Grammar Lessons With Lark: poetry

Lark caught me again. She wanted to teach me more grammar lessons. I like Lark, I do! But grammar’n’me… well, we ain’t best friends.


Riley was there. She tried to help. But there’s only so much a pup can do inna face of grammar. I told her I forgave her. She wouldn’t leave.



“Come, Kestrel.  Sit down.  We’re going to do something fun today.  Remember I said we’re going to write poems?”

Umm…poems are fun?  I looked at Riley.  She whined a li’l at me.  I wanted to be out, playin’ inna field.  But I took a deep breath.  I could poem.


Lark talked about how poems used words to show pictures an’ feelings.  There could be lots of description words (she called ’em “adjectives,” an’ I kinda sorta remember her talkin’ bout ’em last time we met).  There could be lotsa action words (verbs).  An’ there’d be things or people or ideas (nouns).

Some poems are really short, an’ some are really long.  She started speakin’ words outta the blue that didn’t make much sense.  Then I realized they were a poem she was givin’ as an example.  She started with a short one first.

            An old silent pond…
A frog jumps into the pond,
splash! Silence again.

It made me giggle.  I like frogs.  They’re cute an’ green.  I didn’t know you could write poems about frogs.  I thought they hadda be super long an’ serious an’ all emotional.  Wren would be good at poems.  But frog poem was written by a super famous, really old dude named Basho.  So maybe poems don’t gotta be mushy-squishy an’ stuff.

Then she gave one a bit longer, but not super long.

I have eaten
the plums
that were in
the icebox
and which
you were probably
for breakfast
Forgive me
they were delicious
so sweet
and so cold
Hmm.  I liked that one too.  Maybe I could do this poem thing!  Lark sharin’ poetry seemed like it might be a good idea!
But then Lark started sayin’ one that didn’t make no sense to me.  I guess it hadda lotta emotions an’ descriptions an’ things, but there was just too much.  I’ll share it, cuz I know I outta, so everybody else gets a good idea bout what poems really are, but I gotta say I dunno what it means.
Through the artist’s eyes,
we catch this breath of fire,
lifting water up to flight.
This dead weight sinks our histories
back into deep sleep, hidden away
to dream of repair.
Waking, we clutch at the real
weight of a movable flood, catching
streams that pour through metal
still cold to the touch. Time
takes little care over us. Current
flowing, its song sighs across weft,
warp, wrinkle, fold. It collars us
in its minutae.
Iron, pierced for steam’s escape!
Ease across what was once shift,
now skirt, scarf, shirt sleeve, sheet.
Warm what will soon cool.
Stiffen what will turn soft.
Smoothe our way, and drape us
in the dignity
of this new day.
I told her I didn’t know if I could do it after she said that one.  She suggested I outta stay with writin’ shorter poems at first.  She said what she shared with me were written by people that were good poets, ones you could find in books an’ all.  I shouldn’t worry bout tryin’ to write like them.  I outta write like myself, using things I saw an’ felt an’ though.  Then she went off to help the Hittys with cleanin’ an’ organizin’ cupboards.  I got left with a pencil an’ some paper.
It was tough.  I stared at the fireplace.  I stared at the bricks.  I stared at the cracks inna ceiling.  I thought bout fightin’ an’ monsters an’ swords an’ traps.  (I wanna try settin’ more traps for monsters, to lure them inna places where it’s gonna be easier to fight ’em instead of always fightin’ inna places where they’re comfortable.)
But that was gettin’ me sidetracked.  I hadda think poems.  Monsters didn’t make good poems.  I didn’t think they would.  Shiny wires an’ sharp swords.  An’…umm….
Nope.  I was stuck again.  This poeming thing was tough!
I tried different ways of thinkin’, hopin’ somethin’ would maybe gimme a different idea or I’d find how poet people think better.



Then I remembered Lark sayin’ somethin’ bout how I outta write what I know.  So I sat up again, thinkin’ bout what I know.  Riley was onna desk, so I played with her some, pettin’ her soft fur an’ givin’ her puppy kisses.  I didn’t wanna play too hard, cuz she’d get noisy, an’ for sure Lark would realize I wasn’t really poeming.  Then, alla sudden, somethin’ kinda popped inna my head.  I wrote it down quick, so it wouldn’t get away again.

Li’l bit after, Lark came back downstairs.  She said she’d written a short poem called a haiku, an’ asked if I wanna hear it.  I did.  I was hopin’ she wouldn’t think too hard bout why Riley was sittin’ onna desk.

She coughed a tiny bit, then said:

Bare winter branches
Stark against gray winter sky:
Crusted, frost-seared fields.

Wow!  That was nice an’ pretty.  It was like I was standin’ inna field, lookin’ at the trees.   Lark’s good at poeming!  I wasn’t so sure bout what I’d written, but I hadda share it.  At least she didn’t ask me to read it out loud.  She took the paper instead an’ read it quiet to herself.

When she was done, she just kinda stopped an’ looked at me.  Then she looked at Riley.  I was playin’ with my puppy again.


Then she laughed an’ said I did good.  She liked that it rhymed.  An’ that was it for our grammar lesson.  She did add that she was gonna hafta re-think how our lessons were goin’, cuz she wasn’t sure her teachin’ was havin’ the effect she wanna make.  I feel a li’l bad about that, cuz it sorta means I’m not a good student, but that’s ok.  Cooper says we all got subjects we like better’n’ others.  An’ it’s ok, so long as we try our best with things that are new.

Riley an’ me went out inna sun-soaked fields an’ ran around, chasin’ butterflies an’ playin’ in mud puddles til we were so hot, we hadda flop down in some shade an’ watch clouds floatin’ by.

Oh, yeah!  The poem!

Riley is small and sweet,
A perfect little ball of fun.
But Riley is not good to eat.
Riley is not a plum.

Hope maybe everybody else can try writin’ some poems too.  They’re kinda fun.  Sorta.


Grammar Lessons with Lark

Lark told me, when we were goin’ through Grammy Happy’s old house, that I outta talk with her some bout grammar an’ lessons an’ writin’ an’ stuff.  She likes writin’, tho, so I didn’t figure I was exactly bad at writin’ or nothin’.  But even Cooper said once (or maybe twice) that sometimes I didn’t write too good.  I wrote good stuff, but its…um… presentation wasn’t alla what it could be.

They hadda point.  I figured talkin’ to Lark at least couldn’t hurt.  It’d only help.

But grammar–good grammar–is tough.  It’s got lotsa rules an’ limits an’ don’t-dos an’ stuff.  There’s danglin’ participles an’ subject-verb agreements (whadda ya do if they disagree??  how bad’s that argument gonna be?!) an’ gerunds an’ verbs an’ nouns an’ comma splices an’ stuff.  Loads an’ loads of stuff.

I’m gonna give it a shot, but I ain’t makin’ no promises.

Lark spends loads of time at her writin’ desk over inna big house, with stuff like a typewriter an’ a computer an’ sometimes a notebook.  I went lookin’ for her there.


There she was, tappin’ onna typewriter keys.  Actually, she was sorta starin’ off at the wall.  I hadda clear my throat an’ cough a li’l bit to get her attention.  Hitty Lily an’ Lily Too were there, sittin’ quiet in their chairs.  They said that she does that a lot–sorta starin’ off at nothin’ or a cobweb or a crack inna wall.

But she was right happy to see me.

“Are you here for lessons?” she asked.

Maybe…  is it gonna be hard?


She said no, grammar wasn’t hard.  She told me to think of it sorta like practicin’ with a sword to get better at fightin’ monsters.  It feels kinda funny an’ clunky at first, but when you keep at it, things get easier an’ easier.  Sword doesn’t feel so heavy an’ your muscles aren’t quite so sore.

I said I’d try, but–swords an’ pens?  Really?

Lark started off sayin’ she really liked my blog.  Said it had good images an’ action an’ voice an’ stuff.  But she thought I outta work on stuff like not usin’ double negatives an’ rememberin’ to add my “G”s onna end of gerunds (wait…whatsa gerund??) an’ not forgettin’ to add the “d” on “and,” cuz ‘an’ is a participle, not a conjunction.

I just started blinkin’ fast.  This wasn’t nothin’ like sword fightin’ or even like sword practice.

I was about to bolt when she hopped up outta her chair an’ pushed me down instead.  Then I was trapped, an’ there was nowhere to run.  My heart was thuddin’ in my chest like there was a monster creepin’ up behind me.


She said this was my new trainin’ ground, then she leaned over an’ typed a address inna computer.  A page popped up alla bout grammar an’ writin’.  She said we’d look at partsa speech first, like nouns an’ verbs an’ stuff.  We weren’t gonna do tons each day, cuz nobody learns good if they try’n cram too much in they head atta time (an’ she said teachers weren’t good if they tried teachin’ too much at once, neither).

Nouns are persons, places, things, or ideas.

Verbs do actions.

Adjectives describe nouns.

(she said that wasn’t alla parts, but we were only gonna do those three today)

She talked bout ’em, gave me examples, had me read some bits an’ paragraphs bout each kinda thing.  Then I gotta take a test bout ’em!  I don’t like tests too much, but this wasn’t too bad.  It helped that, when I got stumped, I’d look up at Lark an’ we’d talk some more bout what was what.  An’ it was nice.  She didn’t make me feel dumb or nothin’, even when I didn’t know the answer.


I think verbs are my favorite.  They make things happen.  They got spunk, an’ courage, an’ heart.  Lark says they’re important cuz they make writing active an’ give it energy.  Without good verbs, you got a limp mess.  What’d she call it? Passive.  Kinda like a mouse inna corner.  I like mice all right, but I don’t wanna be a corner mouse.  I wanna be a field mouse instead, or a house  mouse stealin’ crumbs.

But you can’t write with just verbs.  You gotta have nouns to make the verbs matter.  They’re the things makin’ the verbs act, or bein’ acted upon (cool word, right? “upon”).  Lark says lotsa sentences start with a noun doin’ an action.  Noun-Verb.  You don’t gotta sentence without them both. Fly jump climb eat run go miss doesn’t make sense.  Somethin’s gotta be doin’ alla that actin’.  An’ that’s where nouns come in!

That makes sense.  Most people put ’em together without thinkin’, like apples an’ cheese or rice an’ beans.  But it’s good to know what you’re doin’ an why, instead of just doin’ it.  (Lark started talkin’ bout how the nouns an’ the verbs gotta agree with each other too, but she did’t say much bout that right now, cuz she could see it was gonna give me a headache)

Adjectives are, like, words that describe nouns.  They make the picture all pretty an’ specific an’ stuff.  I hadda look round the room an’ write down adjectives.  White walls. Old typewriter. Green eyes. Wooden Hitty. Rumpled rug.  Soft voice.  (There’s adjectives for alla senses, like smellin’ an’ tastin’ an’ hearin’, not just seein’.)

Then Lark told me I was doin’ good, an’ maybe next time we’d try writin’ a poem or somethin’.  A poem!  I ain’t never written a poem.  She says it’ll be fun.  I guess we’ll see.  I still think fightin’ a monster’s way easier.  But this is pretty cool, too.  I’m glad Lark’s helpin’ me some.