Reflecting on the use of Janus words in my April poems

Today is reflection post day for the A to Z Challenge. I enjoyed their theme and posts about games this year. Though I did not remember to do the scavenger hunt, I really liked the idea, and if anyone is still looking for a post for “bear”, I wrote a poem called Black Bear’s Branch. I also did a questions post.

Though I made it through the alphabet with Janus words (also known as contronyms, antagonyms, or auto-antonyms), exploring their uses in my poems, I didn’t find them to be as useful in turning the poem as I thought they would. Without holding both meanings of the word in mind, it’s too easy to glance over the words less familiar, or less contextual meaning, which takes the power from the twist the Janus intends.

I wish adumbrate was a more common word because it’s a great Janus, meaning both to disclose and obscure. My post that got the most likes was a puente form poem called Overwhelming Possibilities which used the Janus phrase “wind up.” My post that got the most views included my poem Put Out by Perch which was selected as a featured poem on It was an amusing rant using the Janus phrase “put out.” I think my favorite Janus used was “overlook” in my poem He is a Selfish Moon. My other favorite outcome of the challenge was discovering “Popcorn-can Coveer by Lorine Niedecker and attempting to emulate her form. In one of these concise poems I used the Janus word “terrible.”

At the end of the first week, on my birthday, I found out a friend died. That messed up my motivation and put me in a bit of a funk. Writing poems was more difficult and reading and commenting was also more challenging. Definitely my least favorite part of the challenge, but not something that could be learned from really, unless it informs me to prepare for the unexpected. I’m not sure how I would do that.

I know that many A to Z bloggers prepare their posts in advance, but I don’t have a way of doing that and combining the challenge with NaPoWriMo. I guess I could prepare alternate, off-prompt poems for each day, just in case life gets in the way–in case of emergency posts for the whole month? Writing through it, was probably a good thing. Something to think about.

Overall, April (for me) came in like a lion and went out like a lamb. I hope May will leave me focused on revision.

Just for fun, I found this song called Janus Stair by Contronym

I want to thank J Lenni Dorner for bringing my attention to the film The Professor and the Madman today. It’s an interesting story about the creation of the Oxford English Dictionary based on the book by Simon Winchester.

#NaPoWriMo Day 30: When Zeal Returns

I thought a couple of my fabric glass light boxes were nice illustrations for today’s return poem, but the way they were hanging on the wall wasn’t conducive to the photographs I wanted, so I rearranged them. It felt weird, but good, pulling them off the wall and swapping them around, plugging them in and enjoying them in a new way.

The poem

When Zeal Returns

Zeal returns at the break of dawn
before realization or consequence yawn

like a child on a swing who
soars and falls
higher and faster until
she tires or jumps
trying to fly
only to crash

Zeal returns with an ember of creation
before impossibility or discouragement’s gestation

like a comet it lights
my sky
for a while
its tail a dying
as it travels
from sight

Zeal returns when discovering the forgotten
before loss and grief get a word in

like a yo-yo on a frayed string
the return feels like
skilled control until
it rolls

Zeal returns when it does
passion and zest without cause

like flowers and leaves
sun and rain
in the spring
bring a will to begin
something, anything
and clean and plant
to kneel in the dirt
let go
of the hurt and
turn my face, arms extended
to the wind until
it burns

Then zeal returns


A to Z Challenge

zither – a musical instrument consisting of a flat wooden sound box with numerous strings stretched across it, placed horizontally and played with the fingers and a plectrum (any implement for plucking a string, such as a small piece of plastic, wood, etc.). It is used especially in central European folk music.

zydecoPopular music of southern Louisiana that combines French dance melodies, elements of Caribbean music, and the blues, played by small groups featuring the guitar, the accordion, and a washboard.

Looking for a good definition of zydeco got me going through my personal collection of not only zydeco music, but a beautiful art collection by Earl Hébert. His warm joyous paintings of Louisiana life brightened my days. His studio was next to Royal Rags, the costume shop I worked at in the French Quarter. His beautiful book Zydeco Shoes includes his paintings, recipes, and a CD of zydeco by The Lucky Playboys “Plus d’chance–Que d’esprit” meaning More Luck–Than Sense. 🙂


Prompt: Write a poem about something that returns

What a wonderful way to end this poetry challenge. I’m listening to zydeco, admiring beautiful paintings by an old friend and thinking about the return of zeal, passion, and zest for life.

PAD Challenge

Prompt: write a praise poem

Shelter in Poems, a virtual reading this evening!

Shelter in poems April 30 2020

Free virtual Event                 April 30, 2020 7:30 EDT

Academy of American Poets has an event tonight. What a great way to end NaPoWriMo. I was surprised to see names like Dulé Hill and Dan Rather on the list. I look forward to seeing which poems they read.

Enjoy This Day! Treat Yourself to some Great Poetry!

#NaPoWriMo Day 29: The penultimate poem

The poem

Total Trickster

It’s a complicated relationship
but then, isn’t every relationship–complicated
We keep it casual
He wanders over on a whim
takes a nap on my porch
either in the chair where I like to read
or the cushion on the bench
When I notice him,
I go out to say Hello
sometimes, when I open the door,
he’ll waltz right in

He’ll snuggle up to me,
put his head on my leg as I work
I cherish this time and try not to move
because if I do, he’ll leave
He gets mad if I go to the bathroom or if I eat
More often these days,
when I think we’re enjoying each other’s company
he lashes out at me
his moods change so quickly
I am often caught off guard
the language barrier can be frustrating

At the moment, he is inside my bass drum
a sign that he wants to hide
from the world as much as I do
Yesterday, I didn’t realize he was there
I thought he was outside
and he appeared in the middle of the day
The way he strutted across the room
I think he enjoyed surprising me

He’s a total trickster
changing the whims of the wind
with the flick of his tail
like Coyote, he draws in the fool with false wisdom
like the one-eyed pirate with a see-through eye patch
he prowls

He has trained me well
I do tricks for his affections
provide treats at his command
slide and click, slide and click
the glass door to his whims
all for a moment more
with this elderly feline
who chooses my company
over the chaos at home

A to Z Challenge

Yu – “An interval of the Chinese scale. The ancient Chinese divided the octave into twelve equal parts, like the semitones of our chromatic scale, which were called lu. Their scale, as commonly used, consisted, however, of only five notes, which were called koung, chang, kio, tché, and yu, and which corresponded to our F, G, A, C, D; koung or F being considered to be the normal key.” (from


Prompt: high praise to your pet

PAD Challenge

Prompt: Total (Blank)

#NaPoWriMo Day 28: When there is nothing but memories

Screenshot_2020-04-28 'In one ear and out the other' Poster by marialberg

In One Ear and Out the Other print from photograph of fabric glass by Maria L. Berg staged by Redbubble

The poem

The Best Rooms Are Too X-rated

Thinking through the bedrooms
so many bedrooms
moving and moving
trying to make something mine
I tried to settle on one
to mentally linger, loiter
describe in detail
like a capsule through time

I wanted it to be a happy place
full of growth and creative industry
accomplishment or at least good dreams
and for a moment I settled on your room
that first room
with only a mattress on the floor
we sat together in the chair
and blew bubbles through the fan
That room didn’t need anything else
for a few weeks

Then I thought of our room
before the storm
the tall ceilings and

I realized that all of the best rooms
the very best rooms
are too X-rated
to describe in this public space
for prying eyes
to savor
and embrace

The prompts

A to Z Challenge

X bracing – a constructional characteristic of a steel-string flat-top guitar established as standard by Martin around 1850.

𝄪  the symbol for a “double sharp” which means to play the note 2 half-steps higher


Prompt: write a poem about an old bedroom

PAD Challenge


  1. Write a look back poem and/or…
  2. Write a don’t look back poem. Because some folks just want to keep their eyes on the road ahead.

Reena’s Exploration Challenge

This morning, I found another prompt that I found inspiring. Over at Reena Saxena’s site, prompt # 131 is a quote that I could really relate to.

He had lost everything of value to him. There was an empty canvas on the easel, his colors and tools. What would he paint?

After Hurricane Katrina, when I had lost everything, I used fabric as my canvas. I had been working on an original technique of sewing layers and cutting that, when finished, looks like stained glass, thus “fabric glass.” The image at the top of the post “In One Ear and Out The Other” symbolizes trying to take all the bad and turn it into good.

My original pieces are all one of a kind, but I took pictures of them and loaded them onto where they make them into prints, cards, clothing, pillows and other products.


#NaPoWriMo Day 27: Massive Wonderment


Massive Wonderment (2018) photograph by Maria L. Berg

The poem

A Review of Wonderment

At first glance, it can be confusing
and a little bit scary
the rush of heightened perception
opening the senses to floods of emotion
when facing the tremendous unknown

The impressive beauty of discovery
sparking the creative mind to
sort through the behemoth array
of memories and form
new associations
each texture astronomical
each smell pythonic

In moments of wonderment
it becomes easy to sit peacefully
without imposing hurry
and enjoy each herculean sight

I applaud wonderment its mighty perseverance
its elephantine stubborness
and ability to always stay in front
of the latest trends and fads

If I must find fault
it would be that sometimes
a sense of wonder can be too massive
overwhelming, even exhausting
but that is a warbly criticism
for sleep brings recovery
So bring on the wonderment
gigantic and colossal
Highly recommended

A to Z Challenge

whole step – interval of major 2nd, two half-steps between

wah-wah – is an imitative word (or onomatopoeia) for the sound of altering the resonance of musical notes.

warble – (of a bird) sing softly and with a succession of constantly changing notes.


Prompt: a poetic review of something not usually reviewed

PAD Challenge

Prompt: write a massive poem

#NaPoWriMo Day 25: To Study This Twinkling

photograph of rhododendron

They Blush at Their Shocking Beauty (2020) photograph by Maria L. Berg

A to Z Challenge

variation(s) – the transformation of a melody or theme with changes or elaborations in harmony, rhythm, and melody.

vibration – Any rapid, repeating undulatory or tremulous movement; it is vibration that causes all sound.

virtuoso – One who is extremely skilled at performing upon an instrument


Prompt: Writing After James Schuyler’s “Hymn to Life” a prompt by Hoa Nguyen

PAD Challenge

Prompt: Write a remix poem

This prompt inspired me to look back through what I’ve written this month and the one poem that inspired a remix was the one that started with a line from the anne carson bot: A Future Voice in the Dark. Changing that first line and the title, got the words flowing into my present tense poem to go with the Hoa Nguyen prompt.

The poem

To Study This Twinkling

How long can I study this twinkling? A vibrato in time and space defining now. I remove my pajamas to put on sweats, I am on the way to the mailbox, walk to the car to make sure it starts, the red BRAKE light comes on, it roars to life, I hear “DIY Quarantine” from a voice on the radio, flip the key to off and open the door, so I won’t hear anymore. I jump out, pull the door handle to make sure it’s locked, habits leave traces of the before. I continue my journey, moss creeps across the driveway, bits of dead fir branches rest on the bushes, the mailbox has spiderwebs over the lock. I am delighted to see Poets & Writers in there. I don’t see anyone, I don’t hear a car, I hurry back. The drizzle is cold. I place the mail on the counter–wash my hands with soap and water. But the magazine? I use hand sanitizer on the magazine, but I’m not ready to sit with it yet. I hear “this is it, the apocalypse” and “I’ll pay you at another time.” Words that alligator to this moment. Uninvited, they bite right through. “I go back into the breathing method,” words of a mountain climber clinging to sanity guide me to common ground. The sun breaks through, the world completely changes. Shocks of crimson and blush, pearl and violet jar my senses as I swivel. I grab my camera and run outside. This study ends, a new one begins.

#NaPoWriMo Day 24: Nature’s Candy

mandarin oranges

A to Z Challenge

unison – interval formed by two parts on the same pitch


Prompt: write about a particular fruit

PAD Challenge

Prompt: write a nature poem

The poem

Californian Mandarin Cutie

Strong dimpled flesh in my favorite color
the perfect size for the palm of my hand
peels away revealing chalky off-white veins
and an enticing, refreshing scent
that lingers on my finger tips

I use my thumb to remove more of your coat
and both thumbs to pull you in half
each section the perfect treat
the first bite rewards with refreshing juice
tangy and sweet in unison excite the taste buds

I devour your sections
faster and faster
my fingers become sticky
your peel lays open and empty
sad evidence of my violent



#NaPoWriMo Day 23: Social Studies and the letter T

A to Z Challenge

tacet – silent, no part given for a particular instrument or voice during a section of music

Inflatable letter T person

When I was a kid little inflatable letter people came to the classroom to teach us our letters.

tie – curved line over or under two notes of the same pitch, notes are sounded once and held for the value of both
tremolo – the note is repeated as fast as possible during its duration


Prompt: write a poem about a particular letter of the alphabet, or perhaps, the letters that form a short word

Since today’s A to Z letter is T, it makes sense for me to start there.

PAD Challenge

Prompt: Social (Blank)

In a time when we are avoiding being social, I thought taking a look at Social Studies might be interesting. Social Studies is an educational discipline that includes the study of many aspects or branches of human society including: history, geography, economics, political science, philosophy and psychology.

If you want to learn more about Social Studies there’s a lot of information at PBS Learning Media. There are some cute hip-hop lessons over at Flocabulary. Ted Ed has so many interesting videos. I enjoyed Infinity according to Jorge Luis Borges this morning. The New York Times has set up a Learning Social Studies section. In other words, there is no excuse for not brushing up on our Social Studies.

I did not expect to find this Social Studies while researching social studies.

For fun, I thought I’d share this little combination of Social Studies and the letter T:

The poem

Social Studies at a Distance

Moving along a a one-way street
well-worn and familiar
so familiar your mind wanders;
your journey on remote control
Screeching to a halt
smelling burnt rubber
It’s a dead end
Looking right and left at the unknown
You idle and idle

It’s history repeating, right?
Give me liberty or give me death!
Some cry from their stalled gas-guzzlers
wearing cheap knock-offs of American flags
in unflattering cotton knits
They really mean give me liberty and
I’ll give you death
Not the same

Taking a smaller route
it curves like a hook
Some get stuck on his hook
too sick of themselves to be patient
wanting to run from what they see in the mirror
they listen to the foolish and throw
sense out the window
to see if a neighbor has a racket
to hit it back

On this route you come to a crossroad
perhaps a small cross
since no one else is coming
you get out and sip some tea with your
knowledge and beliefs
and ponder society
what it was and what it might become
you are at the tacet in your opus
and decide to go home and practice your tremolo
before turning to the terrible tarantula
and telling him to
take his tackiness to Timbuktu (sorry Timbuktu).

#NaPoWriMo Day 20: Homemade Gifts in Isolation

homemade scarf

The poem

Warm Fuzzy Thoughts of You

I pulled the scarf you made
from the cubby in the closet
something sticky found its way
onto its knits and pearls
so I gave it a cool rinse
before rubbing it to my cheek
like a pastel kiss of greeting
then wrapped its curling edges
around my neck and shoulders
like a warm, soft hug
its melange of bright colors
like hours of smiles
and fun conversation
memories of you to
comfort my isolation

The prompts

A to Z Challenge

quartet – A performing group involving four voices or instruments. A string quartet, consisting of two violins, a viola and a cello, is the most common.

quantize – Quantization is a process used in the production of digital music. To quantize, simply put, is the process by which notes performed by a human are made by the computer to more closely match the tempo and beat of the composition.


Prompt: write a poem about a homemade gift

PAD Challenge

Prompt: write an isolation poem

#NaPoWriMo Day 18: The Little Things

Writing the abstract

The poem

Ode to simple pleasures

I’m writing a thank you note
to each drop of rain
falling from the thick grey sky
nestling on the blades of grass
gathering into little streams
wriggling down the windows

a missive of gratitude to
breakfast ice cream
cool sweetness on my tongue
soothing calm down my throat
a chunk of chocolate and toffee
comforting indulgence
pushes away remnants of
last nights anger and hurt

a memo of acknowledgment
for piles of blankets
and stacks of pillows
the soft and the warm and the cuddly
and finally, a special shout-out
to words, all of your words
that will keep me company
today, I am grateful


A to Z Challenge

piu – more
poco a poco – little by little
presto – very fast


Prompt: an ode to life’s small pleasures

PAD Challenge

Prompt: write a message poem