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Mr. Payton’s Poetry

April 25, 2019


Poetic Day 25 of National Poetry Month:  April 25, 2019, Thursday


Sometimes, when you need an idea for a poem, look at the leaves of your Family Tree and also at your Tree of Life.  Who are all those people on your Tree of Life?  Can you use words and verses to paint the portrait of one of those individuals who has become an important part of the growth of your Tree of Life?  From my Tree of Life, I chose Mr. William E. Payton, who was a teacher and principal for many years in the rural townships of Southern Vermillion County, Indiana.  He is the focus of my poem-of-the-day, and the five writing prompts at the end of this WORDWALK post will be stems from these trees.



Mr. Payton’s Poetry


by Alice Jane-Marie Massa


At Van Duyn Elementary School,

each Friday of seventh and eighth grade,

Mr. Payton placed on his desk a three-ring binder.

We all knew

what was coming–


I fondly recall those Friday afternoons

with Mr. Payton and poetry …

and twenty-four quiet students–

listening at various levels of attention and understanding.


Always in a dark royal blue suit

with white shirt and sedate tie,

Mr. Payton read aloud and turned the pages

onto which he had beautifully written

in perfect cursive

stroked with a fountain pen  containing royal blue ink.


He was partial to rhythm and rhyme.

Longfellow must have been his favorite–

at least his favorite to read aloud.


Since Mr. Payton was also very patriotic,

he treated the lyrics

written by Francis Scott Key

as teachable poetry–

all verses.


Mr. Payton taught so much

to so many.

Then, one summer, he taught even more.

After a seven-mile trip to town,

on a hot summer day,

I saw Mr. Payton leaning against

the outer wall of the Harris Food Store.

Wearing a white T-shirt

and dark slacks,

he waited for a rider.

To make extra money during summer months,

to help feed his large family,

he drove a taxi cab

as a second job.

In a small town of seven thousand,

he drove the one cab.


On rainy summer days,

when he sat inside his cab

and waited for a customer,

I wonder if he read poetry

on days other than Friday.


* * *


Writing Prompts for Day 25 of National Poetry Month


  1. Write a poem about one of the oldest persons on your family tree.
  2. Write a poem about one of the more influential people on your Tree of Life.
  3. Write a poem about the most humorous person on your Tree of Life.
  4. Write a poem about your Tree of Life.
  5. Write a poem about a tree which you planted or a tree which has or had special and/or sentimental meaning in your life.


* * *


This WORDWALK post and my other posts of National Poetry Month are dedicated

in memory of Deon Patrick Lyons–

poet, novelist, blogger, and friend.


Wishing you a peaceful and productive Poetry Day,

Alice and Leader Dog Willow


April 25, 2019, Thursday



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  1. mfanyo permalink

    Dear Alice,
    Your poem brought back memories of being in Mr. Payton’s class at Jacksonville Elementary School before the consolidation of schools in the area. In my seventh and eighth grade years in Mr. Payton’s class, we also sang patriotic songs and listened to classic poetry—both a.highlight of the week! When I think of Mr. Payton driving a cab in the summer, I remember seeing him reading a paperback book while he waited for a passenger. Mr. Payton was certainly dedicated to literacy and to education! He expanded our world well beyond our little town.
    Love to you and Willow,

    • Mary–As you were in the final graduating eighth-grade class of Jacksonville Grade School in May of 1961, Mr. Payton was the final principal of our beloved grade school in our small hometown of Blanford, Indiana.  When schools consolidated, he went on teaching, but was no longer principal.  I am pleased that he continued with teaching and that he was our teacher for Indiana History.

      Enjoy the butterfly lessons with your little students!

      Alice and Willow

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