
away from our familiar universe
as if distressed by the sudden change.

I haven’t seen her for sometime now–
Although the weathers changing–trying to warm–plants emerging,
nature’s balance seems slightly off kilter.

I wonder if she’s out there–
Does she notice this unnatural swing in nature?
Will she adapt to it and continue, or will she flounder?

I wonder about our hectic pace of life…
Are our kinetic engagements having an ill affect on the animals around us?
Can they sense this unnatural urgency we have filled our lives with?

© 2018 Michelle Kogan


Wild goose waddles
Stares suspiciously

Wild goose honks
“Come no closer.”

Clucking behind his
Long bobbing neck and
Out-stretched wings,
His strange tribe,
Seventeen hens,
Cackle their alarm.

Wild goose waits
I smile, step back.

I too belong to a different tribe
Once homeless
They invited me to roost
In kindness
And called me,



The duckling shivered by the side of the road, alone, bereft.
I bent over, picked him up, my pregnant belly bulging.
I held my toddler’s hand, and we waddled towards the water.
And there she was, swimming in a stream, majestic in her motherhood, followed by seven ducklings, a hole in her heart for the missing one.
I lurched forward, lowing the duckling into the water.
 “Cheep cheep cheep”  He called for his mother.
She turned her head, eyes narrowing at me.
Hissssssss!  Swish!  She flew like an arrow to my heart.
I grabbed my child, struggling to lift her over my pregnant belly.
 “I took care of your baby.  You leave mine alone!” My primal instincts kicked in.
Mama duck honked and hissed and dove.
I ran as only a mother can run, my heart pounding.
We’re not so different, mama duck and I.
Both afraid and determined to protect our own
Both loyal and loving
Both mothers

© Kirstine Call 2018


It was a different time.
My mother let me out to play
by myself at the edge
of the friendly woods
across from our home,
the church.  I know
I encountered blueberries,
bushes popping with
sweetness at 3-year-old
eye level.  Did I also meet
a snake, thickly coiled or
slithering, hissing with
alarm at 3-year-old
danger?  I carry a coil of
horror that strikes hard
in the presence of snakes.

draft © Heidi Mordhorst 2018


Down by the river
In cramped quarters
Telephones ring.
Men and women –
Boys, really, and girls

Quickly pick up.
Voices cry out:
Help me!  I’m too high;
Someone followed me;
And then… he raped me.

A young woman, sensitive
As fresh burned skin,
Calmly tries on comfort:
Stay cool.  Talk to me.
Breathe, just breathe.

All night long, she cares,
Consoles, as her heart
Races, perspiration blurs
The  worn referral cards.
During a silence still

As glass, she looks out
Over the river, sees
Herself floating downstream.
At shift’s end she exits.

© 2018 Dianne Moritz

A bat swooped into my classroom.
Zoom!  Thwap!  Thump!  Confused, bemused, disoriented.
Children screamed.
Was this nature or a cruel joke?
I sat silent and still,
mesmerized, hypnotized by the back and forth and
back and forth of the broom trailing the bat.
But how?
How did the bat know?
How did the bat know it was Halloween?

© Kirstine Call 2018

Vicarious Cat

It was a perfect sunny day. The kind to draw a small child outside.
The cat we loved was the neighbors’ across the street, and there he was,
in his own front yard, weaving oddly.
He was a fellow who owned the world, a friend to everyone, and often
he would run across to us
and we would “borrow” him,
bringing out the bag of toys,
the ones saved from our own cat who had died.
Catnip sacks. Dancing wires that bobbed like flies. Fur mice
which he would take
and run away with
crossing the street
to drop them on his doormat.
But today he was weaving oddly.
We noticed the minute we stepped out the door,
although he was far away.
Crossing the street to investigate, we saw that he was bleeding
by a car, obviously.
In our quiet neighborhood, cars are the only predators.
And you, the child in this story, said, “Why is his nose red?”
Years later you would remember only that “His nose was red.”
The neighbors were not home,
so we left them a message on the phone
and rushed him—our friend, our vicarious cat—to the vet
promising to pay the bill ourselves if necessary.
But nothing could be done.
You were quite small. Thank goodness all you noticed
was his red nose. His injury, his mortal wound
nothing more than a color to you.

© 2018 Heather Kinser


Cynthia Grady writes poetry, fiction, and nonfiction for children. After fourteen years as the middle school librarian at Sidwell Friends School in Washington, DC, she relocated to New Mexico, where she lives with her partner and two house rabbits. When not reading and writing, you might find Cynthia gardening, sewing, and making music.

Her most recent book, WRITE TO ME: LETTERS FROM JAPANESE AMERICAN CHILDREN TO THE LIBRARIAN THEY LEFT BEHIND, is now available in all the usual places. 

Discover more about the author and her books at
(adapted from the author’s website)



A touching story about Japanese American children who corresponded with their beloved librarian while they were imprisoned in World War II internment camps.

When Executive Order 9066 is enacted after the attack at Pearl Harbor, children’s librarian Clara Breed’s young Japanese American patrons are to be sent to prison camp. Before they are moved, Breed asks the children to write her letters and gives them books to take with them. Through the three years of their internment, the children correspond with Miss Breed, sharing their stories, providing feedback on books, and creating a record of their experiences.

Using excerpts from children’s letters held at the Japanese American National Museum, author Cynthia Grady presents a difficult subject with honesty and hope.(from the


Enslaved African Americans longed for freedom, and that longing took many forms—including music. Drawing on biblical imagery, slave songs both expressed the sorrow of life in bondage and offered a rallying cry for the spirit.  (from





This rich and intricate collection of poems chronicles the various experiences of American slaves. Drawn together through imagery drawn from quilting and fiber arts, each poem is spoken from a different perspective: a house slave, a mother losing her daughter to the auction block, a blacksmith, a slave fleeing on the Underground Railroad. Each poem is supplemented by a historical note. (from
“A powerful grouping of thought-provoking poems and brilliantly designed paintings.” (Kirkus, starred review)





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“These Woods” and prompts copyright © by Cynthia Grady
Copyright on community collection poems held by authors indicated. All rights reserved.
Other post content © 2018 Renée M. LaTulippe or as indicated. All rights reserved.
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