sharing a poetic LIFELINE with the world

Some people have a tradition of choosing a word, or a theme, to focus on or represent their new year rather than (or in addition to) traditional resolutions. It’s not something I’ve done in the past, but as the last year drew to a close there was one word that really resonated with me. A word that represents what I want to bring forth in the world, and project from myself.


What does this word mean to me?

Dance is energy, movement, joy. There is rhythm and flow. Words dancing across the page, fingers dancing across the keys. Being fit in body. Not falling stale and still. Not caring what others think. You can dance alone, or with a partner. If you dance with a partner, there must be a connection, and coordination. It doesn’t work if your steps are not aligned. Pick your partners carefully, in love and in business and in life.

How dance relates to my goals:

  • Words dancing across the page, regular writing with the goal of finishing another novel.
  • Poems compiled into a new chapbook, focusing on the theme of dance and music.
  • Collaboration with my fellow Muselings on new projects.
  • Losing weight and drinking more water, doing yoga, to be fit in body, have more energy and grace.
  • Play the piano more frequently.

Do you choose a theme for the year? What are some of your goals, resolutions, or energies for 2015?

Mary Butterfly Signature



Greetings from the Poetic Muselings, and welcome to 2015. We have decided to blog once a week this month, and I have drawn the first


We Muselings met online in October of 2008 when we all signed up for a workshop at the Muse Online Writers Conference.  The four of us were signed up for Magdelena Ball’s Create a Chap Book workshop and Lisa Gentile’s Creative Block Busters. However, due to a power outage, Lisa was unable to connect for the final online chat session, so moderator Michele Graf (see, even then she was our leader), took over, and we all shared how our week had gone. Afterward, a group of us started to meet online and share our poetry. Lifelines, and the Poetic Muselings, came from that.


As to my own, creative beginnings,  I told myself stories as far back as I can remember, stories in my head. Somehow I wasn’t all that oriented in the real world, instead inhabiting the world of my imagination. A blue fairy would appear and comfort me. The back of my closet would open and become the entrance to a new world. The door into the hall would open into someplace new and strange. But it was years before it occurred to me to write anything down.


I started writing poetry early, but never took myself seriously as a poet. When I become involved with my spouse, I started writing some for her. I wrote poems into spiral notebooks which I stored in the attic. When things got tense between us, I wrote angst-filled poems, again in spiral notebooks. A few were published in a small newsletter.


At one point I wrote a poem I wanted to keep, and that’s when I tumbled into my life as a writer. Searching for a place to store my poem online, I found a couple of communities and started to participate. I became a finalist in a poetry contest. A couple of poems were published in a print journal, a few more in an online journal. I found the Muse Online Writers Conference and connected with others. In short, I got hooked.

Early November through December is the time of year I used to spent locked in my own padded cell of emotionsMichele1-1. Soured holiday cheer, reminder of what wasn’t right in my life and the world.

. . . Survivor guilt at not dying when I was twenty; if I had, my father would have been sent home from Viet Nam early. A month in the hospital saved me and destroyed the family, when he died under strange circumstances three days before he was to return home. . . . Less than a year later, more guilt at finding the love of my life, my exact opposite, who’s lived with me and my insecurities for more than 45 years. . . .

Steve Jobs noted our inability to connect dots of experience prospectively. We cannot determine until well after events how they link, what their impact is, and how profoundly our lives change as a result.

“But for . . . ” my illness, and my father’s death, I never would have met my husband.

“But for . . . ” NOT getting a job I wanted, I was able to retire much earlier than would have happened if I’d been selected.

“But for . . .” putting myself in the right place at the right time, I’d never have met Carolyn Howard Johnson, which began my poetry-writing in earnest, and the discovery of the Muse OnLine Writers Conference in 2006.

“But for . . . ” that conference, I would not be writing this post today.

I sit here today, grateful for the people in my life, my personal safety and security, my needs met. As much as I complain  about — and fear — the growing list of health issues I’m battling, I’m grateful to live in a time that provides me with care unheard of even a dozen years ago.

I’m grateful for my confidence that ebbs and flows, how I am learning incrementally to trust myself, test myself. I’m grateful for the clutter that drives me nuts at times — what I can share, what it teaches me.

I’m grateful to live here, in this country, despite all our problems and issues. I feel truly blessed to be able to write what I choose, vote as I choose, and speak — or remain silent if that is my choice.

I live the American Dream:

~daughter of a first-generation girl-child born here of stetl dwellers who left the “Old Country” with nothing, before WWI;

~ able to trace my father’s family’s journey on the Trail of Tears in 1839.

~”But for . . .” the holocaust and horror of WWII, these two souls would never have met at a USO dance in Chicago in 1943. Lost and found each other again. Lost each other for good 25 years later, in the next ripping war in 1968.

~ First of my family to attend college, and later graduate.

~ Connected in recent years to extended family I never really knew earlier.

My first post on our Poetic Muselings blog was just over three years ago. It was my introduction to you, our readers and friends. I’m reissuing it here, today, because it struck me as true, still, and what I’m trying to share.

We wish you all a very happy Thanksgiving. May you find that spark, that “something” to give you peace of mind, courage when you need it, and lots of joy.


Turning Over Rocks

“Why be difficult
when you can always
be impossible?”

My family’s motto,
when I was growing up.

We lived in clouds,
ephemeral universe,
all or nothing mind-set
badgered us into paralyzing inaction,
circular conundrums,
promises meant to stop questions,
not solve problem

“Don’t answer the phone!” admonitions
when I was home alone, sick,
escaping whatever had me
in its grip that day or week

Blame and shame
games and names
hiding in books read
by shadowed night-light
to tame the monsters
lurking under my bed,
in the closet,
beyond the toys
strewn across the floor
beyond the closed door
to my personal space and mind

Child of parents
whose fractured worlds
never resolved enough to give them
strength to shelter their offspring
the way this one needed

But I was loved
and encouraged to dream big,
reach beyond what was,
by my father
live his words
not the life we had

I gained my own,
tiny shard by shard
years later, loved,
protected, cherished,
with someone who believes in me,
loves me
without needing to understand
more than he does

learn to trust,
push past fears, worries
I’ll never be enough, do enough,
justify my own existence

Learn I have to prove
nothing to the world.
I have the right just to be,
eclectic, whimsical,
inconsistent entity
in love
with my life
as I inch
toward myself

Ⓒ Michele M. Graf



Together Again

thanksgivingNovember always brings to mind family. It’s the month of my birthday, as well as Thanksgiving. So even on years where I don’t visit with family, they are still close to my thoughts and heart.

I come from a big family. I have eight siblings! And as much as I love them, love being around them, as an introvert I’ve always had to step aside and recharge a bit. Being in the thick of things can be overwhelming and draining. You’ll often find me on the outskirts, listening in on conversations but not always jumping in.

This poem was written for the Together Again prompt earlier this month from Poetic Asides.


Over food and games
Siblings catch up on the news,
their familiar chatter
carries down the hall…

I smile,
comforted by their nearness,
content for the moment
to reunite with another friend;

I kick off my shoes, sit at the bench,
sigh at the familiar curve
of the pedal pressed beneath my foot,
the ivory beneath my fingers.

My hands fall into the patterns
despite months of time apart–
All else fades away
as I embrace the music.


Cute, but unrelated, kitty

Mary Butterfly Signature

snow1Here’s a holiday poetry prompt. My response to this is below. Yes, it really is possible to construct a poem from this nonsense.


Ten Characters:
1. Old Saint Nick
2. Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer
3. Frosty the Snowman
4. The Grynch
5. Good King Wencheslas
6. Little Red Riding Hood
7. The Big Bad Wolf
8. Sleeping Beauty
9. Glinda the Good Witch
10. The Wizard of Oz

Ten Locations:
1. The North Pole
2. An enchanted forest
3. A frozen lake
4. Antarctica
5. Rockefeller Center
6. Central Park
7. The Eiffel Tower
8. The Louvre
9. Tokyo
10. The New York Subway

Ten Objects:
1. A Candle
2. A Snow Shovel
3. An Ax
4. A red light bulb
5. Ice Melt
6. A sled
7. A wine glass
8. Needle and Thread
9. A dozen red roses
10. An Apple

Ten Incidents:
1. A Scream
2. An enchantment
3. A package delivery
4. A fire
5. A birthday party
6. A visit to a department store Santa
7. A visit to the post office
8. Raking leaves
9. Shoveling Snow
10. Loading Santa’s Sleigh

Ten first or last lines (or titles)
1. Thanks for all the Apples
2. Eat the whole thing
3. I’m allergic to fish
4. I’d rather be in Florida
5. I want a dog
6. I’d rather be ice skating
7. See you next year
8. A roll of stamps, please
9. This is impossible
10. You’ve got to try harder

Pick two characters and one from each of the other categories


Thanks for All the Apples


The cake has appeared

the candles are lit

the Tokyo skyline

is beautifully lit


The boy takes a breath

all ready to blow

all set with his wishes.

What? Soon we’ll all know.


With a whoosh and a swish

the candles are extinguished

then from down the chimney

who should we distinguish?


It’s Frosty the Snowman,

but oh, he is melting,

and behind him a Big Bad Wolf

is silently pelting


“My God, boy, my heavens,

oh, what were you thinking?

That wolf has a foul smell.

The whole room will be stinking.”


By this time poor Frosty

was reduced to a puddle

The wolf lapped him up.

Birthday boy’s in a muddle.


“Now look what you’ve done.

Frosty is gone for good.

And the wolf,” said his mom,

“is now loose in the Hood.”


What should you extract

from this terrible tale?

Better wish for some apples,

’cause the wolf’s sure to bail.

November is Poetic Asides Poem-A-Day Challenge Month, among other intense writing options. Mary, Anne, Margaret, and I are diligently writing to the prompts, with a goal of something wonderful to publish at the end.

One of my favorite aspects is to see how differently we grab the prompts — or how they grab us. The poem below was written as a “together again poem”.

This post is adapted from one I recently published on my blog,  Ship of Dreams - Artimals
Heart, Soul, and Rough Edges . . .
A Gypsy Journey of Words and Wonder


When I first heard of “ear-worms”, I felt vindicated. Others heard them, too — I wasn’t alone. Or nuts.

Never heard of ear-worms? I bet you have heard ear-worms many times in your life. Snatches of song lyrics (especially), bits of melody, or conversations playing out over and over and over in your head. They worm their way into your ear and then your brain.

No way to make them disappear. The harder you try, the louder — and more insistent — they get. You cannot win the fight against an ear-worm. You can only distract and/or overcome it by replacing it with something else.

Then, of course, THAT ONE becomes the ear-worm. And so it goes . . .

PAD 2 – 11/2/14 Ear-Worm Imbroglio (a together again poem)

What gibberish pokes
through mind brambles

  • Oh, Sinner Man —
    where you gonna run to?

My personal ear-worms
over and over

  • Snowflakes on roses…
    Whiskers on kittens… 

over and over
over and over

  • I think we’re alone now…
    Beating of our hearts is the only sound…

Until BANG!
Too bad it didn’t work

  • I am the walrus…
    Do do do do, dodo dodo do do do do …

We’re together again
All at once

  • New York hipster,
    Cardiac hero of 2000 years …

Cacophony imbroglio
Madness defined

  • Where were you
    When the world stopped turning…?


Michele M. Graf




Last Thursday I had the opportunity to attend Fox Hills Elementary’s Literacy Night as a local poet. There was a nice variety of writers represented. The poet, the short story and article writer, the picture book author/illustrator, and the YA fantasy author. Also attending was the children’s librarian from our local library.

On my table, I set up a tri-fold board with a sign identifying me as a poet, as well as Chiaroscuro book cover and some sample poems, a few poems for kids, and my certificate for first place poetry from a local contest. For handouts, I had my Stego Stomp poem printed on fun paper for the kids, and postcards about Chiaroscuro for the parents.

poetry tri-fold

There was a big turnout. I enjoyed the excitement about books in the air. The kids who stopped and took time to read my poem all enjoyed it. It was a big hit. One boy is even going to have his mom hang it on his bedroom wall. One goal of poetry is to share and create enjoyment, and I feel I succeeded.

Chiaroscuro postcards

There was even some genuine interest in my poetry book. One mom admitted she hasn’t read a poem since she was a teenager. Hopefully I encouraged her to revisit poetry. 

I ran out of the dino poem handout with about half hour left of the night, but even without it kids and parents were still reading poems from my board. What a great feeling hearing others read and enjoy my poems.

Mary Butterfly Signature

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