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This Phoenix Speaks

Seven years in the making, my first published book, This Phoenix Speaks , is now a reality. The tireless and tiring work invested to ma...

three for one

On this last day of National Poetry Month for 2016, I would like to share three poems that I wrote with the junior high and high school classes that I teach. We were studying the poem, "He Wishes for the Cloths of Heaven" by William Butler Yeats this week, and worked on imitating his repetition/rhyme scheme to create new poems. On the last day of poetry month for school, I asked the students to give me four random words to set my end rhyme, and then we all worked on writing our poems at the same time. I did give them a bit of a head start by giving instruction and sharing some thoughts before I began, but it was definitely a good competition. 

I'd like to share all three of my competition pieces with you. I hope you have found as much joy in poetry this month as I have. Trying new things, reading new and old poems, it has all been a growing experience. Thank you for being part of my experience as well. It has been wonderful! Enjoy! 

Sunshine and Mountains

A citrus sunshine day with lime,
Tangy with a splash of happy day.
We smile and shine adding lime
To the mix of lemons for a lemonade day. 

We could sit and cry all day in a chair,
A lovely purple crying chair, but the mountain
Keeps calling us to stand up from the chair,
To no longer sit still, to forever climb the purple shadow mountain.

To Eat and Drink

Knowledge—truth, something we chew,
When it all is shown—comes into light.
The world doesn't seem so bad—no longer can chew
Our hearts to bits—now there's only light. 

Walking together on green grass so moist, 
Softly, quietly, perfectly filling this cup
To overflowing, a life no longer dried up—moist—
Saturated— yet still perforated—a completely full cup. 

Lunch Date 

Held within a dream like peaches and cream, 
You and me, connecting over pizza
In a temporary moment, smooth as whipped cream
On hot chocolate, with lingering thoughts of pizza.

Riding side by side, I almost see a bicycle
Transporting you here and there as if on a cloud
That floats by, coming back on a bicycle
To transport my pizza peaches and cream dreams to the cloud.

holding tight

nearly but not quite
always on the bittersweet edge
between purposefully held tight
and an old, cherished memory

friendship full-fledged
looks and lives like love
when their actions speak aloud
and affection sets us free

love does

Darling, love, flawed, and running
A glimmer of a girl left
To all the devices left behind
Checked by reality unsure,
Checked or left unchecked
In all the running of her mouth,
Flaws falling out causing fallout
Like a nuclear reactor leak.
This love, darling, touches everything;
Nothing will be left behind
Untouched even if you leave her
Untouched wishing for everything
To be locked down in the best ways
To find her way to a darling love story
With a glimmer in her eye
As she writes their story day by day
With a shimmer and a shine on everything
Even every flaw, darling,
Because running never lasts,
But love does.

a peaceful scene

All she wants is a piece
Of something elusive: peace;
A morsel, a bit, a piece
Of a puzzle laced with peace.

All she wants is to be seen
By someone close to the scene
Who, in turn, will be seen
By her and welcomed to the scene.

Rhyme scheme inspired by
"He Wishes for the Cloths of Heaven"
By William Butler Yeats


Words have escaped
Made a prison break
Of sorts
Fleeing from dark
Into light
Ready for a real start
Striving toward peace
This love and care
Should not need to hide
The words that ran from
Her mind, her mouth barely smiling,
Display the sweet freedom
To be true
Invite and entice
To be who you will be
Show yourself
Be yourself
Love yourself
Enough to receive
The love you deserve


to the edge
into traffic
over the precipice
beyond the limits 
where no one can reach me
not even you

to love
in feelings
like a commodity
to understand 
how the world works
without all the facts
and now no one seems to care
to pull me back in

through the doorway
into light—your light
to acknowledge
a wish 
a hope 
an intuition
to wait and watch
for time to tell what's in your heart

a home for you and me

Excruciating loveliness opens the door
For me to fall into the corner 
Where choices are made in presets
The choice to checkout on the last call
For tickets—the last chance to get off the train
One way trip for me
I don't want off. I don't want anything else
Except the chance to make it all the way 
With you as a travel companion
Keeping me safe when I don't have the strength
To carry on without you feels like 
No one will get out alive.  And still I don't want out. 
Our imperfect perfection beckons me further
Into the night air as the train keeps rolling 
Along in the dark of night 
Scraping along the landscape 
Changing it, affecting it
To rise above the din of broken dreams
With hearts that need a home within each other


spread thin

our mess of bricks

Trust building brick by brick with zero tricks
Is what we do. It's who we are for now—
For always because it's us—a pure fix.
Trust and love, time and space to which we bow,
My darling, wind the clock that tick-tock-ticks
Stripping away and providing sweet now
As vultures pick, pick at our beaten brow. 
Where—when—can you and I begin to mix  
This carefully trimmed dream/reality, 
Allowing a mess of frayed edges in
With the delightfully stunning today. 
Take this ache, trading for felicity
Interlaced with full hope to now begin
Our real adventure, together, our way. 

no more

Ferocious thoughts reside here
Biting at the inside walls that protect
Treasure and sanity and the leftover shreds
Of a smile—hard won, now hiding

Turning outside in
To be able to breathe
Unweaving the tangled web
Stitch by stitch, snipping away the
Cords that bind to witness it all

Sleeping sounds like the ferocity
That's called for—sleeping for eternity
No more crying for no one to show up.
No more being left alone to figure things out.

awaiting home

Shannon, Texas - Unfiltered Beauty

A wisp, a feather-light touch
Dancing on the tip of your tongue
Trying to escape you
Feeding on the emptiness
To fill you up with something
Anything must do

Until the day you see
How much you need
Because it arrived by car and on an airplane
Landed right in front of you
Showing you your soul's desire for home
Knowing incremental change would be the way

Picked you up from where you stand—me too
Like a tornado
Changing everything—changing me—changing you
Now just waiting to board the craft
While its crew situates and acclimates
Because love waits

my song and dance

I am my own song singing
Loud and long and without relief
No one to accompany and play along
With me to give it depth and shine

I am my own light shining
Bright and clear and without a mirror
No one to take time to reflect
With me to provide assurance

I am my own partner dancing
Strong and going hard without a check
No one to push back a little
With to offer guidance and direction

Singing with a light in my eyes
As I dance the whole floor by myself
I continue on with arms outstretched
All the day long longing for support

Independent and persevering
Through the dark, long winter's night

you can

Leading an invigorating life needs only time
The kind of time that is had by investing
In each day, find a way to invest the kind of time
It takes to be invigorated and invigorating
Seek out opportunity to do something differently
To make a difference—to change
Because you can

The impact of your smile
The way in which you change the world
One day at a time
The power that is yours
In the power of choice
Invigorate your life, and you'll invigorate others'
Because you can

Creating space for more
Invading the darkness
Leaving it no place in your heart
Nowhere to hide
Making lovingkindness the watchword
For everything you do
Because you can

The choice, the attitude, the way you use
Your time proves what kind of person
You will become
Be invigorated
Be invigorating
Make life amazing
Because you can

to dream with me

People often say 
The most important things in life aren't things
People often say
Take care of the things you love

I'm not a thing, but take care of me
If I'm so important
The world won't stop without me
But it will be better than anything 

We've ever known
In the center of our souls
That this is where it's at
Friends who love each other

We are a we
Destined for great things that are not things
If you let yourself lock it down
Finally, for real, for always


Like a wave washing over and crashing down at once
This love
Like a silence now broken sweeping across the land
This love
Like a valley with meadows and brooklets bubbling over
This love
Like a jagged peak thrilling yet instilling a measure of fear
This love
Like a morning, even many, laced with words and sunshine and stars
This love
Like a brisk dawn radiating warmth with its every ray upon us
This love

building on each other

Slipped right under that wire
That trip wire that was supposed to warn me
Warning me to watch out for myself
For myself I keep going no matter what
No matter what we keep our hearts open
Opening up to unknown territory as we live
We live to see a new day dawn on the horizon
The horizon carries hope along the ridge
The ridge of the mountaintops is where life begins
Beginning with you and me as we climb
Climbing beyond the limits—testing things
To test our ability to love
We love each other
One another caring endlessly.

the weather

Rushing past one another like white water in a ripping river mid summer
Or like turbulent wind whipping through a canyon each fall.
Both of us damaged by an unforgiving frost that sears the ground in winter.
Yet even still—you still were able to stop long enough
To see me. 

Turning winter to spring eternal,
You, who claims to be broken, 
You, who claims to not be able to,
Have loved me enough
To slow down and cherish me,
To cherish us.

You saw me before I showed you
All the hurt and scars.
You held me in your arms
With words and music, 
And then you let me in 
To witness your brilliant heart
Trusting me with more than either ever thought
We could share and still withstand the unrelenting weather.

You took me in your arms to dance
One starry night never to be the same—you and me. 
You witnessed the tears with love and care.
You share with me things you will not write out anymore—please begin again.

Save us from the burning coals
Of misguided gallantry
That stand to burn our bridge as we build it. 

I saw you before you showed me 
All the hurt and scars. 
I sang to you the song
You hadn't heard for too long, 
And then I let you in
To witness my stalwart love
Trusting you with more than either ever thought
We could share and still withstand the unbending weather.

Leap into the light. 
Take my hand, my darling friend.
Allow me to show you what I know
That we might have a proper chance.

Rescue your heart 
From the frostbite 
That threatens to keep you down. 

We saw each other before we showed ourselves
All the tender care we shared as it began to heal our hearts. 
We nurture and care for one another
Like we've never truly had with any other, 
And now the time is near 
For letting go of fear
Trusting ourselves—trusting us—with more than we ever thought
We could share as we prove this bond shall bring us through 
Every type of weather.

Words in italics by C.T. Duncan


Denver, Colorado 

I'm learning why girls hide.
Why they don't just let themselves feel.
Why love can't be let loose to simply be given in return.
Show me that I can show you.

I'm learning why trust is a gift.
To have it and to give it.
To be honest enough to deserve it.
Give it, so I can have it.

I'm learning how to live again.
To live with different pain.
To smile through new suffering.
Take a chance for us.

I'm learning how to love authentically.
Why I want to care no matter what.
To live half breathing
Because I'm missing something…

find the time

The world spins at the same rate
For everyone out of the gate.
The same hours and minutes,
For each day, something we can trust. 

How can the warmth continue
How can the smiles renew

How the days do linger as they fly.


Beyond the edge of it all
I stand suspended without 
Watching the masses pick and prey
Leaving the scraps

What is leftover
Of time, care, and effort
When one is spread too thinly
Gingerly working to make ends meet

Grateful for each morsel sent my way
Not realizing I was so far away
From having something valued
Believing and valuing everything.

Pain emanating from a fresh wound
From taking for granted
The love layered and stitched 
In her heart for always planted

Cutting to the heart of the matter
Time will take her toll
It must be paid
And even still I want more

Not wanted how she wanted (wants)
On the outskirts still
Now but Forever
Rejecting the ego

Crushing damned ego
That kills the kindhearted
Breaking tender branches
Growing together

A hurricane 
A tempest
A loving soul
A mess

None of this makes sense.

is it wrong?

To want someone
to love me how I need 

To want flowers on occasion
that I don't buy for myself

To be someone 
who isn't just a nice idea

To be loved enough
that I am essential to his happiness

To wish for things 
that apparently no one wants to have with me


Denver, CO

What you ask of me without words
Could just be what I am asking of myself
But you might not care if I stay or go—a layer of apathy

What I ask of you with and without words
Could just be what my heart alone has want of
So you would be glad even grateful if I left never to return

What others demand of you in all their forms
Could just be what you have allowed under pressure
But you don't see to do things differently

What you ask of others
Could just be what you know—familiarity
But you don't see everything that's missing

What we ask of ourselves
Is not all we are capable of
So we reach for our potential to little avail

What is there for the taking
Is still there and it will keep—for now
So we borrow on credit a fresh day to try again

What I know of us
Is that we have more than either comprehends
And we want to make each other happy

Looking through glass
We strive on side by side to understand
To find a unified reflection

Because somehow I must believe
Unopened windows bother both of us—not just me
And we will see this through into eternity

quality control

With bandaged heart, 
I take the mirror, 
Crashed and broken, 
Searching my reflection

In every shard of glass, 
And the question 
"Will I ever be recovered enough?"
Begins knocking around in my head. 

The shards become reflections
Of him and me
Offering a certain quality
To the demanded answer—yes. 

Found words from Journey to the Fringe by Kelli Swofford Nielsen, page 91. 


Severity of thought
Breaths too quick
Nothing looks right
All askew

Staying away
Adding distance
Holding of breath
Blank stares

A missed beat
Forgotten words
No plans
Slipping dreams

Caught between happy and sad
No one investing
What a mess

Set aside
No time

another day

Childress, Texas

Another day done
In the record books
Another one yet to come

But when is time enough
That you don't get one more day
Do you keep that in your heart
And mind the time
To assure yourself
That not a moment slips by
Wasted by ignorance
Complacency and lack of care
Eating away the sunshine
There for you

Do you take it all in
Do you let it all slip by

Another day to come
Until there are none left for you
Full of love and sun
Full of trouble and doubt
Focusing on the best or the worst

Your destiny arrives
With each sun-filled day
In the choices that you make

always golden

Words on a page that made no sense
How could any two people be
'Always golden'
And still be real

In each day
You have taught me
In each interaction
I have learned

In every memory
I see the proof
In every inaction
I still wonder why you stay

Laced into every happy time
There are golden threads of
Loving care
Creating a tapestry refined

Fine details binding our hearts
Making history
Golden and delicious
Imperfect yet happily

Golden threads forever
Keeping the edges from fraying
Golden, always golden
You and I