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Tulips for Zoe


Tulips for Zoe


by Alice Jane-Marie Massa



Do you have any tulips today?  Are these perky flowers  left from a centerpiece for your Easter table, or are they reaching through the earth of your garden and growing toward the sky?  Although the Easter Bunny did not bring me a basket of tulips and although I have given up in my attempts to have tulips spring up from my container garden, a writer friend did send me a remarkable poem about tulips on Easter Sunday.  Inspired by this thoughtful gift of a poem and by numerous radio commercials for a bouquet of thirty cut tulips, I dug into my poetic archives; and the following  poem sprang forth for this springtime blog.


When I re-discovered my tulip poem, it was accompanied by a few notes which reminded me of what I was doing when I conceived the idea for this poem and wrote it on September 23, 2012.  On that Sunday, I was walking with my former Leader Dog Zoe (my third guide dog) when, between 4:00 and 4:30 p.m.,  I developed this two-quatrain poem.  Thus, tulips brought me back to another memory of my Zoe–another lasting connection with her–as I think of her with the tenth anniversary of her birth approaching on April 23.


On the next evening in September of 2012, when I was revising the short poem for the final lesson of the Hadley School for the Blind’s course Elements of Poetry(then taught by author Geraldine Lawhorn), I was also awaiting the news of the return home of my nephew from Afghanistan (coincidentally, a country mentioned in my short poem).  How grateful we were and still are that he came home safe and well from his deployment in Afghanistan!


Prior to writing this poem, I had read the absolutely wonderful book Tulipomania:  The Story of the World’s Most Coveted Flower and the Extraordinary Passions It Aroused (copyright 1999), by historian Mike Dash.  I incorporated a bit of the history which I learned from Tulipomania into some of my rhyming lines about tulips.



A Gardener’s Globe


by Alice Jane-Marie Massa



First from China, Tibet, Russia, and Afghanistan–

once worth more than a Rembrandt masterpiece,

once food for the empty plates of war-torn Holland,

the globe of the treasured tulip tantalizes my gardener’s valise.


While Autumn’s hand bedecks the land,

my hand digs in the cool, dampened dirt

to plant each bulb—-each precious globe–

that, on Spring’s runway, will fashion into a bright, petaled skirt.



During this third week of National Poetry Month,

I hope you will gaze upon some cheery tulips to brighten your spring day!

Alice and Leader Dog Willow


April 19, 2017, Wednesday


Easter Acrostic and a Prose Piece of Easter Memories


For this second week of National Poetry Month, I am sharing with you an Easter wish with the following ten-line acrostic poem; then, you will find some Easter memories in prose form.



Easter Acrostic


by Alice Jane-Marie Massa



Easter wishes

Arranged in

Springtime baskets with

Tulips, tall and pink,

Eagerly await the showers for

Rejoicing, renewing.


Like the TV show JEOPARDY,

I ask you to answer in the form of a question.

Look for the clue within this Easter acrostic:

You will know the virtual Easter gift I give to you.



A Prose Piece of Easter Memories


The clean, clear, distinctive fragrance of vinegar easily comes to mind and nose.  Whenever I am using vinegar to clean a floor, the smell of the vinegar reminds my senses of dying Easter eggs.  As a child, I loved this magical, creative, artistic endeavor of the Easter season.  Although the grocery store of my uncle and maternal grandmother did not stock too many items of the holiday fare, on the shelf behind the adding machine were the boxes of Easter egg dye.  Inside the box, about five inches by five inches by five-eighths inch, were the tablets that made the magic when one of the tablets was placed in the bottom of a small bowl or cup and then covered with vinegar and water.  Although I dyed Easter eggs in the 1950s into the 1960s, PAAS dye kits for Easter eggs were first sold in New Jersey in 1880 for five cents.  Although I have always preferred pastel colors, the eggs dyed the outstanding orchid color were my favorite.  My sister and I did not have plastic eggs during our childhood, we dyed and hid actual boiled eggs–until one of our parents deemed the eggs too smelly to hide any longer.  I most recall hiding the eggs inside, so I imagine that many Easters of my youth were either rainy or cool for an Indiana spring.


My mother must have been a forerunner of the recycling movement because in the 1950s, she would place Easter baskets in the very high closet above the linen closet in our bathroom; then, when the next Easter rolled around, she took some of the used baskets from the closet and even recycled some of the pink or green cellophane grass, but did add fresh Easter candy and the newly dyed Easter eggs.  I will not admit how many years passed before I realized my mother’s recycling efforts.  I guess she taught the Easter Bunny a thing or two about recycling.


During my first year of teaching, one of my students gave me for the Easter of 1973 a beautifully feathered duck whose feathers bountifully form a nest in which was a large candy Easter egg.  The duck’s head is made of styrofoam with a pipe cleaner mouth and a flattened flower atop his cute head.  Amazingly, this Easter duck is the same orchid color that I so liked for coloring Easter eggs.  Each Easter, I still set this feathered duck on one of my tables as part of a little Easter decor and remember those first two semesters of students.  Today, that student (who worked after school at a grocery store because he was one of twelve children in his family) would be about fifty-six years old, and I imagine he would never guess that I still have the purple duck.



Best wishes for a sunny and happy Easter filled with memories and/or chocolate!

Alice and Leader Dog Willow


April 12, 2017, Wednesday  (This date marks the 138th anniversary of my paternal grandfather’s birth.)


A Baseball Poem for National Poetry Month


A Baseball Poem for Opening Week


of National Poetry Month, 2017



With the onset of April comes not only the baseball season, but also the poetry season.  Yes, I am already happily in the midst of National Poetry Month.  To kick off the celebration of National Poetry Month, I was inspired by the baseball diamonds of this spring season; and I hope you will enjoy the following poem and other poetry that you will encounter or create throughout this month of April.



Poetry Diamond


by Alice Jane-Marie Massa



Squinting into the sun,

smiling, at bat,

I hit a home rhyme!

Cheers from the fans

in the stanzas!


Who is on first base?


Who is on second?


Who is on third?



As we run the bases,

I give a satisfying grin

to all the editors in the outfield.

I tip my hat

to all the fans in the stanzas–

my loyal readers–

who comment, comment, comment.


After touching home plate,

I am embraced by all my Punctuation Partners

in the dugout–

teammates on this Poetry Diamond.

Then, Coach reminds me

of our goal–

the iambic pentameter.


I will never forget this Poetry Diamond–

especially on

Opening Day

Of National Poetry Month!


Go for another home rhyme!

Press on for the Victory of Verse!



Happy National Poetry Month!

Alice and Leader Dog Willow


April 5, 2017, Wednesday


NOTE:  As author of The Christmas Carriage and Other Writings of the Holiday Season (copyright 2016), I invite you to visit my author’s web page:

and please return to this Wordwalk blog of mine next Wednesday for a new posting:


My First Guide Dog: The Keller Years


The Keller Years:


March 21, 1990-December 15, 1997


by Alice Jane-Marie Massa



If I were to divide my life into chapters, an easy way to do so would be according to the dog (or dogs) who shared my life during a particular period.  On March 21, 1990, “The Keller Years” began when a strikingly beautiful, reddish golden retriever came into my life as my first Leader Dog.  Twenty-seven years ago today, Keller and I took our first walk together–with her wearing her Leader Dog harness and leash.  The day was gray, with a little rain; but March 22, 1990, is a golden day in my memory.


Although I had pet dogs throughout my then four decades of life, learning to work with a guide dog was like learning a new dance with a new dance partner.  The name of the dance, if well done, was Independent Mobility; and I often realized that my partner was training me more than I was training her.  After all, during the previous three months, she had been training with a professional trainer while I had only been reading books about guide dogs and increasing the length of my daily walks with a white cane.


At that time, the guide dog school which I attended (March 18 through April 12, 1990) did not give students any information about the puppy-raiser or puppy-raiser family.  Thus, although I have been able to thank the puppy-raisers of my Yellow Labrador Heather, my Golden Retriever/Black Labrador Zoe, and my Black Labrador Willow–I have never been able to thank the puppy-raiser of my first Leader Dog, Keller.  In 1990, students were not even told the exact birthdays of their guide dogs.  knowing only that Keller’s birthday was sometime in June, I established the tradition of celebrating her birthday on the birthday of whom I thought was her namesake–Helen Keller.  While no other guide dog in our March-1990 class had been a littermate of Keller, I did learn that one of Keller’s littermates, named Cedar, had become a graduate in the previous class at Leader Dog School (Rochester, Michigan).  Since Keller was such a loving dog and had such good house manners, I certainly have always missed having the opportunity to greatly thank the people who raised, initially trained, devotedly cared for, loved, and then amazingly generously gave the young Golden back to Leader Dogs School and eventually to me.  Somehow, I hope these puppy-raisers know how much their gift to me remarkably changed my life in very positive ways and how deeply I thank them for the gift of my first Leader Dog.


Perhaps, these puppy-raisers of Keller trained her to do something that is not a requirement for guide dogs.  On command, Keller would find what was to me a lost item on a floor.  Whenever I told her to “find it,” she did; then, Keller lay flat out on the floor and extended her right paw so that it was pointing directly to the lost object.  “Good dog, Keller!”  Of course, she enjoyed the praise; and I was pleased to have help with finding what I had dropped or otherwise lost.


Since Keller was so good at performing the “find it” trick, my students at the Visually Impaired Persons Program (for adults) enjoyed witnessing Keller’s obedient finds.  Also, while I was a blind rehabilitation instructor, Keller had a quick, uncanny way of learning the names of my students.  When I told her “Find Joe,” Keller would gracefully lead me through the large classroom with four cubicles along one wall and find the student with whom I wanted to speak.


During one semester, our Visually Impaired Persons’ Program included six students with guide dogs and a number of students with white canes.  The guide dogs, from a few different guide dog schools, got along very well; but I always thought that Keller realized that she needed to set an example for the other guide dogs and behaved accordingly.


One day I distinctly remember during “The Keller Years” was marked by Keller and my taking a typical noon break by walking through three buildings via skywalks and then going outside.  As we were walking on the skywalk from the Continuing Education Building to the Old Main Building in the bright light of the windows of the skywalk, someone stopped to tell me, “Your guide dog always looks so happy when she is working.”  I thoroughly appreciated hearing this comment, but I knew that Keller was completely devoted to her work and especially loved her guide work.  I was extraordinarily lucky to receive such a guide dog as my first Leader Dog.  She was beside me when I, at Leader Dog School, returned a phone call and learned that I received a fellowship grant to earn a second master’s degree at Western Michigan University.  Keller was beside me when we learned the campus of Western Michigan University and attended classes and events.  My first Leader Dog was beside me when we learned our new home area in Milwaukee and the campus of my new workplace at Milwaukee Area Technical College.  My new Golden was beside me as my life blossomed into a new career and new experiences.  Together, we learned so very much.


As I write just a few notes about Keller, I realize that “The Keller Years” would need to comprise a few or several chapters–not just one.  If she were still here beside me, I would have her sit and tell her “Wave.”  Her right paw would be immediately up and repeatedly stretching out in a wave to you and/or to your pet dog or guide dog.  At Leader Dog School, she was dubbed “the Stellar Keller”; and her light has shined upon me with my second, third, and now fourth Leader Dogs.



March on to a Happy Spring!

Alice and Willow, my fourth Leader Dog


March 22, 2017, Wednesday


Remembering Leader Dog Zoe


Remembering, with Love and Honor, Leader Dog Zoe


(April 23, 2007-March 16, 2016)


by Alice Jane-Marie Massa



If I were a sculptor,

I would have chiseled

into a block of marble

a lasting monument

to you and your beautiful ways.


If I were a painter of canvas,

I would have re-created

your portrait as you always sat

in your princes, posture-perfect pose.


If I were a skilled photographer,

I would have captured your likeness–

mid-stride, your harness up,

your head held high and proud

to be in the lead.


If I were a painter

with water colors …

oh, but I have painted you

a thousand times

with water-color tears–

pictures developed only in my mind:

the painful hours and moments of your unexpected final day,

the precious and blessed years

that you

generously and lovingly

shared with me.


Since I am not an artist,

I have crafted only words for you

during this past measured year,

these last twelve months,

these fleeting fifty-two weeks,

these recent 365 days–

without you

at my lead

or beside me.


To give tribute

to your greatness,

I could only dedicate

a small book to you,

dedicate this blog to you,

remember you

and thank you

at the highest altitude

of gratitude,

tonight and always.



In loving memory of my third Leader Dog, Zoe,

who passed away one year ago

at 5:00 p.m., Wednesday, March 16, 2016,

at our home in Milwaukee–

Alice and Willow, my fourth Leader Dog


March 15, 2017, Wednesday


A Pi Poem to Treasure Crocheted Afghans


A Pi Poem to Treasure Crocheted Afghans


by Alice Jane-Marie Massa



Hands that held


plain crochet hooks,


if artist’s brushes,

turned strands of yarn into canvases

of warmth,

of love gifted to all

who received afghans

crafted by

Mother, Aunt Zita,

and–of course, the most prolific–

my paternal grandmother (Liza).


rippled, shell, or granny square

were patterns they crocheted in colors

to match taste,



for the lucky recipient.


Covered with warmth

of the wool, granny-square


I thought of my mother

who still gives me

her caring,

her wisdom,

her amazing inspiration

for this poem.


This week,

my sister sent to the twins

two small afghans made by our mother

so that a brand new

generation can feel the warmth from the past

and learn

to smile, wrapped in hand-crocheted love.


NOTE:  In my previous Wordwalk blog, I wrote briefly of how to create a pi poem and also included another pi poem of mine.  While I divided this week’s pi poem into stanzas, you (the poet) decide whether to write the pi poem as one stanza or to divide the “piem” into two or more stanzas.  Below I will repeat the exact same pi poem as above; but I will insert at the onset of each line the number of syllables in that particular line, according to the first thirty-five numerals of the mathematical pi.  As in last week’s poem, I converted the first zero of pi into the number ten; thus, the second-from-the-last line of this post’s piem contains ten syllables.  Please note in the comment section any question about writing a pi poem, and I will be happy to respond.  Now, you have less than a week to craft your pi poem for Pi Day, March 14, 2017 (3/14/17).



A Pi Poem to Treasure Crocheted Afghans


by Alice Jane-Marie Massa



# First Stanza


(3)  Hands that held

(1)  small,

(4)  plain crochet hooks,

(1)  as

(5)  if artist’s brushes,

(9)  turned strands of yarn into canvases

(2)  of warmth,

(6)  of love gifted to all

(5)  who received afghans

(3)  crafted by

(5)  Mother, Aunt Zita,

(8)  and–of course, the most prolific–

(9)  my paternal grandmother (Liza).


# Second Stanza


(7)  rippled, shell, or granny square

(9)  were patterns they crocheted in colors

(3)  to match taste,

(2)  decor,

(3)  occasion

(8)  for the lucky recipient.


# Third Stanza


(4)  Covered with warmth

(8)  of the wool granny-square

(2)  afghan,

(6)  I thought of my mother

(4)  who still gives me

(3)  her caring,

(3)  her wisdom,

(8)  her amazing inspiration

(3)  for this poem.


# Fourth Stanza


(2)  This week,

(7)  my sister sent to the twins

(9)  two small afghans made by our mother

(5) so that a brand new

(10) generation can feel warmth from the past

(2)  and learn

(8)  to smile, wrapped in hand-crocheted love.



On March 14 (3/14), next Tuesday, please enjoy a piece of PIE and a pi poem!

Alice and Leader Dog Willow


March 8, 2017, Wednesday


Pi Poem for Comba Bakery


NOTE:  If you are not interested in writing a pi poem, but would like to read one about Comba Bakery (which closed nearly five decades ago in Clinton, Indiana), please proceed to the second  section of this blog post.


On the other hand, if you are interested in the crafting of a pi poem, please read the preliminary section before reading the pi poem.



March–A Time for Writing Pi Poems



I was thinking spring and then the month of March which took my poetic mind to pi poems (or piems).  If you are prompted to pen a pi poem on or before Pi Day (March 14–3/14), you may want to use the following portion of the infinite number of pi as I did in the piem which appears later in this post:


As in my pi poem below, the above portion of mathematical pi allows for 35 lines of poetry.  To write a pi poem, you use the mathematical pi as a guide to determine the precise length for each poetic line of your pi poem.  While some poets count words per line, I am among the poets (piemists) who count syllables per line to craft a pi poem.  For example, the first line of a pi poem contains three syllables; the second line contains only one syllable (therefore, a word of one syllable), and the third line includes four syllables.  As you continue to follow mathematical pi for each line length, you decide when to close or end your poem.   While you ponder a piem, the rhyme scheme is your choice.


In my opinion, if your poem extends to the first zero of pi, you may take one of the following three choices:

  1. Conclude your poem; thus, your pi poem will end with a line of five syllables.
  2. Skip the zero, and make the next line of your poem with a count of two syllables; then, continue with a line of eight syllables, etc.
  3. Interpret the zero as the number ten; thus, create a poetic line of ten syllables. (You may conclude your piem with this ten-syllable line or continue to follow the guideline of pi with your next line having only two syllables.)

In my previous pi poems, I used choice one or two; however, in my new piem, I incorporated the third choice.


If you are interested in more examples of pi poems, please explore the archives of this Wordwalk blog.  Among my most visited blog posts are those about pi poems, each of which includes a sample pi poem of mine.  From the number of visits on my prior posts about piems, I can only assume that some teachers, students, and/or budding poets are investigating my posts about Pi Day.  I thank you all and wish you “Happy writing!”



Pi Poem for Comba Bakery


by Alice Jane-Marie Massa



Crisp, brown bags


fine torchetti–


Italian pastries

of the brick oven of my cousin


his Comba Bakery–

so spotless, so clean,

fragranced well

with glorious bread

and, on some special occasions,

the sweet aroma of torchetti.


From Levone, Italy,

he came to Clinton, Indiana,

rose early

each day

to knead dough

that became long Italian loaves

or torchetti,

which he shaped like horseshoes

glazed with

granulated sugar.

Oh, what a sweet


of breadsticks!


His kind and gentle wife Dina

pulled and rolled

soft dough

and gave warm, welcoming grins

at their bakery on North Ninth Street.

The three items sold

were handmade to blue-ribbon perfection.

God bless

the gifted hands that made this food.



Happy March!

Alice and Leader Dog Willow


March 1, 2017, Wednesday