Sunday, April 11, 2010

Sunday Poetry Post

Monday will be the 16th time I take a bunch (81 this year) of sixth graders off to the woods for 3 days.

Click for larger

The Microscope
by Maxine Kumin

Anton Leeuwenhoek was Dutch.
He sold pincushions, cloth, and such.
The waiting townsfolk fumed and fussed
As Anton’s dry goods gathered dust.

He worked, instead of tending store,
At grinding special lenses for
A microscope. Some of the things
He looked at were: mosquitoes’ wings,
the hairs of sheep, the legs of lice,
the skin of people, dogs, and mice;
ox eyes, spiders’ spinning gear,
fishes’ scales, a little smear
of his own blood, and best of all,
the unknown, busy, very small
bugs that swim and bump and hop
inside a simple water drop.

Impossible! Most Dutchmen said.
This Anton’s crazy in the head!
We ought to ship him off to Spain!
He says he’s seen a housefly’s brain!
He says the water that we drink
Is full of bugs! He’s mad, we think!

They called him dumkopf, which means dope.

That’s how we got the microscope.


  1. Good morning Jim, I like the poem this week.

    Taking 81 6th graders out to the woods. You have far more patience than I would ever think of having. Good luck on the trip.

    Well yesterday was my first full day home from the hospital and we had our annual sewer pipe clog. My brother tried to flush it out by running a garden hose and some attachment he bought for it. The half bath off the den ended up flooding the whole den. At least this time I didn't have to do mopping up and water removal. There are some good things to be said for having you leg full of metal. :)

    Hope ever one has a good day ahead of them.

  2. Jim, How Fun. Lot's of work and a headache at times but such a fantastic experience for the kiddos. Fabuloso Teacher Be U.

    FM--Keep the leg elevated and may the drain flush soon. We've got the drain from the washing machine clogged here so that will need tending this morning.
    It's always something.

    Beth--Nuts is a relative term. Takes one to appreciate one, I say.

    Maria--may the flying fingers magic continue today on the keyboard.

    CF--Hope the garden is Springing into action.

    Waves to all as off to work on editing.

  3. Sorry about plugged drains and flooded rooms - ugh! But it's so nice to have Family Man make first tracks through the VGW! Keep that leg up and milk it for all it's worth, Fam. Let someone else take care of things for a change.

    Thanks, Lisa. Normal is a relative term...

    Drove an hour to Ft Myers to hear a new musician last night. And eat sinful food. Fun to do something different. Today, back to work. Maybe buy some mulch to make the front of the house picture-worthy.

    Kudos for introducing kids to nature, Jim. And a cute poem!

    Off to start my day-

  4. Wow, kids + woods = fab teacher! Kudos to you, Jim. (Of course, my brain goes to the musical, "Into the Woods").

    Spending the day resting--my back is unhappy. My brain also unhappy as the story's not done. :( Think I'll take Wednesday off and finish everything, including amended tax return.

    Beth - you are so not nuts. Doing what makes you happy is sane. Just because it doesn't line up with "the norm" (whatever that might be!) doesn't make you nuts. It makes you, you. Thank goodness for individuality!

    For a Sunday poem, here's Neil Gaiman reading his most excellent poem "Instructions", accompanied by illustrations from the new book of the same.

    Happy rest day, all!

  5. email address change:

    nanpickard @

  6. This comment has been removed by the author.

  7. Love the poem, love the photo, Jim. My son loved grades school, and his top fav memory is the 5-day trip the sixth graders took to "Wildwood," a local camp/retreat. I thought the teaches were heroes. He came back with painted fingernails. :)

    Family Man, I missed the news about your hospital stay, but I'm so glad you apparently emerged in better shape, and I'm sorry you can't say the same for the house!

  8. Thanks, Maria. It's when I try to conform to what I believe is "normal" that I get in trouble. You think I'd learn by now!!

    One of my favorite field trips was in 7th grade. Our social studies teacher owned a farm on an island off the coast of Japan, and he took his classes to spend a week there. Unfortunately his reputation was tarnished later in life, but my memories of him were as a generous, wise, fun teacher.

  9. I seem to be way behind - FM, let others do for you. Rest and get better.

    Jim, I am very impressed. I can't imagine taking one sixth grader into the woods for one day!

    Maria, hope that the back feels better soon. Bad backs are a pain :)

    And normal - what is that?

  10. Wow Jim, 81 6th graders? I hope you got backup & lots of it. I think I'd wear myself out being in Sheltie mode all weekend. That was a clever little poem; unfortunately, Anton's neighbors are alive & well to this day.

    My foot was hurting so bad this morning I got Reality the crutch out of the closet, but it got to hurting less after the ibuprofen kicked in. I guess I'll call out of work tomorrow & go see the doc about it.

    FM, sorry to hear about your drainage issues. I think a plumber's snake is a better tool for clogs than a backflush. My foot keeps me out of the chickens, your leg keeps you from having to clean up your brother's mess…

    Happy editing, Lisa!

    Beth, crazy is doing the same thing & expecting a different result. The house thing isn't working, so you're trying something different — sounds sane to me!

    Interesting contribution, Maria — is Neil Gaiman now writing children's fantasy?

    Nancy, the 6th grade trips here are bus trips for whatever reason. I got tapped to help when it was The Boy's turn — we went to Oak Ridge and that was a blast (not literally!).

    Dunno what I'm going to do with myself for the time left before Mason wakes up, but I'm sure I'll come up with something. Later, y'all!

  11. I love the poem. Much better than the poem on a similar topic in Possession (Swammerdam).

    All those kids in the woods. Reminds me why I hated camping with the Girl Scouts. No alone time allowed. But have as fun as you are able to have and hopefully you will convert them all to woods lovers. It didn't work with me but that mostly has to do with the bugs ... :)
    I prefer pictures. Even of the bugs.

  12. FM, glad to hear you're back at the manor. Sorry that the manor's plumbing isn't.

    Lisa, it is insane in the week before the trip, exhausting during the trip, and worth every minute of it.

    Beth, I teach a three week unit of "poetry appreciation" to my sixth graders. In other words, I don't try to teach the kids how to write poetry. That poem, like so many others that I use here are from the anthology I use, Reflections on a Gift of Watermelon Pickle, and Other Modern Verse.

    I think of Into the Woods every year when we take off, but then I just react for the next three days.

    Nancy, some things that happen at camp, stay at camp.

    Dina, the days are easy. Getting them to settle down at night is the challenge.

    Farf, Sorry about your foot. I know I'll sleep on Wednesday night because I know Monday and Tuesday night's sleep is only theoretical. Tomorrow, Sheltie mode - on.

    Mary, you're right about alone time. It is hard to find.

  13. Bit of a drive by, I'm afraid. Last Friday was shearing (poor nearly nekkid alpacas - and of course the temps just dropped). Yesterday I pulled out the old bath tub and put the new one in place temporarily until I can get together all the materials to tile the floor and walls around the tub. Today I picked up our new Nature Loo (composting toilet) and started assembling the pipes and joints. And, since I have a trailer rented, I'm doing a run to the garbage tip tomorrow, plus more work on the plumbing.


    Jim, me and that many kids for three days would not be a good thing. I can barely manage the niece beyond 24 hours without wanting some "quiet time" and a few beers. So bless you for doing it so I don't have to. Oh, and I love science poems (I've even wrote a few with a scientific flare - like the one where I put Schroedinger's cat in a Skinner box).

    Family man - sounds like you have a zipper on your leg. I suggest drawing a "pull" at the top and orange blue-jean style stitches along the edges (and a Levis tag on your butt).

    Maria, I love Neil Gaiman. I only recently read "The Graveyard book". I really enjoyed it. And of course we saw Coraline in 3D.

    Beth, normal is nothing to aspire to (and wouldn't even if I could).

  14. Hi Lori, I hope the alpacas grow their wool back quickly. Thanks for the link. I'll share it with my students when we get back from the woods.