Melissa McKinstry
aka Mama


Mama's Vita | Site Map | Gallery | Doug
E-mail Melissa at mmckinstry@sdja.com

Tikvah

How to remember will be the trick.

Pull the golden thread from the past.

In the story and song unfurled
we mark Yamim Holy:
Kippur, Hashoah, Hazikaron, Ha’Atzmaut.

We hold the golden thread gently
in the sparkling moment
of Mazal Tov,
in the quiet meditation
of Shema,
in the whispered wish
of Misheh Beirach,
in the intertwined glow
of Havdalah.

How to remember will be the trick:
help others see the golden thread,
teach their hesitant fingers,
to follow right to left,
to see the magic in the letters,
to weave this old thread with Tikvah
through the warp and woof
of their heart’s beating.

This will be the trick.


Melissa and Doug
June 2004 / Sivan 5764


A Freedom Song -
Pesach 2004

"I arose with a shaken heart, a wanderer…"
- Moses Ibn Ezra (late 11th century, Granada, Spain)

Realizing I had crossed the Red Sea,
Survived arrows, outrun chariots,
Felt the salinity of the mikvah,
An ablution of choice, of ceremony,
I danced in the desert of solitude
Following Miriam's tambourine,
The sibilant cymbals and purple ribbons,
Used the sand as cleansing pumice,
To slough the smell of rotting frogs, disease,
The crackly locust wings.
The horrific screams of mothers
Holding dead sons still haunts me;
Especially when the desert wind blows at night
I hear with my mother's ears, those mothers'
Wailing, keening cries.
I hold my own son closer, rub his soft brow
And the point of hair at his neck nape.
I call my daughter to me, and we join hands.
We recognize in the sandy moonlight of the Sinai
The strength in each other's fingers
Is also the strength in our hearts,
Hearts with questions trusting answers,
Hearts willing to order chaos and oppression
Into an archaeological dig of self,
And Miriam's tambourine jangles

A freedom song.

Melissa - 04-04


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keatsean kavanah #1

truth is beauty
beauty, truth
that is all you need to know,
so plant a trumpet vine
and watch it grow,
twining and silent except
for the hum and buzz
of a golden bee.

2003


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sew what?

sew
consistency
kindness
respect
love

misheh beirach -
courage
strength
wisdom

2003


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welcome

to a crazy brave quest
involving thorny thickets

to a rough raw crucible
tempering pure essence

to a wide wild sky
blowing against horizon lines

to possibilities
involving
tempering
blowing
your shy heart

throw your arms out
for protection
and balance
and flight

trust the passionate
persistent
iambic pentameter
in your chest


melissa and doug
9-02-03


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Whether you tend a garden or not,
you are the gardener of your own being,
the seed of your destiny
.”
--The Findhorn Community


For many years now,
you’ve been a visitor
in the gardens of others.

You’ve learned much about
how things grow--
what destroys,
what nurtures.

Now you will
grow your own garden,
sow your own seeds,
take strength from the sun on your back.

Seek others who recognize the weeds
and make you laugh while you pull them.
Value fallow soil and the unexpected.

Enjoy the color and scent of what you create.

Melissa and Doug
15 June 2003


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Poem for our students - September 3, 2002

Yesterday
we picked up
a smooth grey stone
half-buried in the sand.

We put it in a blue glass jar
to be a new beginning,
the first object in a collection.

Today is a new beginning for us,
a smooth grey stone
to rub between our thumbs
and forefingers,
to inspect closely,
to get the feel of.

Today has been waiting
for us to pick it up
and begin.

Melissa McKinstry
Doug Kipperman


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How am I to live?

A question asked of those ready to move on to new adventures...perhaps these three stones will provide a firm footing with which you may continue your journey:

Humanity - Interacting with people in ways that show acceptance and understanding of multiple perspectives, not merely your own.

Thoughtfulness - Interacting with people in ways that show care in the use of constructive and helpful language, both verbal and nonverbal, as well as knowing when to or not to continue the interaction.

Strength - Interacting with people in ways that show clarity and conviction through humane and thoughtful deeds even during times of stress.

Congratulations on the steps you’ve taken. We’re so proud of your progress.

Doug and Melissa - June 2002


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what do we wish for you,
on this, the first day of summer?

the dignity of freedom,
the song of wholeness,
the desire to twist your heart around,
the responsibility to repair the world.

and if the second or third day
of summer
is grey or lonely,
and the fourth or fifth
is quiet or hopeless,

we wish for you
calm dignity,
clear song,
unfettered desire,
grounded responsibility.

we exhort you to
press on with your work
beyond fear,
which is the only barrier
to finding your treasure.*

and on the sixth and seventh day,
we wish for you
understanding --

the understanding that
you contain
the treasure
you seek
.

melissa and doug - 6-01


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I love fall: 9-00

fog, heavy-bellied
dragging damp over
marshy inlets,
white needles of egrets,
golden, sandy canyons.
I settle into weighty comfort
of a grey sweater,
a book bag,
a new beginning with you,
time to see how
we can learn,
practice, grow.

Who will our learning,
work, deeds
show us to be?

We must rub
our minds
against
mountain bluffs
and azure water,
soak up the smell
of sage and salt,
wallow in words,
breathe slowly and deeply.

We are in a safe place
to watch and listen quietly
to savor the low-lying
fog of questions.

After the palpable damp
of deep thought
the warmth of the sun
slanting through the clouds,
touching our cheeks,
brings us answers.

And together we
will watch the egrets
spread giant white
fingers of feathers,
flap and rise
through marsh grass
toward rays of sunlight
touching the bluff.

Melissa and Doug


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To the pioneers - 6-00

We saw your picture yesterday:
Some of you sitting
In the corner
With your guitars,
Behind you
The unpacked boxes of September.
Your cheeks were full and smooth
Half-smiles of pleasure on your mouths.

We watched you for months:
In a small classroom,
On a walk at Lake Hodges,
In a bus to the desert,
On a train to Berkeley,
On a playfield with a soccer ball.

 

We looked closely,
Suddenly saw you for you,
Not the classroom or the camp,
Or the field or the kippah,
But you in your singleness,
In your cinnamon-gold flurry of fourteen,
The particular essence
That is you.

And in your June circle
On the green grass hill,
Cheeks more angular,
Voices more sure,
Smiles more certain,
We realized
We love you.


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Haiku for Beginnings

"If the angel deigns to come,
it will be because you have convinced him,
not by your tears,
but by your humble resolve
to be always beginning."
- Rainier Maria Rilke

Like hundreds of small
butterflies warming saffron
wings in morning sun,
we come together,
invite golden beginnings:
like smooth, blank paper
welcomes the written
word: pencil scratches, ink smears,
hieroglyphs of thought;
like bronze, moonglow paths
glimmering across deep green
mountain-cradled lakes.

Golden beginnings
light our magic saffron wings
waiting still and shy.

Melissa McKinstry - 8/99


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a poem for the last day
june 3, 1999

our small planet
begins to spin today.
edges blur and whirl.

why did we spend so much time
growing up only to separate?

if there are words left to say,
hanging small and bright
like venus in the gloaming,
let them be these:

whom can I ask what I came
to make happen in this world?

there is a place
for each of us
in the wide bright sky,
an order to the chaos
that, as gabrielle rico says,
makes learning possible.

was it where they lost me
that I finally found myself?

we'll find our places
in the brilliant spinning.
our pales and vibrants,
smalls and bigs,
quiets and louds,
will embroider darkness.

you will be the star I wish upon.

melissa mckinstry
(bold from pablo neruda's book of questions)


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the quest
for my students
new year 1999

you give thanks:
to the questions
that lead you into the forest,
to the answers
you have survived.

you watch
the achingly solo flight
of a long-legged crane
circling the tallest pine tree.

you imagine
your mother
at the moment of your birth.

you leave
a love note on the wall
to say you're alive today.

you're part of the spinning,
a Stonehenge monolith,
taking your place
in green grass
under a blue, blue sky.


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The following was written for our students Spring 1998.
We presented it to the class and there wasn't a dry eye in the room.

"Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it.
Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it." - Goethe

Today, the marine layer floats over orange and yellow flowers blooming in the brown earth, and we think of you, our students, who bloom unexpectedly in corners of the room, on beanbag chairs, sprawled on the carpet, upright at desks intently focused on monitors, slumped over keyboards, hovering over the printer, basking in the afterglow of a digital haze:

Shelby who aspires to journalism, takes 12 steps away from the ashes

Marco who loves to hate institutions, reflects his mother's love

Iliasha who moves and smiles with Jamaican grace and memories

Tahni who recycles paper, wood, and words with gentle hands and Julian spirit, ocean blue

Bobbi-Lyn who records innuendoes glowing like stars, our Cinderella

Syd who peels purple onions to see what's inside and goes to the races in platform shoes with her mom

Ryan who explores technology searching for answers

Vince who visits pyramids and Salem, who wouldn't call himself a writer, but is

Karina who found her Spanglish voice and uses it like music to make a new beginning

Michael who is abducted by aliens and Pooh bear, finds arrowheads in Pennsylvania and a friend in Jia

Natasha who's forgotten her childhood but remembers books, words, images and pennies

Ashley who lives confidently, creatively, finds family at home and in Salamanca

Gary who sees stories in pictures of a fishing grandpa, learns to balance work and play on a pallet knife

Jennifer who wears a plastic princess crown, pitches no-hitters, and may someday sign softballs herself

Melanie who brings her life from Kansas to Coronado with journal records and survival skills

Joclyn who goes by Katie, misses Kelly, plays soccer and recognizes the power of teaching

Daisy who brings spiders, talking snapdragons, Phyllis, frog, and family to make words that swallow us whole

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Henry who hikes to Santa Cruz with Les Paul, a notebook, a pencil, and the Brothers Marx and Blue

Kelly who loves the sacrifice of waterpolo, her brother, UCLA, and team memories

Robin who sifts Saudi Arabian sand through delicate fingers and paints pictures with words for Jade

Nino who infuses rhythm, Atwood, rubber cement and love poems into spiral pages and tapped toes

Nicole who beads brother, sister, and mother in kaleidoscope moonlight between guitar and metaphors

Ian who holds the ocean in a jar, listens to Jimi, struggles through the Panamanian jungle and laughs

Amy who fashions summer memories, collections, order, a life in the genteel South

Eric who comes from Mississippi, writes poems, no, "po-aims," that rhyme and make us love the Dinger

Sacha who could kill with a look and love with all her Oma, mother, brother, woven into words and pictures

Lecinda who collects shoes for each day and snapshots of an old South Africa blue and white, the efficient one

Nici who speaks in trilingual pictures with her tag tucked in, our savvy traveler of the world and words

Summer who dances with words of power, hymns of faith, began in an Alaska journal carried on to Africa

Cheryl who lifeguards, teams to play, sees Hawaiian sunsets and odes to Laura in Coronado dusk

Nate who brings, yes, his toothbrush, Speedo and goggles, writes of magical surfing adventures off the IB pier

Lisa who visits us on angel wings to remind us of hope and love and the grace of metaphor

Caitlin who lives fireflies, rusty oak leaves, Pablo questions and answers her mother's charge to art

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Karrie who paints Billie and writes jazz to tap our feet and minds with Miles and the Tao

Jamie who is all that and a bag of chips with a quillow, a laptop and a journey back home

Loni who sails on words and pictures and finds words and pictures waiting expectantly

Roman who thinks and figures and knows who he is as he questions and examines in magnified words

Aaron who listens to the sea in a giant shell, longing for surfing, snorkeling, sailfishing, and order in words

Rayna who shines like sunlight in autumn, listening to Bob, sitting in freshly cut grass, always with paper and pen

Jia who has a tiger inside wearing African beads, feathers, feeling the salsa beat of Puerto Rico, released by the pen

Katie who uses words to wave the red Running of the Bulls ribbon, roll in Angela's Ashes and swim in Irish Guinness

Tina who holds a Jamaican box full of frogs leaping, struggling to fly into free purple air and dance questions

Leah who finds Byron's "Euthanasia," journeys from Nebraska words, brings a strong voice along

Drew who thinks his way into computerized characters creating worlds with glossaries and footnotes

Marc who wears headphones like a necklace and dances the digital two-step in the MUD

Josh who carries artbox and wears a red ponytail like a badge of imagination writes of Wellsville

Natalie and Melissa who share a culture bag, weaving a tapestry of jewels and misty stories

Amy who knits her brow, revises until happy, creates words that we crave to eat

Jaeme who dances to a gothic tune, cuts off her braid and finds her voice

Jeremy who speeds to and from Jamul hearing music, seeing pictures

Lexey who swims and paddles flexing mental muscles through words

Christina who doesn't want photographs to steal her soul that she saves for children

Robbie who uses tragedy and comedy to create a life scrapbook, searching like Pippin

Kristina who leans her head back, turns her open face sunward, and belts out musty snapshots

Jessica who karate chops words and computers and converses with Scott Card

Katie who loves family and dolphins and speaks quietly with loud justice

Matt who describes himself as "random" breathes power into words, pictures, and the stage

Rachel who sleeps on her grandmother's pillow, runs, jumps, and moves coast to coast with grace

Pat who lives on a boat, close to the water he surfs and swims

Kevin who reads "The Hobbit," plays soccer, foot and base ball and writes rules to live by

Becky who rides horseback, counsels campers, and moves toward a future in words

Melanie who loves tomatoes like plump red hearts, odes them Neruda-style

Alexa and Melissa who devote themselves to team, family, toothbrush and dreams

Noel who ruled the neighborhood with her brother, transforms on stage and creates tropical paradise

We gather you all like bright orange blossoms in our arms and dance you around the marine layer where your light blazes across the horizon, hopeful, golden, and bright.

Melissa McKinstry


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How to Write a Love Poem
for my students

love poems bounce off
your red vest,
reflect on her white teeth,
collect in corners of the room,
lounge on bean bags,
flicker with flourescents,
crawl down keyboard fingers,
scratch out of pencil lead...

how?
why?

look at a neck nape.
listen to Billie Holliday.
feel January sun
through a window pane.
smell hints of twining honeysuckle.
taste a really red ripe raspberry
slowly,

and close your eyes.
read the love poems
written on the inside.

Melissa McKinstry


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In the Raspberries

Raspberry vines wreath your head;
Sweet red juice stains your fingertips;
Full sun washes an empty sky with yellow.
We
love like warm, soft brown earth,
Soaking
fresh blue, pushing healthy
Green shoots toward yellow.
We work to fill the same enameled
White basin that Grandma Griswold
Dropped berries into, one by one by one.
From hot harvest through preserving
We
join in Thanksgiving worship,
Our
love homemade, like raspberry wine.
When we fill our basin our arms sting
With thorn prints, blood dries, red
Sugar
drops, juice stains white enamel.
The sun
covers itself in the last row
Of bushes; berries glow with rays
Embroidering leaves, thorns, vines.
Lullaby of twilight
fills our ears;
Ripe berries fill our mouths;
We sink to
the warmth of the earth.


Melissa McKinstry


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The Big Dipper

In October the moon o'd
displaying three Hereford cows
and their calves, blinking and chewing
as the big dipper reached low
to scoop them up through
the roofless hayloft, floating
past glowing alfalfa dust motes
into the rusty old oak,
catching and holding a moment
in Swain's wood stove smoke
and finally dipping through ashy coal,
only to be dropped bawling and lowing
back to rocky soil on Enumclaw Plateau
where we leaned on arthritic fenceposts
and our breath made frosty o's.

Melissa McKinstry


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Like a Ray of Light
For My Students


Northern Idaho points
like a panhandle
to the Canadian border.
Here deep lakes reflect
the color of the sky.

One of these lakes,
Kaniksu,
laps at the feet
of the Selkirk Mountains.
On clear days
the sun rises
behind the Selkirks
and slides fingers of light
through the deep green
of Kaniksu
to touch dock pilings,
catch pools of minnows,
and trace rocks spelling
out my cousin's name
J I L L.

On this day, however,
I know
the lake is dark grey,
the clouds low,
and the snow thick
on the road, and what
I want to say to you
is this:

Be full of hope.
Be passionate.
Find your way
like a ray
of light
into
dark
places.

Melissa McKinstry
December, 1997


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for my students

run wild
through tall grass,
your fancy tickled.

green-golden
blowsy grain heads
knock your knees.

calico cat paces
in your wake.

barn swallows dip low,
soar to clouds,
lift under your arms,

and you touch blue,
tangle with oak branches,
wear birds' nests like crowns.

dance, dance.
don't stop,
even in the rain.

Melissa McKinstry
December, 1996


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for the june student

you will grow

like a sunflower,
sturdy stemmed,
wide-face
open,
a supplication.

already you genuflect
in
golden air,
bowing, budding,
ready to bloom.

and
love.
love in
all elements.
surround your roots
with rich loam.
stand strong in topaz glory.

Melissa McKinstry


Mama's Vita | Site Map | Gallery | Doug | Top
E-mail Melissa at mmckinstry@sdja.com