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A Mother’s Day Tribute

NOTE:  For marking Mother’s Day of 2021, I am again sharing a piece which I wrote on May 2, 2014.  I revised the essay slightly to minimize those seven years which have passed since this piece was first dated and posted.

Gifts from My Mother:  A Mother’s Day Tribute

by Alice Jane-Marie Massa

            On Sunday, May 9, all types of mothers will be celebrated, honored, and remembered:  saintly mothers and so-so mothers, adoptive mothers and adaptable mothers, mothers who have smiled on many Mother’s Days, mothers who will be lauded on their first Mother’s Day, and mothers-to-be.  Then, I think of my mother who was last here on Earth for Mothers’ Day of 2001.  While we all try to give our mothers special gifts on this special day in May, I now ponder the gifts which my mother gave to me—the second of her two daughters.

            Since my family and I were from Indiana—my dad and I (and much of our extended family) were avid fans of motor racing.  For many Hoosiers and race fans around the world, the month of May is equated with the Indianapolis 500—“The Greatest Spectacle in Racing.”  My first exciting trip to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway (IMS) was at age five.  For decades, the first weekend of qualifications for the Indy 500 coincided with Mother’s Day.  Knowing what fans my dad and I were of racing, my mother probably too often generously gave us the gift of allowing us to go to the Time Trials at IMS on Mother’s Day.  I always gave her Mother’s Day gifts, and we would take her out to dinner on another day.  Nevertheless, didn’t she give me an unselfish gift?  Although my mother did not want us to feel guilty then, I now certainly do feel a twinge of guilt recalling how many times we spent Mother’s Day at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway—almost always without her.

            A very different, but important gift which my mother gave me was the gift of reading to me.  Due to my eye condition, she did not just read to me when I was a child:  my mother continued to read to me until Alzheimer’s robbed her of her gift of reading.  Unlike most parents, mine, during my school years, frequently tried to discourage me from reading print so much:  they wanted me to save my eyesight by avoiding eye strain from reading too much.  Consequently, my mother read chapter books to me—a chapter a night.  Some of the book covers I can still picture in my mind:  Little Women, The Bobbsey Twins, Annie Oakley, Fury, Wild Geese Flying.  From 1985-1990, when I was coordinating the Sunday morning radio program Talking Newspaper, my mother read to me numerous articles from three newspapers so that I could select and edit each week the articles to be read by some of the fifty volunteers.  Soon after this experience, I purchased my first Kurzweil reading machine and then a computer with speech software.  Through a variety of means of reading and writing, I eventually found a new path in life and returned to school for a second master’s degree and then resumed full-time teaching.

            A rare gift my mother gave to me was not letting my diminishing eyesight diminish my career path or opportunities.  How did she feel about having a child who would gradually become blind?  I do not know by what she ever said:  I only know by her actions.  Too frequently, she wrote to specialists around the United States; and my dad would drive me to the appointments with ophthalmologists.  Only once did she ever somewhat express a comment about my eyes.  as my mother was driving our bright red Ford from Highway 71 to the cut-off road back home, my mother quite calmly stated:  “When you were a baby, you had such big, beautiful brown eyes, I never thought ….”  Her voice trailed off, and those few words were all that she ever said on the subject to me.  How she really felt about having a daughter who is blind, I will never really know:  I think this is a gift for the child and the adult child.  However, without a doubt, the greatest gift my mother gave me was that she let me be—let me be myself, let me dream.  She let me be.  Thanks, Mom.  From Earth to Heaven, Happy Mother’s Day!

May 2, 2014, Friday

To my aunt in Minnesota, my sister in Colorado, my cousin in Florida, more cousins (in Indiana, California, Arizona, Illinois, Oregon, Pennsylvania, and Mexico), friends here and there, my niece across Lake Michigan, my niece near the Rocky Mountains, and all readers of Wordwalk—

Happy Mother’s Day!

Alice and Leader Dog Willow

May 5, 2021, Wednesday

Celebrating the Final Days of National Poetry Month of 2021

Celebrating the Final Days of National Poetry Month of 2021

                For one final time of National Poetry Month of 2021, I selected for this WORDWALK post three of the poems from this April’s poems-of-the-day collection.  On the “Writers’ Partyline,” the e-mail list of the national writers’ group Behind Our Eyes, I have posted at least one new poem on each day of this month.  My plan is to write one more poem for April 29 and then one closing poem for the 30th of April.  While I tried to write some shorter poems–always more challenging for me–below you will find the three selected poems, all of which are of the medium-length variety. 

* * *

Our Underwood Typewriter of 1933

poem for Day 20 of National Poetry Month by Alice Jane-Marie Massa

For twenty years, back and forth to the college

where I taught,

my guide dogs and I

walked by a Milwaukee historical marker

at the corner of 4th and State.

Sometimes, as we passed the sign

announcing the spot where the first typewriter was invented in 1867,

manufactured in 1873,

and marketed in 1874–

I fondly thought of our Underwood typewriter–

the one my grandfather gave to my mother

when she became the first in the family

to be graduated from high school.

The year was 1933, the Depression Era;

however, my grandfather, the Italian baker,

saved enough money to buy the gift for my mother.

The tall typewriter with rounded keys

is still a family keepsake.

I taught myself how to type on that treasured gift;

I wrote some of my first poems on that endearing machine.

Even though it cannot compete with a computer,

the Underwood has character and

eighty-eight years of history.

What a connection to discover that the main inventor,

Christopher Latham Sholes,

was not only a publisher, editor, city controller, and Wisconsin state senator–

but also a poet!

How interesting that the Sholes and Glidden Typewriting Machine,

following the inspiration of the “Literary Piano,”

had a first row of ivory keys and

a second row of ebony keys in a wooden frame!

How ironic that the Hall Braille Writer

led to the invention of the typewriting machine!

How precious that the first typing machine

was invented by the Italian Pellegrino Turri

for his blind friend,

the Contessa Carolina Fantoni da Fivizzano!

* * *

Savings and Loan

teardrop poem for Day 23 of National Poetry Month by Alice Jane-Marie Massa

While my primary material savings from my mother

Is a myriad of afghans

which she crocheted for me

in a palette of all of my favorite colors,

What I saved from my father

was his hats.

My debonair dad was known for wearing hats:

so, in my current collection, I have

an Indy 500 cap which I gave him,

two of his Lions Club baseball caps,

the warm Russian hat he always wore in hard winter,

and, of course, a Fedora too.

However, the hat of which he would be most proud

is the one I keep with greatest care–

his Army cap which he wore during World War II,

before replacing it with the helmet

he wore as a member of the

638th Tank Destroyer Battalion.

On April 9, 1941,

he was issued the Army cap

which I treasure.

Someday, I will loan with love and memories this vintage cap

to my nephew, the Army Ranger,

so that someday,

Eric can loan with love and memories his grandfather’s Army cap

to my dad’s great-grandson–

Eric’s son–Caden,

the current kindergartener.

* * *

Silver Dreams from a Gazebo

poem for Day 16 of National Poetry Month by Alice Jane-Marie Massa

No matter what the stage of life,

dreams drift in and dreams drift out.

Dreams are dropped into a wishing well,

tossed with coins into a fountain.

Some dreams are dropped into a bucket

while some are held like a pretty nosegay in aging hands.

My dream for once-upon-a-silver-time

is to return to my homeland,

the acreage my grandfather purchased in 1914.

the former field, now extended yard,

between my home and woods,

is the perfect place for a gazebo.

I will have it built

right where the sheep shed was.

Then, when I return to my Indiana,

my guide dog and I will sit

in the wooden gazebo, painted pastel pink,

look toward the east at the gob pile–

our Blanford Mountain,

a gift from the old mining company.

How we will recall our adventures there!

Then, I will gaze to the west,

where the corn field or bean field was,

but I will smell the present pine of the evergreens.

A glance back to the south

will remind me of the walks in the woods,

the tiny creek,

Morel mushrooms, fallen leaves–

like falling memories.

Finally, I will smile upon the northern expanse–

the view of the house

that was blessed as our home.

Was I once in a hometown Heaven,

or can I go back there?

Please send a little lamb to the gazebo.

* * *

NOTE:  Beginning next Wednesday, the month of May will hold a change-of-pace for WORDWALK.  Please visit WORDWALK again for a variety of pieces during the upcoming warmer months.  Thanks for celebrating National Poetry Month with us throughout April!

Poetically yours,

Alice and Leader Dog Willow–the PAWet Laureate

April 28, 2021, Wednesday

Happy National Poetry Month, Part 3

Happy National Poetry Month, Part 3

                For twenty-one days, I have kept my goal of writing at least one poem a day.  From the eight poems which I have written during the past week, I have selected three to share with you this evening.  Each poem is quite different from the other although my second Leader Dog Heather is a focus of the second poem and is mentioned in the other two poems.  As I noted last Wednesday, Leader Dog Heather became a part of my life on April 15, 1998.

                My first selected poem is a “bio poem” or may be classified as a “bio acrostic” because I use my first and last name as the “stem” of the acrostic poem.  On an e-mail list for writers, I encouraged the other writers to share an acrostic bio so that we could become better acquainted with each other.  A number of writers in the organization did post their acrostic bios which I thoroughly enjoyed reading. 

                My sister, now retired from teaching, enlisted her five grandchildren, her husband, and one daughter-in-law into the writing of bio acrostics.  What fun!  Ranging in age from five to ten, Mary’s grandchildren did a wonderful job of writing bio acrostics –even for the family dogs.  I was quite pleased with the one acrostic written for and about my current Leader Dog Willow.  Why don’t you join the fun and write an acrostic bio or a poem of introduction?  Then, perhaps, you can encourage others to become acrostic poets.  Remember that when you are writing an acrostic, try to have the initial word of each line be a strong word.  In the sample poem below, you will read that I also incorporated alliteration and play-on-words.  Your acrostic bio need not rhyme, but should give the reader a word picture of you.

* * *

The Alice Acrostic Bio

acrostic poem for Day 17 of National Poetry Month by Alice Jane-Marie Massa


Loves walking and living with Leader Dog Willow,

Increases her container garden each year,

Creates with words and verses,

Energizes people about poetry,

Mass-produced a poster to honor her four Leader Dogs,

Almost never misses listening to JEOPARDY and the news,

Savours posting on her WORDWALK blog each week,

States proudly that she is a “Hoosier at Heart,”

Amasses poetry and prose to preserve family history.

* * *

                When I write some poems, I laugh out loud.  When writing others, I smile.  Then, when I write too many poems, like the one I share below, the words are trying to stay afloat midst all the tears.  So, you will find below what is for me, but perhaps not for the reader, a “teardrop poem.”

* * *

An Old Circus Dog:  For Heather, in Heaven

Teardrop poem for Day 19 of National Poetry Month by Alice Jane-Marie Massa

Not upon my pre-retirement nor post-retirement resume

will you find a mention of this point.

You, dear reader of poetry, may decide if it should be there.

When my second Leader Dog Heather was close to age twelve,

her hesitancy about ascending and descending

long flights of stairs

made me realize that at my workplace,

we had to change our routine and

rely on the elevators.

I prayed that she would be able to guide me

through one more month of the spring semester

so that she could “semi-retire” from guiding

and retire after ten years beside me

at Milwaukee Area Technical College.

My Yellow Labrador Retriever

did achieve her decade of work at MATC.

Then, the turn at the back door of our townhouse

and down three steps of the deck became too much of a challenge

for my once-upon-a-time too-strong Lab.

The two required sharp turns complicated her descent.

Alas, I found the perfect ramp for the back stoop:

I just had to convince my aging canine of the perfected new route to her relief area

behind our townhouse.

With the very sturdy ramp in place

and double-checked for stability,

I began the lesson of teaching Heather to use the ramp, instead of the stairs.

With supreme determination,

all the positive praise I could muster

For each tiny step of progress,

I encouraged and encouraged my creamy-colored Lab.

I would not allow myself to envision anything but success:

I knew the successful use of this ramp

was the only way

I could keep Heather throughout her retirement–

the only way we could continue to live at our home,

near my workplace and so many other needs.

Nevertheless, my greatest need was to be able to care

for Heather in her old age.

We had to succeed.  We had to succeed.

Positive praise.  Prayers to Saint Francis.

Finally, Heather descended the ramp!

Hurray!  Estimated time of first descent of the ramp:  forty-five minutes.

Second descent of the ramp: five minutes!

Then, amazingly, more practice brought forth an all-time brief record!

Bring out the checkered flag!

Fortunately, her using the ramp

to return to the back door took much less convincing.

Hurray!  Hurray!

The greatest achievement of my life:

teaching an old guide dog to walk the ramp

like a content and confident circus dog–

an extraordinarily beloved dog

who continued to share life and home with me

and then Leader Dog Zoe for

thirteen more months.

* * *

NOTE:  One of the prompts on my NPM Calendar of Prompts was quite simply to write a poem about a sneeze.  Much to my surprise, last Saturday, I think a world record may have been set for the most poems written and posted on an e-mail list about a SNEEZE!  The prompt was a big success; reading the “sneeze” poems of my fellow writers was enjoyable.  Now, I hope you will enjoy reading my “sneeze” poem.

The Third Sneeze

Poem for Day 14 of NPM by Alice Jane-Marie Massa

Throughout the two decades when I periodically used cabs,

I learned a great deal about cab drivers from a variety of countries.

Yes, I am sure I could write at least a chapbook–

or a cab-book–about my experiences.

Quite a number of years ago,

my guide dog and I tucked into the back of a cab.

After telling the cab driver my destination,

he sneezed.

Pre-COVID days, his sneeze was to me of little importance.

As he drove sufficiently speedily to my workplace,

the cab driver sneezed a second time.

Although I was unalarmed,

the cabbie began to express his worry aloud

and then recited prayers in another language.

The prayers were interspersed with the vocalization

of accented worries in English.

He was truly afraid that

if he sneezed a third time,

he would


I did not fear his dying from a third sneeze:

I feared he would not take me to my requested address.

For him, oh, my, what increasing stress!

Then, the feared phenomenon occurred:


I wondered what in the world he would do;

I knew we were near my destination.

His terror seemed to turn to aggravation.

Somehow, telling him “God bless you”

seemed not a good choice.

“You are fine:  you’ll be fine.”

Still living, the cab driver pulled up to 1036 North Eighth Street;

I gave him the fare and a nice tip.

He paused in his worried, prayerful state to take the cash.

“Thank you.  Take care,” I said;

Then, he sped off to undoubtedly live and sneeze another day.

* * *

Hoping your April snows melt quickly, as did ours today!

Alice and Leader Dog Willow

April 21, 2021, Wednesday

Celebrating National Poetry Month, Part 2

More Poems to Celebrate National Poetry Month!

                Now in the middle of National Poetry Month, I am pleased that I have written at least one poem for each of the first fourteen days of National Poetry Month.  Once again, in this post, I am sharing with you several poems which I wrote during this past week.  Besides posting my poems on WORDWALK, I post one each day on a writers’ list, along with prompts from the earlier shared “2021 Calendar of Prompts for National Poetry Month.”  All of the following poems are products of the prompts which I created at the end of March. 

                Additionally, on this past Monday, I was delighted to moderate a Readers’ Workshop with twenty participants who celebrated poetry with fifteen poetry presentations and one prose presentation.  On Tuesday, I was pleased to co-host a “Poetry Party” for the Writers’ Circle of the Hadley Institute for the Blind which brought forth 38 participants/poets; 24 poets presented their original poems.  April is a happily busy month for poets.  Thanks to Amanda Gorman, National Youth Poet Laureate, poetry has been in the spotlight more than usual.  Poetry is, indeed, dazzling and shining during this silver anniversary of National Poetry Month.

* * *

Willow’s Philosophy

Poem for the tenth day of National Poetry Month by Alice Jane-Marie Massa

On yet another rainy day in Milwaukee,

upon her “My Pillow” pillow–aka dog bed–

Leader Dog Willow is not currently guiding:

she is philosophizing.

“If my handler is perhaps a poet,

then, besides a remarkable, blue-ribbon  guide dog,

what am I?

My Labradorable self is thinking, thinking …

Oh, yes!  I must be a PAW-et laureate!

[In the above poem, “My Pillow” should be accompanied by the trademark symbol.]

* * *

NOTE:  In January of 2013, I wrote “Big Shoes on Little Feet” as a personal essay for my first post on WORDWALK.  This month, I converted the prose piece into the following poem.

Big Shoes on Little Feet

Poem for the eighth day of National Poetry Month by Alice Jane-Marie Massa

A half block ahead of my guide dog and me,

as we walked on the sidewalk along State Street,

echoed alight patter of

clippity-clop, clippity-clop.

Quickly I realized the sound was emanating

from the too-large shoes of a

toddler–probably about three years old.

As my Leader Dog Heather and I drew nearer

the mother and poorly-shod little girl,

I could hear the mother’s impatient words

that tried to hurry the pace of the child.

Walking east toward the lake,

I wondered.

Was the mother late for a job interview?

Was she taking her little daughter to day care

or just for a daily stroll?

The mother seemed determined;

neither mother nor daughter appeared happy.

Still the little feet

in the too-big shoes hurried down the State Street sidewalk.

Were the clippity-clop shoes

her Play shoes or all she had to wear?

I wanted to give her something

for new well-fitting shoes–

but did not dare.

More than two decades later,

I do wonder what shoes the former toddler

is wearing now.

Ballerina slippers, jogging shoes,

stilettos, flip-flops,

steel-toed work shoes,

ruby slippers?

I hope she is happily

Making strides in life and

Wearing shoes

That fit her perfectly.

NOTE:  Heather, my second Leader Dog, mentioned in this poem, became a part of my life on April 15, 1998; thus, tomorrow marks 23 years since our meeting and beginning ten amazing years of working together and more than eleven years of gratefully living together.

* * *

A Cinquain of Seagulls

Poem for Day 9 of National Poetry Month by Alice Jane-Marie Massa


are plentiful

throughout Milwaukee skies,

peal disturbing cries in night air.


* * *

The 1957 Flood of Brouilett’s Creek

Poem for Day 11 of National Poetry Month by Alice Jane-Marie Massa

In 1957, when the rains came plentifully and long,

the waters of Brouilett’s Creek,

which formed the northern border of my hometown,

gradually spilled into the Jackson family’s farm fields

and then over the blue highway Number 163.

Standing on the once-upon-a-time state road,

my dad, my cousin Donald, and I joined the onlookers

and witnessed the amazing news story.

Our meandering creek was now a lake as far as a Blanford resident could see

on the gray day

between rainstorms

and between thoughts of suspended disbelief.

The arching blue-green iron bridge seemed to rise above the water–roadless.

the second bridge on the northwest edge of town

became the “bridge-to-nowhere”

because a huge chunk of Indiana Highway 71

was washed away by the muscular waters.

For many months, our only passage to

the remainder of the Hoosier state

was via the old brick road–well,

one side was brick, and the other side was gravel–

west and then south Through Edgar County, Illinois,

to backtrack east to other parts of our Indiana.

Rather than recalling much of the inconvenience

of the substantial detour,

I clearly remember the massive sight of the flood

and then, on dryer days, riding my lavender bike down the big hill

of State Road 71, alongside the old Black Diamond Mine,

to play tennis with my cousin Carole or my sister

on the flat patch of blue highway, south of the closed bridge

that for a season of my life

did not lead to neighboring St. Bernice,

but led back only to an even closer-knit small town–Blanford.

* * *

NOTE:  The following poem was once part of a travel article; thus, the piece is another sample of progression from prose to poetry.

A Rose from the Astor Garden

Poem for Day 12 of National Poetry Month by Alice Jane-Marie Massa

On a bus tour of New England in 1979,

I was the youngest tourist–most probably

the only non-senior citizen.

Louisa May Alcott’s Orchard House,

Hawthorne’s House of Seven Gables,

Longfellow’s Wayside Inn,

Walden Pond, The Old North Church,

Sturbridge Village were among the stops.

Relishing history, architecture, and authors–

I greatly enjoyed the tour.

However, while touring mansions of Newport, Rhode Island,

memorable moments came my way

at the former property of John Jacob Astor.

the lady-of-the-house who was conducting the tour

paused in the Astor Garden

and gave to me a sprig of honeysuckle

which she had just plucked from the manicured garden.

Then, near the end of the tour,

inside the expansive house,

the son, in Prince-Charming fashion, presented to me

the largest, most beautiful,

abundantly blossomed, variegated pink rose

which I had ever seen or touched.

For many years, I saved

the dried, pressed rose and honeysuckle

in an oval, gold frame

to recall my one Cinderella moment of life.

* * *

A Grandfather’s Journey

a family-tree poem for Day 13 of NPM by Alice Jane-Marie Massa

Born on the 12th of April in 1879,

in the Levone Valley of Northern Italy,

Giacomo grew up with eleven siblings,

among whom were two sets of twins.

Ready to work,

he hiked over the Alps to work as a lumberjack

in the forests of Switzerland.

Eventually, his dreams took him to the departure point of Le Havre, France,

from where he set sail for the hope of America–

to work in the coal mines of a place called Indiana.

After establishing himself in the USA,

he arranged a marriage with the sister of a co-worker.

When Liza immigrated to America,

the two married in June of 1910,

raised four fine sons and one beautiful daughter.

On the farm in Klondyke,

Giacomo, then “James,” insisted that none of his sons

would ever step foot into a coal mine.

None did.  They journeyed elsewhere.

All four served America in Europe

during World War II, returned safely and well

to go on to other careers.

The years passed on:

my grandparents left their picturesque farm

to re-settle in a more modern house

in my family’s hometown of Blanford.

Late into his 80s,

my grandfather still cared for his large garden.

Three months before his passing, my grandpa

had to endure the unexpected passing

of his beloved, eldest son, Charlie, age 57.

In 1968,

shortly before the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr.,

at the onset of the last semester of my senior year of high school,

after James Massa’s journey of nearly 89 years,

my grandfather’s journey ended.

However, his dream of America

lives within my family and me

and grows in gratefulness.

* * *

Enjoy the upcoming third week of National Poetry Month!

Alice and Leader Dog Willow

April 14, 2021, Wednesday

Happy National Poetry Month!

Happy National Poetry Month!

                To celebrate this first week of National Poetry Month (NPM) on WORDWALK, I am sharing with you seven short poems which I wrote since the first of April.  Thank you for joining me in this month-long celebration of poetry!  Most of the following poems were developed from the prompts which I shared in my previous WORDWALK post.

* * *

Poetry Journeys:  An Acrostic for the First Day of National Poetry Month

by Alice Jane-Marie Massa




Reach and read,

Now write


Yarns of poetry.

* * *

Poetry Cottage in the Wood

a poem for the first day of National Poetry Month by Alice Jane-Marie Massa

Where I write

is in a cottage in the wood

where the sweet smell of pine

reminds me that this little writing world is

mine, indeed, and only mine.

In this poetry cottage in the wood,

I welcome only two guests–

Imagination and Creativity–

who must remain quiet, but amusing.

No matter the season of the year,

I would click together my ruby slippers every day

to take a hot-air balloon ride

to my little, solitary, inspiring

poetry cottage in the writing wood.

* * *

Calling Card

poem for the second day of National Poetry Month

by Alice Jane-Marie Massa

From the Milwaukee sky,

I hear the Eastern Phoebe:

“Fee-be, fee-be, fee-be.”

Only once since moving to the city

have I heard the Bob White

spouting his name above the boulevard:

“Bob White, Bob White, Bob White.”

Even in the winter and now this spring,

I hear the calling card of

the Black-capped Chickadee:


Why do I have such trouble with

leaving my own calling card?

“Po-et, Po-et, poet.”

* * *

An Easter Lily Acrostic

a poem for the third day of National Poetry Month by Alice Jane-Marie Massa

Elegant entrance,


Standing silently solo in silhouette,

Trumpet bloom poised to announce

Easter wishes and blessings to all who

Rejoice!  He has risen!

Like angel wings on emerald stem,


Lilies of Easter

instill peacefulness,

Echo prayers of joy,

Sweeten securely the glory of this day.

* * *

Rosemary Remembrance

a family-tree poem for the fourth day of National Poetry Month by Alice Jane-Marie Massa

Away from Heaven for only a few days,

little baby, full of grace,

fourth child of six,

so beautiful, so big–

but laid to rest forever

in the cradle of a tiny grave

at Clinton’s Riverside Cemetery.

On holy days of obligation,

we sometimes hunted

for your lone burial plot.

Leaving geraniums or peonies,

I wish I had known more about

my lovely Aunt Rosemary.

Would she have been my mentor

through this world of blindness?

Would she have been the first writer

in the family–

instead of me?

Would she have had

the heart of a poet?

I think of my Aunt Rosemary

often, too often

because Rosemary is for remembrance.

Like my beloved ancestors,

each spring,

I plant rosemary

in honor and homage

to my forever young

and forever mysterious Aunt Rosemary.

* * *

NOTE:  Earlier this year, I was pleased to hear the curator of the museum at the American Printing House for the Blind speak about the newly acquired Helen Keller collection.  He mentioned that not only was a rose named for Helen Keller, but also a tulip. 

* * *

Cinquain of Tulips

poem for Day 5 of NPM by Alice Jane-Marie Massa


Named for Helen–

Honor Ms. Keller’s grace,

creative determination,


* * *

Pearl on Marble

a cinquain for Day 6 of National Poetry Month by Alice Jane-Marie Massa


Hide one teardrop,

pearl on marble statue,

forever sculpted by COVID


* * *

NOTE:  Within brackets at the onset of each line, you will find the number of syllables for the poetic line so that, if you wish, you can readily determine the pattern for a cinquain which you may want to write.

[2]  Raindrop:

[4]  Hide one teardrop,

[6]  pearl on marble statue,

[8]  forever sculpted by COVID

[2]  artist.

Happy poetry writing, reading, and sharing!

Alice and Leader Dog Willow

April 7, 2021, Wednesday

2021 National Poetry Month Calendar of Prompts

2021 National Poetry Month Calendar of Prompts

(an NPM gift for you from Alice Jane-Marie Massa)

NOTE:  You may use this calendar of prompts in a variety of ways.  Each day of April includes at least three prompts from which you may choose.  If you are not enthused about the prompts for one day, you can go back and re-consider prompts which you did not use on previous days.  You may combine some prompts, change one a little, or insert one or more of your own prompts.  Let these prompts serve as a springboard for your poetry writing goals for National Poetry Month.  Most importantly, enjoy reading, sharing, and writing poetry this month!  Let’s celebrate NPM for thirty days!

* April 1, Thursday

__ Write a positive poem focusing on the solitude of writing poetry.

__ Write a poem focusing on your writing goals for this month.

__ Write a poem about winning a first-place prize you have won or would like to win.

* April 2, Friday

__ Write a poem about the duality of nature.

__ Write a poem describing twins whom you have known.

__ Write a poem which demonstrates your sense of humor.

* April 3, Saturday

__ Write a poem for children; include a duck, bunny, and/or lamb.

__ Write a poem focusing on snow-covered daffodils.

__ A triplet is a stanza of three rhyming lines.  Write a poem consisting of three triplets.

* April 4, Sunday

__ Write an acrostic based on the phrase “Easter lily.”

__ Think of your family tree; write a poem about the oldest person on your family tree.  (If you have previously written a family-tree poem or family-history poem, select the oldest person about whom you have not yet written.)

__ A quatrain is a stanza of four poetic lines.  Write a poem consisting of two quatrains or more.

* April 5, Monday

__Write a cinquain–a poem consisting of five lines whose number of syllables are 2, 4, 6, 8, 2.

__ List five of your favorite foods; then, write a poem about one or more of these foods.

__ Write a poem about five writers on your “Writing Team.”

* April 6, Tuesday

__ Write a poem about a real or metaphorical visitor at sunrise.

__ Write a poem about a raincoat and/or umbrella.

__ Write a poem about a teardrop or raindrop.

* April 7, Wednesday

__ Write a zip ode–a poem based on your current zip code or the zip code of your hometown.  The numerals of your selected zip code will determine the number of syllables for each subsequent poetic line.  If your zip code includes a zero, interpret this numeral as ten syllables.

__ Write a poem about a lost letter or lost package.

__ Write a poem about a post office.

* April 8, Thursday

__ Write a poem about dancing.

__ Write a poem about a yoga or other exercise class.

__ Write a poem about ballerina slippers, hiking boots, tap shoes, casual shoes, or other footwear.

* April 9, Friday

__ Write a poem about the sounds you hear at night.

__ Write a poem about the ninth inning of a baseball game.

__ Write a poem inspired by a note on a refrigerator.

* April 10, Saturday

__ Write a poem about your favorite or most remembered decade.

__ Write a poem about dust or dusting.

__ Write a poem about a dog.

* April 11, Sunday

__ Write a poem about several stages of your life.

__ Write a list poem in which you list at least eleven people, places, objects, ideas, etc.

__ Write a poem about a lake or other body of water.

* April 12, Monday

__ Write a poem about a favorite place where you have traveled or would like to travel.

__ Write a poem about a dozen doughnuts.

__ Write a poem about a dozen roses or dozen tulips.

* April 13, Tuesday

__ Write a poem about your luckiest day.

__ Write a poem about an elevator ride to the thirteenth floor.

__ Write a poem about a cake with thirteen candles.

* April 14, Wednesday

__ Write a sonnet.

__ Write a poem about a sneeze.

__ Write a family-history poem which focuses on a family heirloom.

* April 15, Thursday

__ Write a poem about a middle child.

__ Write a poem about a taxi ride.

__ Write a poem about a taxing situation.

* April 16, Friday

__ Write a poem set in a gazebo.

__ Write a poem about a pergola.

__ Write a poem about a bridge or bridges.

* April 17, Saturday

__ Write a poem dedicated to someone who has been most influential in your life.

__ Write a poem about a mentor or someone whom you have mentored.

__ Write a bio poem–a poem which is a short autobiographical piece.

* April 18, Sunday

__ Listen to the television program JEOPARDY!  From one or more of the categories, clues, and/or answers-in-the-form-of-a-question, write a poem.

__ Write a poem based on a favorite quotation of yours.

__ Make a list of at least five words that you consider most poetic; using one or more of these words, craft a poem.

* April 19, Monday

__ Write a poem for a monument in your hometown or in your imagination.

__ Write a poem for a plaque that will honor one of your favorite people.

__ Write a poem about your greatest accomplishment.

* April 20, Tuesday

__Write a poem about a piece of equipment or an appliance which is most needed or enjoyed.

__ Write a poem about an old standard typewriter or a rotary-dial telephone.

__ Write a poem which either begins or ends with a question.

* April 21, Wednesday

__ Write a poem about a musical instrument.

__ Write a poem about a music lesson or lessons.

__ Write a poem about a concert which you attended.

* April 22, Thursday

__ Write a poem about the “Tooth Fairy,” another fairy, or a butterfly.

__ Write a poem about losing a tooth.

__ Write a poem about wishes or a wishing well.

* April 23, Friday

__ Listen to or read your favorite news source until you find a topic for writing a poem.

__ Review a historical figure or event; then, write a poem about the person or event.

__ Write a poem about a vintage article of clothing.

* April 24, Saturday

__ Write a poem focusing on a memorable plane, train, or boat ride.

__ Write a poem about a sibling or an imaginary friend.

__ Write a poem about one of your hobbies or pastimes.

* April 25, Sunday

__ Write a poem which has a surprise ending.

__ Write a poem about a farm or farming.

__ Write a poem about an experience or an incident at a museum.

* April 26, Monday

__ Write an abecedarian–a poem of 26 lines, each of which begins with a word whose initial letter is a subsequent letter of the alphabet.

__ Write a poem set in a kitchen.

__ Write a poem about spring; use as many of the senses as possible to describe the spring scene.

* April 27, Tuesday

__ Write a poem resulting from your eavesdropping.

__ Write a poem about your neighborhood, community, or hometown.

__ Write a poem about competition.

* April 28, Wednesday

__ Write a poem about choices and/or challenges.

__ Write a poem about vegetable, herb, and/or flower gardening.

__ Write a poem set in a city park, state park, or national park.

* April 29, Thursday

__ Write a poem inspired by a book or article which you have read.

__ Write a poem that journals the changes you have experienced during the pandemic.

__ Write a poem about a homeless person.

* April 30, Friday

__ Write a poem about one tree or about trees.

__ Write a poem about poetry.

__ Write a poem about your growth as a poet during National Poetry Month.

Happy poetry writing!

Alice Massa


blog since January 19, 2013:

author’s web page:

Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Willow in the Wind

Willow in the Wind and Other Tales of my Fourth Leader Dog

By Alice Jane-Marie Massa

                “Cute” was the word that people most often used to describe my fourth Leader Dog during the first three years of our working together.  None of my three previous Leader Dogs were ever referred to as “cute”:  each of them was described as “beautiful.”  I have wondered about Willow’s “cute” quotient.  Her British Black Labrador ears are significantly larger than her predecessors; however, her legs are certainly shorter than Keller’s, Heather’s, and Zoe’s.  In harness, Willow is a “down-to-business” type of guide dog who takes her profession quite seriously and most cautiously.  Basically, cute or beautiful–Leader Dog Willow takes extremely good care of my mobility and me and truly makes my life so very much easier and enjoyable.

                Since I received Willow at Leader Dog School on June 7, 2016, I have realized that she adapts well to changes and to new situations.  Prior to meeting me, Willow had been through even more changes than the typical guide-dog-in-training; thus, I was grateful when she bonded with me so quickly, and I was determined to give her a “forever home.”  Unfortunately, the winds of change blew into everyone’s world last year around this time.  Willow continued to adapt very well.  Masked people around her, my wearing a mask, and fewer people in our circle have not seemed to phase her at all. 

                When we moved to the retirement community for less than six months, she was thrust into a totally different environment from a city-living style.  Nevertheless, I was there; and my philosophy is that wherever the guide dog’s handler is will be “home.”  On the other hand, when Willow and I returned to our “old block” in Milwaukee, Willow was prancing down her familiar sidewalks in an ever-so-happy fashion for at least the first ten days of our re-settling here last October.  Her demeanor made me realize that we had made to right decision to move back to city living:  I believe that Willow relishes the challenges of working in a large city environment.

                Our arrival back in Milwaukee was the day after Willow’s seventh birthday which was the day all of our furniture was loaded onto the moving truck.  In the empty townhouse on October 20, we planned to camp out on the living room floor for one night.  For my sister (who had come from Colorado to help), Willow, and me–we had two sleeping bags and three dog beds because I did not want the dog beds to be on the moving van.  After preparing the “Cadillac” of dog beds for Willow for the night, I thought of an idea for myself.  I placed her longest bed on the floor with her “My Pillow” dog bed at the “head” of my make-shift bed.  Atop this configuration of dog beds, I placed my sleeping bag; atop the sleeping bag, I placed a fleece blanket, similar to the ones I use for Willow during the coldest weather months.  While I did a couple of other things, Willow quietly moved from her bed to my new arrangement.  Of course, she was not familiar with the concept of sleeping bags–all of which must have just appeared to her as another nice doggie bed for her.  I convinced her to move back to her “Cadillac” bed for a few minutes; however, when I did something else, you can guess who returned to the newly created bed.  I did find this situation amusing although getting a little sleep before the movers arrived the next morning seemed like a good idea.  (I must say that the “My Pillow” dog bed made a mighty fine pillow on the floor that night.)

                The only times when Willow became somewhat uneasy was with the rapid-paced moving out and moving in of furniture by the professional movers.  When I could sense he unease, I took her outside for a while and/or took her for a walk.  When we returned, she was fine and able to cope with the commotion around her–even though I tried to stay with Willow at the safest spot for us in the house.  Fortunately, being in other crowded areas and in the ever-present construction areas have never bothered Willow’s concentration on her guide work.  I guess that she, like I, prefers a more stable home environment.

                I can hardly believe that Willow is already seven-and-a-half years old.  On Monday, someone at Metro Market asked me how old Willow is; he thought she was much younger.  Still that “cute” look, you know.  Nevertheless, my fourth Leader Dog continues to work as a mature guide dog.  In an extremely high wind on Sunday, we were walking down the sidewalk along Van Buren Street (an area of a wind-tunnel effect due to the skyscrapers and proximity to the lake and Milwaukee River).  “Find the upsy,” I told her.  Willow stopped for the uplift in the sidewalk, as usual.  Then, I gave her another command, “Find the circle-drive sidewalk.”  The circle drive sidewalk leads to the 23-story tower of our apartment complex on the same block of which is our townhouse; so, Willow is extremely accustomed to this route.  Nevertheless, in the extremely high wind, my British Black Lab employed the use of what Leader Dog School refers to as “intelligent disobedience.”  Willow turned right early and took me via another walkway to a side door which is much more protected by the wind–a door which we had taken only once or twice since May of last year.  My sweet and “cute” little Willow was really thinking to make this smooth change of route.  Of course, as we drew near the alternate side door, I knew precisely what she had done; I praised her, took out my key, and opened her door of choice for our entering the high-rise tower for going to the mailroom. 

                Like this example from a windy Sunday, I know of so many times when Willow was really thinking through a circumstance.  Indeed, guide dogs are worthy of respect, honor, devotion, and love.  Leader Dog Willow earns her praise every day; every night when she comes to my call to lie on her “Cadillac” of beds for the night, I ask St. Francis of Assisi to bless her; and I thank my Willow for being a very good Leader Dog.

WORDWALK NOTE:  This post concludes my focus on my four Leader Dogs, draws to a close my celebration of thirty-one years of working with four amazing Leader Dogs.  Thank you for following me through these guide-dog memories!  Throughout the month of April, poetry will be in the spotlight on WORDWALK to celebrate National Poetry Month.  After April, I will return to posting a variety of pieces each month until November when a month of gratitude will be celebrated.

Easter Blessings to you and your families!

Alice and Leader Dog Willow

March 31, 2021, Wednesday

More Memories of Zoe

More Memories of Zoe:

Celebrating 31 Years with Four Leader Dogs, Part 4 of 5

By Alice Jane-Marie Massa

                My third Leader Dog Zoe was matched with me because she was especially good working in a city.  Her guide work in the downtown area of Milwaukee, through various neighborhood construction projects, and on the campus of Milwaukee Area Technical College was masterful, dependable, and trustworthy.  From semester to semester, my beautiful Black Labrador/Golden Retriever Mix so quickly learned my schedule of classes, the locations of each office and classroom where we needed to go, as well as locations of the cafeteria, food court, library, restrooms, and various entrances and exits of each building.  Through the crowded hallways, my Leader Dog was sound and steady.  When we went to a large meeting or event at one of the three auditoriums on campus, I knew she would lead me into the auditorium, find an empty seat, lie quietly and still at my feet, and then lead me carefully out of the auditorium.  In the office which I shared with three other instructors, Zoe had a dog bed where she could rest while I worked in my office or talked with students between my classes.  As my two first and second Leader Dogs, Zoe was well-known around campus, our apartment complex, and our neighborhood. 

                I believe that good working dogs or outstanding working dogs, like Zoe, do relish the responsibilities and challenges of guide-dog work.  Nevertheless, my lovely Lab/Golden Mix did enjoy her toys at home–especially a myriad of stuffed, plush toys, many of which she knew by name.  At times, unable to select just one toy to carry around, Zoe would carry two plush toys at the same time.  Quite a feat for a rather slender dog!  Like my other Leader Dogs, Zoe was especially “soft-mouthed” and maintained her toys in very good condition for a long time.  Treating her toys so gently resulted in our amassing quite a collection of stuffed animals and gingerbread dolls.  Despite the love of her toys, Zoe did not mind at all sharing her toys with our little friend Harper. 

                Whenever we traveled, I packed a couple of toys and a Nylabone so that Zoe could have some play time at the hotel room or relative’s house.  In addition to flying with Zoe to Colorado, we enjoyed several road trips around the Midwest at different times with my sister and/or cousin Carole.  Fortunately, all four of my Leader Dogs have been very good travelers, as one would expect of a guide dog.  Journeys to Minnesota to visit relatives were always important  and special times for Zoe and me.

In Springfield, Illinois, Zoe was at my side when we toured the Abraham Lincoln sites, including the home where the Lincoln family lived for seventeen years before moving to the White House; my Leader Dog was with me as we paid our respects at President Lincoln’s tomb. 

In Michigan, we enjoyed the tourist sights of Holland, as well as a visit at the President Gerald R. Ford Museum at Grand Rapids.  More highlights in Michigan were attending wedding events of my nephew and his bride.  How pleased I was when my nephew escorted Zoe and me down the aisle to our seats at the church for his wedding.  (On the wall along my stairway, one of the large framed photos is of Zoe and me with the bride and groom–Eric and Marissa.)  After all of the wedding events, Zoe and I had another big event in Michigan:  on the campus of Western Michigan University, we spent a memorable afternoon with Zoe’s puppy-raiser Lisa who was very happy to see Zoe working in harness.  Although the WMU campus had undergone significant changes since I had previously been there in 1990-1991, Zoe and I were still able to walk around the campus independently in July of 2012.  Lisa is the only puppy-raiser of my four Leader Dogs whom I have had the great pleasure of meeting.  Fortunately, Zoe maintained a “professional” demeanor when meeting again her puppy-raiser; however, at the designated time, both Lisa and Zoe enjoyed re-acquainting.  What an extraordinary time for all of us!  Puppy-raisers are such wonderful people who give so much!

                Trips back home to my Indiana were always the most special to me.  Besides visiting family and friends who were able to meet my third Leader Dog, we warmed our hearts with visits to a variety of places of my younger days.  As soon as we entered the Hall of Fame Museum at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, one of the docents greeted us with special attention because he was a member of the Lions Club and was delighted to welcome a Leader Dog to the museum.  My sister, Zoe, and I were thrilled to take the tour bus around the famous 2.5-mile oval of the Indy 500.  As we departed from the museum for the ride around the track, the bus driver said over the speaker to a base unit that he was leaving for the track with thirteen people and one Leader Dog!  (Willow, my current Leader Dog, is still awaiting her ride around the Indianapolis Motor Speedway–someday soon after COVID.)

                After I retired from full-time teaching, Zoe was with me to celebrate with many family members at a family reunion at one of our favorite gathering places–Turkey Run State Park in Marshall, Indiana.  Even though Zoe was picked for me because of her ability to work well in a city environment, my guide dog worked very well at the state park also.  From previous visits over many years, I knew Trail #1 to Sunset Point well; nevertheless, having Zoe guide me along the densely wooded path, down a few unusual type of uneven stairs to the opening and overlook at Sunset Point added even more to my trust in her working abilities.  At the overlook, I enjoyed hearing the canoers, the sounds of the canoes and paddles in the water of Sugar Creek, as well as the birds.    Then, with other family members, Zoe and I led the way toward the suspension bridge and then onto the road that circled back to the Turkey Run Inn.  What a pleasant time to share with Zoe and my extended family! 

                Leader Dog School, my trainer Jessica Bimmerman at Leader, Zoe’s trainer Sue Hackman, and Zoe’s puppy-raising family gave me one of the absolute greatest gifts of my life–my third Leader Dog.  Since I cannot see photos of Zoe, I do try to keep in my mind a clear picture of her grace, beauty, and tenderness.  However, I wish I had a marble statue of my treasured Zoe who made my life so much easier and brighter from June 6, 2009 through March 16, 2016.  Yes, Leader Dog School gave me this greatest gift of Zoe; then hemangiosarcoma took away this gift much too quickly.  Memories of Zoe are always written with great joy and too many tears.

WORDWALK NOTE:  Please return to WORDWALK next week for the fifth and final installment of this series.  March 31 will be Willow’s turn!

Happy spring to my WORDWALK readers!

Alice and Leader Dog Willow

March 24, 2021, Wednesday

Happy St. Patrick’s Day

Holding My Second and Third Leader Dogs in My Heart’s Memory

By Alice Jane-Marie Massa

                On the weekend of St. Patrick’s Day in 1990, I was completing my packing on the 17th and was off to Leader Dog School for the first time on the 18th; so, I do associate my luck of working with tremendously wonderful guide dogs with St. Patrick’s Day.  Due to my first Leader Dog’s reddish-golden color, some people mistakenly thought that Keller was an Irish Red Setter; however, she was pure Golden Retriever.  On the other hand, my third Leader Dog, Zoe, was part Golden Retriever and part Black Labrador.  Zoe’s father was the Golden, Quincy; and her mother was a Black Labrador, Breezy.  Since first meeting Zoe on June 6, 2009, I always thought of my Zoe as the “best of both worlds–Golden and Labrador. 

                When we first met at Leader Dog School, Zoe was so excited to meet me that, for a few minutes, I thought, “Oh, she will be a handful.”  Quite quickly, I learned that she was only a handful of love, discipline, expertise, and devotion because as soon as I put on her harness, her demeanor totally changed.  The bouncy, puppy-like behavior immediately transformed into all one could ever hope for in a Leader Dog.  Additionally, Zoe was statuesque and strikingly beautiful.  Amazingly, our first walk was superb!  Some people may think that I have not been very lucky in life, but I felt as if I won the lottery with my Leader Dog Zoe.  Unbelievably quickly, Zoe and I became a fine-tuned working team.  I was extremely grateful then and am still extraordinarily grateful that Zoe was a part of my life from June 6, 2009, through March 16, 2016. 

                Learning to work with Zoe was so very much easier than with my first two guide dogs.  Perhaps, Keller and Heather had taught me so much about guide work that my transitioning to Zoe became so easy.  Most clearly, I recall that on one of our last evenings at Leader Dog School for the three-week training session, my third Leader Dog and I went on the night-walk lesson.  That evening, a different trainer (guide-dog mobility instructor–GDMI) observed Zoe and my walking around the downtown training center to the main street, down the main street, and then back to the front door of the training center.  I must have been beaming because I knew Zoe had done everything perfectly–guided me with absolute perfection.  What a wonderful feeling!  The icing on the cake was a most generous compliment from the GDMI:  I believe that even he was somewhat surprised, but overwhelmingly pleased at Zoe’s perfect work. 

                From that night walk, I knew that Zoe and I would have together many happy trails.  We did.  My third Leader Dog was beside me for my final two of twenty years of full-time teaching at Milwaukee Area Technical College through my early years of retirement. 

Although I thought I had the perfect plan for introducing Zoe to my second Leader Dog, Heather, at my home in Milwaukee–Mother Nature had other plans.  When we arrived at my apartment complex, stormy weather and rain drenched my plans.  My cousin Carole had been staying with my newly retired Leader Dog while I went to Rochester, Michigan to train with Zoe.  My sister had come from Colorado for a visit and had picked up Zoe and me at the airport.  Due to the weather, I introduced Zoe to Heather inside the house.  With both Carole and Mary watching, Zoe was very happy to meet Heather who was lying down in my office/dining room, on one of her beds.  Heather was fine with Zoe’s playing with one of the older dog’s toys; however, possibly due to arthritis, Heather did not want the bouncy Zoe sharing her bed.  Heather drew the line  about sharing a bed, and Zoe promptly complied. 

                As the next thirteen months passed, Heather and Zoe became good buddies.  Zoe learned that she was permitted to lie beside Heather’s bed–just not on the bed.  Once, on the largest of the three dog beds, upstairs, both Leader Dogs did lie together.  I wish I had been able to photograph the two of them together at that minute.

                As Heather grew older, turning thirteen and then almost fourteen, she was not as calm as my Yellow Lab had been in previous years.  Nevertheless, Zoe would lie near her older “sister” and calm her down.  Also, Heather had become less and less comfortable with veterinary visits; however, when Zoe was with Heather, my Yellow Lab was significantly calmer at the veterinary clinic. 

For many reasons, I adored having the two Leader Dogs (one retired and one active) together.  Since Heather was so ready for retirement by the time of Zoe’s arrival, Heather did not seem to mind another Leader Dog’s taking over the duties of guide work:  we were a fortunate threesome. 

                Since Heather had never been left alone at home, a dogsitter stayed with Heather during the hours, each Monday through Friday, when Zoe and I went to work at MATC for the next two semesters.  Somehow, all worked out so well that I could keep my retired Leader Dog while working with my new Leader Dog, Zoe.

                A couple of months after Heather passed away on July 1, 2010, I was cleaning under a tall bookcase and found a clump of what I knew was the soft undercoat hair of Heather.  As soon as I picked up the clump of hair in my hand, Zoe came running:  my third Leader Dog must have picked up a scent of her old buddy, Heather.  For a few minutes, Zoe and I shared in missing Heather.  Zoe was even my companion in grieving Heather’s loss. 

**  TO BE CONTINUED–next Wednesday!

MUSICAL NOTE:  You might think that my dad was most known for singing an Italian song, but no.  Definitely, he was most known for singing “The Irish Lullaby,” or “Toora-loora-looral.”  My father sang this song to many babies and toddlers in our family.  I love the song because it reminds me so much of my dad.  While I am certain he heard Bing Crosby singing “The Irish Lullaby,”  I am sharing with you on this St. Patrick’s WORDWALK, a version by The Irish Tenors.

The Irish Tenors- Toora-Loora-Looral (LIVE) – YouTube › watch

Happy St. Patrick’s Day and Happy Spring!

Alice and Leader Dog Willow

March 17, 2021, Wednesday

Pi Poems for Pi Day (with Instructions)

WORDWALK NOTE:  On this Eve of Pi Day, in the midst of this month of March, I am sharing with you an extra post for Pi Day.  This posting includes a new twenty-five-line pi poem (which I presented at a Readers’ Workshop this past Monday; then, you will find an article which details with examples and a numeric guide “How to Create a Pi Poem.”  On St. Patrick’s Day (Wednesday), I will return to posting pieces about my four Leader Dogs to mark my 31st anniversary of working with guide dogs.

            The numerals in brackets at the onset of each poetic line in the first poem indicate the number of syllables per line:  this poetic form will be explained after the first poem.

* * *

Celebrating Poetry on Pi Day

pi poem by Alice Jane-Marie Massa

[3]  Poetry

[1]  glides

[4]  upon sweet air

[1]  of

[5]  imagination,

[9]  translates into many languages

[2]  of life,

[6] whispers kindness and hope,

[5]  tempers brief anger,

[3]  mirrors love,

[5]  plants rhyming gardens,

[8]  urges questions from fluffy clouds,

[9]  dances with each partner at the ball,

[7]  begs to be read and re-read,

[9]  wishes to be read aloud by you,

[3]  wants to be

[2]  dog-eared

[3]  by readers

[8]  who appreciate this genre

[4]  that manages

[6]  to lift the creative

[2]  readers

[6]to the glorious land

[4]  to celebrate

[3]  Pi Poems! 

* * *

How to Create a Pi Poem

for Pi Day (March 14)

By Alice Jane-Marie Massa

            My math teachers and professors would be quite surprised to know that I am still working with the mathematical pi (the ratio of the circumference of a circle to its diameter).  Of course, I am using pi for crafting a pi poem; and soon, you will also be using the mathematical pi to write your own pi poem (additionally called a “piem.”

            On April 25, 2014, on a WUWM-FM radio broadcast of the program Lake Effect, I heard a poet mention this format for writing a poem.  I was inspired and wanted to take on the challenge of crafting a pi poem.  Simply, for each line one wishes to write, the poet incorporates the number of syllables according to each numeral of pi.  Thus, the first line of a piem contains three syllables while the second line has only one syllable; the third line is a count of four syllables, and the fourth line includes one syllable.  (While I prefer to count syllables, some poets count words per poetic line to create a piem.)  If you choose to take on such a poetic challenge, you may make the pi poem as short or as long as you like.

            For a pi poem, only the number of syllables per line is important; the rhyming pattern or lack of a rhyme scheme is the writer’s choice.  Dividing the piem into stanzas is also the decision of the poet (or “piemist”). 

With 34 lines, the following pi poem has syllables for each line based upon this portion of the mathematical pi:  3.1415926535897932384626433832795028.

To further assist you with the goal of creating your own pi poem, after the first presentation of my sample pi poem, the piem will be repeated with a numeral accompanying each line:  the numeral at the onset of each line indicates the number of syllables in that poetic line.  Therefore, the second presentation of my pi poem lets you know how I did follow the numerals of the mathematical pi to create my piem.  The third part of this “how-to” article includes an important guideline which you can copy and paste into your new document.  By using the syllabic guideline at the end of this article, you will find writing a pi poem very easy.

I find writing a pi poem is like playing a word game, and I hope that you will enjoy crafting a piem also.

* * *

Wintering Hands (A Pi Poem)

by Alice Jane-Marie Massa

My dry hands


winter’s lotion


moisture of snowflakes

without the numbing chill to the bone.

These hands

that do read braille by touch

reach into the gloves

of winter

to protect the sense

that gives me the blessing to read.

When you make snow angels with gloved hands,

when you form snowballs in palms,

when you shovel snow with mittened hands,


to take

special care

of your wintered fingers and thumbs.

Throughout winter,

two extra pairs of gloves

are tucked

inside my worn backpack

so that if I

lose a pair

or find I

need to give a pair to someone,

I will be


prepared to share the safe warmth

of thick fleece-lined, snowflake-patterned gloves.

Glove compartments soothe

the soul

that worries about winter’s cold.

** NOTE:  To assist you with writing a pi poem of your own creation, I will repeat the text of “Wintering Hands” below; however, you will find that each line is preceded by a number which indicates the number of syllables of the poetic line.  If you read only the numerals down the left side of the page, you will find that these numerals are the first thirty-four numbers of the mathematical pi.  To deal with a zero of pi, you may skip the zero, insert a stanza break at the point of the zero, or craft a line of ten syllables.

Wintering Hands (A Guide for a Pi Poem)

by Alice Jane-Marie Massa

(3)  My dry hands

(1)  need

(4)  winter’s lotion

(1)  or

(5)  moisture of snowflakes

(9)  without the numbing chill to the bone.

(2)  These hands

(6)  that do read braille by touch

(5)  reach into the gloves

(3)  of winter

(5)  to protect the sense

(8)  that gives me the blessing to read.

(9)  When you make snow angels with gloved hands,

(7)  when you form snowballs in palm,

(9)  when you shovel snow with mittened hands,

(3)  remember

(2)  to take

(3)  special care

(8)  of your wintered fingers and thumbs.

(4)  Throughout winter,

(6)  two extra pairs of gloves

(2)  are tucked

(6)  inside my worn backpack

(4)  so that if I

(3)  lose a pair

(3)  or find I

(8)  need to give a pair to someone,

(3)  I will be

(2)  fully

(7)  prepared to share the safe warmth

(9)  of thick fleece-lined, snowflake-patterned gloves.

(5)  Glove compartments soothe

(2)  the soul

(8)  that worries about winter’s cold.

Guidelines for a 19-line (or less) Pi Poem

DIRECTIONS:  Before you begin writing your pi poem, copy and paste into your new document the following syllabic guideline pattern for a piem of nineteen lines or less.  (If you wish to create a longer pi poem, just refer to the mathematical pi.)  Craft the desired number of poetic lines of a pi poem by writing a poetic line on each of the following lines, each of which begins with a number in brackets to indicate the number of syllables you should write for that particular line.  After you have written your desired number of lines according to the syllabic pattern, delete the numerals and brackets at the onset of each poetic line.  Remember to title your pi poem, and then polish  and proofread your piem!




















NOTE:  If you have any questions about writing a pi poem, please e-mail me at:

Enjoy creating a pi poem!  Happy Pi Day!

Alice and Leader Dog Willow

March 13, 2021, Saturday (Eve of Pi Day)