“I’ve got forests growing inside me”

New Poems from the
Gulfport Senior Center

. . .

These are poems from the 4-week workshop I facilitated for four Monday mornings in November at the Gulfport Senior Center.

It was a wonderful group of four women, and every week we read poems on that week’s topic, wrote poems based on the prompts, and shared our creations.

The first poem is an exquisite corpse poem where we wrote a letter poem together but could only see the last line written by the previous participant. The paper was folded so that it hid the rest of the poem.

The poems we covered over the month were I AM and I Love Poems, Letter Poems, Gratitude Poems and Short Poems. We wrote short poems that began with a line from Sabrina Ward Harrison’s book, Spilling Open, and each writer picked a line from the jar that would become their poem’s first line.

The second, third, and fourth poems below are community poems that we wrote together. Each participant wrote two lines on slips of paper based on the prompt. Then we arranged our lines in an interesting way to create the poem.


Poets at the Gulfport Senior Center

Dear Reader,    

Exquisite Corpse Letter Poem
by Alexandra, Ellen, Sara F.,
Joy, Dayna and Sara RD 


Do you know how beautiful you look when you read this page? There must have been no lumps in your bed last night. The cat woke me twice! Once for food at 6:30 am then again at 7 for pets.

Ugh! I love cats, and petting their silky fur is enjoyable for me and them. I love them so much more than most people. The live oaks have been the constant trees in my life, following me from

California to St. Pete. And look, I’ve got forests growing inside me that only you can see, so please let me continue to hide in the forest as this traffic is too much but I don’t want to give up

the car, and although I hate being in a car, it’s a necessary evil to me. I don’t like being cooped up, I want freedom, wide open spaces and warm gulf breezes and I’ll do whatever I have to, fight

the rising prices, the gentrification and corporate greed and development to stay here and never return to live in the cold, white North.

You Can’t Have It All, But

 Community gratitude poem
by Alexandra, Ellen, Sara F.,
Sara RD and Dayna,
After Barbara Ras’s “You Can’t Have It All” 


you can have your hands sticky with dough
as you ball the peanut butter cookies.
You can have a sunflower in your hand
like a smile, like a hug.

You can’t have it all, but you can have
the sun and the sea, friends of the spirit,
music in community, kindness and love
all around.

You can’t have it all
but you can have one slice.

You can’t have it all, but you can have
moments pain-free washing dishes while
watching the rain descend on a grey day.  

Thanks Poem

Community gratitude poem
by Alexandra, Ellen, Sara F.,
Sara RD and Dayna


Thanks for new community—open
doors, open hearts, open minds—
welcoming us.

Thanks for hot coffee on a cold, winter
morning and iced coffee on a hot,
summer day—both with cream and sugar!

Thanks for Pablo and Rosita form-fitting their
warm puppy bodies along each side of mine in the morning in bed
after dawn. Their sweet arms placed on a thigh or arm.

Thanks for the ability to get up early to meditate,
exercise and say my three pages of affirmations aloud.

Thanks for the explosion of red hibiscus
on bushes in the yard after just one rainfall.

Thanks for long hikes with my husband and two
greyhounds under draping tree canopies and along
a dirt trail.

Thanks for the birds that visit my feeder.

Thanks for fixing me up with trifocals
and sunglasses all in one.
The stronger hearing aid that brought me back to life.

Thanks for my four-year-old’s superpower hugs,
and how he sprinkles magic with his healing hands.

Thanks for warm feelings from your thoughtfulness,
your keeping in touch through such busy times.

If I Had My Life to Live Over

Community poem by Ellen, Joy, Sara RD and Dayna,
After Nadine Stair’s poem “If I Had My Life to Live Over”
from Spilling Open


I would trust myself more, and stop analyzing
my decisions to try and figure out if I could have done better.

I would worry less
about pleasing others
at my own expense.

I would have liked to be more self-aware
so I could have chosen a path with meaning
instead of accounting, chosen based on
the pretty striped yellow and white awning
over the local bookkeeper’s door.

I would spend more time remembering,
or at least writing it down.

I would touch more dirt,
make friends with bugs,
care less about grease dotting
my shirt while cooking.

I would have more children—
and dogs (cats too).
I would have started yoga when my body
was more supple, learned to recite affirmations,
meditate daily.

I would be more kind.

If I had my life to live over,
I would.

Dear Mare

by Alexandra Geiger Morgan


I can see you
in your little cloud banked house
on a crown of SF hills perched
ocean side facing down
I see you fondling
rhinestone encrusted vintage
jewelry you’ve collected
since the seventies

I see your pretty pensive face
the dream running down your cheeks
of saving, filling plastic bins to the brim
vision for your post retirement job
hiring some young thing to help you sell it
But now your face wears a disinterested look

You say you never wear
jewelry anymore
just love to look at and touch it
that you have saved as well
ceramic pieces I made
you bought back in the day
earrings and pins
lizards spiraling and other creatures
I am touched that you still hold them
amazed they have not broken

Now I see you in your studio pulled
to your collage the history of your unspoken
the table’s surface shifting with images
objects you sort through rearrange, glue down
like the decades of your life
the gravitation of your heart and hands
assemble the meaning of everything
over and over
and I’ll stop to tell you that I love you for this

I see your furrowed brow
full German lips with a light pout
until they elevate into one of your giggly laughs

your brown eyes take in, scrutinize the details
all the memories overlap
I get it, the collage thing
like waves along the California shore
running with dogs on beaches
in old coastal towns

I remember us set up along a country road
or parked in front of some old building in Santa Barbara
aqua blue front of Casa Blanca
where Hwy 1 cut through town
where we engorged on combination platters
enchiladas refried beans and rice,
chips, salsa, beer all for $3.99
mariachi band for free
musicians celebrating Fridays
after cashing paychecks

I see our folding aluminum easels
wooden paint boxes
spindly legs balancing on the sidewalk
you pivot on your tall lanky gams that jut up
transitioning seamlessly into your chest,
by-passing a mid-torso
naked thighs, eye catchers in striped shorts,
elevated by wedgy sandals
glamorous Hollywood sunglasses,
your feminine arms gesturing with a paintbrush
as if directing traffic

You were a car stopper back then
I see you flirting with the men
that pulled up asking for your number
and you gave it to them

Later I watch you being picked up for dates
leaving our safe plaineir bubble
but I stay continuing to paint jealous
until dark annoyed and unfriendly
to curious by passers

And I find myself hungry and alone
afraid but a good painter.

For My Dad

by Dayna Foster


Daddy, I wore your red shirt today.
I don’t often wear it—it’s too warm most days in Florida
As you probably remember.

It’s one of the few things I saved
When we cleaned out the house after you died.
Mother must have bought it for you—you never bought clothes for yourself.

I can’t recall the last time you wore it—it had stopped fitting, perhaps.
Every time I put it on, it hugs me.

I remember the first shirt of yours I ever wore.
A double-knit Van Heusen, I think.
I asked to borrow one to wear to the basketball game
Long before most girls wore men’s shirts.

I have other shirts of yours—your favorites, western.
But none of them hug me like the red one.

I Am Poem

by Ellen Briggs


I am a periwinkle blue star, hardly seen by the human eye.
I am a snorting potbelly pig, so cute at first, then growing too large for the house.
I am the number seven with a slash across the middle—don’t mess with me.
I am the old table lamp in my bedroom that needs rewiring.
I am an oboe without a reed…


Poem with first line taken from
Sabrina Ward Harrison’s Spilling Open

by Ellen Briggs


Loving fearlessly is the bravest thing in the world.
The possibility of rejection can limit us.
The possibility of falling in love and losing that love

can feel like a knife in the heart.
The possibility of a death of someone we love

can tear us apart.

WHAT Keeps You Up At Night?

by Joy Bucci


As darkness falls across the world
The sun is shining
Some people wait to meet the light
Others shrink back into the night
Some listen for babies to cry
Some listen for drunks to come home
Others favor the cricket’s soft sound
Unfortunately, many more were wrapped
In blankets, alone
It isn’t that I can’t sleep
I’m quite good at that chore,
I don’t want to think
As to bed I retreat
I reminisce of days long ago
Will I awake in the morning
Or be a star in the sky
Why am I up at night
Well, now you know why


The Real Me

by Joy Bucci


I was always a princess
Not just to others, but to me
I would wear only real gemstones
Not costume jewelry, you’d see

Growing up in the sixties
my life forever to be free

To wander and lust
Until I’d had enough

Adulthood set in,
Had to think of others
Like babies and spouses, not just me
So I bowed my head and went into a thrift store shop instead
And the treasure I found
Was… the real me!


Poem with first line taken from
Sabrina Ward Harrison’s Spilling Open

by Joy Bucci


It is good to sit here under huge, gnarled oak trees in the late afternoon
Reminiscing of silent smooth straight palm trees reaching for the sun
As I went floating into the air with my high sandals,
The hot sand burns my feet and my soul
Reaches upward




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