My Tender Heart

Wild rhodie starts to bloom

In the forest around our house, the wild rhodies’ new buds appear just as soon as the spring blooms fall away. Through summer, fall, and winter the hard buds hold on tight, biding their time. Finally in April they soften and swell. In early May they break open, giving way to what comes next.
The buds that protected their cargo through summer’s drought and winter’s snow are soon gone, their outer coverings scattered on the forest floor, pale specks decomposing beneath the eye-popping blooms.

What I can do, I know, what I’m
supposed to do, born to do,
what everyone is born to do, is this:
to take my tender heart

in my old wrinkly hands,
and stumbling on my bony feet
carry it right into the pulsing center
of this beautiful, suffering world.

— from “First Thing in the Morning,” by Barbara Gibson, taken from the book Waiting to Fly, Crestline Press, 2013

We invite you to spend time in contemplation with these words from the one of my favorite poets, Barbara Gibson. Then join in the conversation with your own poetic response.

You can enter into conversation with this text by adding your haiku response below.

About Margaret D. McGee


  1. [editing this haiku 5/3]

    cherry blossoms
    in such great abundance
    What is there to fear?

  2. Marybeth Bland says:

    a yellow butterfly
    rests on a purple lilac
    the sun shines bright

  3. Marybeth Bland says:

    May 1st
    swallows return
    dancing in the air

  4. starting over
    letting go
    cherry blossoms

  5. carolyn says:

    snowy peaks rise
    above shades of green
    scent of lilacs

  6. carolyn says:

    red winged black bird
    atop a slender stalk
    where willows grow

  7. CaroleAnn Lovin says:

    My first attempt at a haiku response:

    offer my heart
    to the trilling robin —
    the crow squawks louder

    ….and then here’s my second attempt:

    sleek blackbird
    pierces my heart —
    sucks suck’s eggs dry

    Comments welcomed!

    • CaroleAnn Lovin says:

      Ooops! The second haiku should read:

      sleek blackbird
      pierces my heart —
      sucks duck’s egg dry

      • Hi CaroleAnn,

        Your first poem conveys frustration to me — maybe the poet’s frustration with the world, or with herself. I sense that the poet wants to offer her heart to beauty, but crow squawks get in the way. If that’s what you’re trying for, then you might consider adding the pronoun “I” to the first line. The way it is now, the first line is structured like a command, as though the poet is telling the reader to offer her (the poet’s) heart … which is confusing. “I offer my heart” is clear.

        In the second poem, I especially like the interplay between the poet’s heart and the duck egg, each being pierced & sucked dry.

        But your typo in the first try is a reflection of a problem in the poem, at least for me. Normally I like sound echoes in poetry very much, but “suck” and “duck” are just too close. It makes the last line of the poem easy to mis-read, and hard to say out loud. Even though I usually vote for more specificity in a poem, in this case you might consider using “the” instead of “duck’s,” to avoid the rhyme.

        sleek blackbird
        pierces my heart–
        sucks the egg dry

  8. carolyn says:

    mourning dove
    nests on a chimney
    red peonies bloom

    • Marybeth Bland says:

      Carolyn are your peonies already blooming? Mine do not bloom until late june

      • carolyn says:

        Yes, Marybeth, my peonies are blooming very early this year. They are a beautiful deep red. This is also the first year that the deer have had a few bites.

    • I like that juxtaposition of images, Carolyn, though I couldn’t tell you why!
      Might consider “the chimney” instead of “a chimney,” to make the image more concrete.

      • Carolyn says:

        Yes, I like a more concrete image so will use the. I think the red peonies add color.The dove is a rather plain bird and the chimney has no color and red gives the poem a little pizazz. Make sense?

      • Yes, I agree the red peonies add color & pizazz. I think that that blooming goes with nesting in some way too, which gives the juxtaposition extra resonance.

  9. Marybeth Bland says:

    black capped chickadees
    visit the birch tree
    my dog lies in the sun

  10. Marybeth Bland says:

    in lieu of bird watching
    we plant a garden
    my dog tastes the soil

    • Marybeth, I like both of these — they go together in a haiku sequence. I especially like the way the last line of each one — “my dog lies in the sun” and “my dog tastes the soil” awakens my own senses.

  11. CaroleAnn Lovin says:

    Margaret —

    I agree on my first haiku that “I offer my heart” as L1 is clearer.

    Concerning the second haiku… for some reason it seems important to somehow indicate that the blackbird raided the duck’s nest — didn’t just happen to find a carton of eggs from the grocery store on the porch! Here’s my try at a rewrite:

    sleek blackbird
    pierces the duck’s eggs —
    my heart breaking

    • Yes, CaroleAnn, this solves the rhyme problem. I like reading your third line in two ways: one, that the poet’s heart breaks for the duck and her eggs, and the other more subtle & universal, juxtaposing any heartbreak with the pierced duck eggs. Makes me think of how my own heart is like the duck’s egg — vulnerable, and holding new life.

    • Marybeth Bland says:


      I really like this haiku. Nature being nature can break my heart also

      • CaroleAnn Lovin says:

        Marybeth —

        Yes, when the crow raided the duck’s nest and dropped some of the eggs on the sidewalk and my walkway, it was not only heartbreaking but aggravating — I had to clean up as I didn’t want to take a chance on anyone slipping on the cracked eggs!!

  12. carolyn says:

    in morning mist
    flag flies at half staff
    life goes on

    • carolyn says:

      second thoughts

      in morning mist
      flag flies at half staff
      pink dogwood in bloom

      • Yes, Carolyn, I like the image of life going on better than the statement. I also like the way the flag and the dogwood bring different colors into the poem. Nice revision. The morning mist brings in other senses, too. I might add “the” to the start of the second line, to make the first two lines flow together more naturally.

  13. carolyn says:

    warm spring rain
    falls on newly planted seed
    muddy rivers

    • Marybeth Bland says:

      Did your seeds turn into sprouts or wash away

    • Carolyn, sometimes I listen to music while I garden. This poem makes me think of gardening in the rain, and listening to muddy waters at the same time I’m looking at muddy waters!

  14. Marybeth Bland says:

    Honey bees
    gently kiss the red buds
    they open in thanks

    • Marybeth, the idea of relating buds opening to gratitude is interesting … makes me think of how gratitude opens me up, too.

      • Marybeth Bland says:

        Margaret, I was not certain if giving the buds emotions was right but it sure seems that is what happens. Bees need flowers and flowers need bees

      • Marybeth, you’re right that assigning emotions to things in nature is generally avoided in haiku. But then, haiku poets break the “rules” all the time!

  15. CaroleAnn Lovin says:

    Read the Gibson quote again and the following poem popped into my mind:

    her crippled hand
    holding the juicy pear —
    one bite missing

    Comments welcomed.

    • Hi CaroleAnn,

      I really like the way this haiku reflects what seems to me to be the heart of Gibson’s verse, and that is an embrace of the world, even from our brokenness. I like it that the “her” has taken a bite from the juicy pear. Her crippled hand doesn’t stand in the way of embracing life.

      One general comment about haiku, that you can take or leave concerning this poem. For a haiku standing alone, an unidentified pronoun like “her” can be distancing for the reader, because we don’t know who the poem is talking about. In this case, I see it as a response to Gibson’s verse, so I see “her” as being Gibson, and it works okay. But if this verse were standing alone, I might try to work with it to identify “her” more. Example first lines might be:

      my crippled hand

      grandmother’s hand

      bent fingers

      arthritic fingers

      The third & fourth options take away the direct reference to a person. For reasons I can’t explain, that solves the problem for me.

      arthritic fingers hold the juicy pear– one bite missing

      • CaroleAnn Lovin says:

        Margaret —

        Although I wrote the poem in response to Gibson’s quote, I’d still like the poem to be able to stand on its own….. so… after having debating between “crippled hand” and “arthritic fingers” for the first line, I finally decided on “crippled fingers” –‘fingers’ seemed more specific than ‘hand’ and fingers might be crippled for more reasons than arthritis……

        crippled fingers
        holding a juicy pear —
        one bite missing

      • In reading your revised poem, CaroleAnn, I realize that one of the ways this works for me now is that the hands could be my hands — either now, or in the future. So by not specifying “her” or the person, it opens a door for me to enter the poem.
        Thanks for sharing this work.

      • Marybeth Bland says:

        I like this poem and can relate

  16. Fir seedling sprout
    Nestled in the rock pile
    Spring brings magic.

    • Marybeth Bland says:

      Welcome back Sharon

      The brown cat
      jumps from our porch
      as we pull up

      I will add this note. Every day lately when the bus drops nickel and I off at my home, this cat flys from the porch. Now I wonder what there is so attractive ?

    • Sharon, I like the fir seedling sprouting in the rock pile very much. You might think about a third line that’s more about the season, rather than a commentary on the first two lines. For this poem, I like something like “spring wind” or “early showers.”
      (And yes, I’m with Marybeth — welcome back!)

      • Thanks Margaret, I think I will change the last line to
        “spring magic” How do you think that works.

        The thing is, the kids were helping me work in the yard and we needed some rocks to level a big watering trough I made into a flower planter. We went down to the rock pile in the pasture to collect them and I found this fir tree seedling growing in the middle of the rock pile. I am thinking it must have sprouted about the time I lost Dave since it was not there this winter. I was surprised to see it there in an odd place such as the rock pile where it will be protected from horse feet, and was thinking of it as a tree sprouted in memory of Dave. He would not have appreciated a nice plant put in a flower bed in his honor, but he would have loved something natural coming up in the pasture where he liked to be with the horses and I will be able to see it from the house. I am going to believe that this seedling was sprouted by nature in his honor and I am choosing to see that as the magic of nature. A random seedling to anyone else, but I am choosing this coincidence has meaning to it. Therefore the word magic has meaning to me in this poem.

        • Sharon — thank you for sharing the story of your “spring magic” poem! As has happened before, your prose goes together with the poem, and each illuminates and enlivens the other. Beautiful and intentional work.

  17. I like the second one better, and you must have some interesting smells it is interested in.

    • Marybeth Bland says:

      Or do these cats just find my dry front porch a place to sleep during the day, . They all know nickel lives here. But when we are gone thet must feel comfort, . Basil is growing on the side of the house along with strawberries

    • Marybeth Bland says:


      This is in response to the seedling. I think it is natures way of honoring Dave also. What a gift to you,

      • Thanks Maybeth, being a nature lover, I am seeing it like that too. A sprouting seed is really a gift of a new life and this one is mine.

  18. CaroleAnn Lovin says:

    Marybeth —


    Yes, It seems that most of us have some kind of “crippling” situation to which we can open to and learn from….

  19. CaroleAnn Lovin says:

    longing in the dust —
    catbird chases the eagle
    across the sky

    Comments welcomed!

    • This is interesting because “longing in the dust” feels so earth-based, and the image of the catbird & eagle is up in the air. That’s not a criticism, just an observation. I like the specific image of the birds very much. Not sure why the juxtaposition with the first line works for me, but it does.

  20. CaroleAnn Lovin says:

    shards in my heart —
    fragile vessel holding
    the joys in my life

    Comments welcomed!

    • Hi CaroleAnn, I like the phrase “fragile vessel” in this poem. Since “shards” means fragments or pieces, it sounds as if the fragile vessel is broken. If that’s the case, I wonder if “holding” needs to be “held.” The way the poem is now, I’m not sure the state of the vessel.

      • CaroleAnn Lovin says:


        Hi! Yes, “held” does seems work better:

        shards in my heart —
        a fragile vessel that held
        the joys in my life

        ….but then I wondered about the “rule” that haiku should be in the present tense?
        The revised poem is half ‘n half!

      • Marybeth Bland says:


        I like the revised poem the best.

    • Hi CaroleAnn, To me, it’s more important for a poem to make internal sense than to follow a particular rule or convention. Your poem “shards in my heart–” doesn’t follow many of the haiku conventions. For example, it’s not set in a particular season, and its focus is on human experience, not nature. It uses metaphor (fragile vessel) to describe the human heart. All that is not haiku-like. So I wouldn’t call it a “haiku” in the conventional sense. But that’s just semantics. You’ve written a short, compressed poem about the joys & sorrows of the human condition. Doesn’t matter if it fits the definition of haiku.

  21. Poets — check out the Poet’s Gallery (see link in the sidebar on the right of this page.)
    I just added a drawing that Sharon sent me from her nature journal, to go with her poem “Fir seedling sprout / Nestled in the rock pile / Spring magic.”

  22. Marybeth Bland says:

    Today is different
    blackcapped chickadees abound
    juncos not seen

    • Marybeth, it’s fascinating to me which birds show up at the feeder from one day to the next. We get chickadees and juncos too. Lately we’ve had a pileated woodpecker show up every now and then, the biggest bird that comes to our suet feeder. Thrilling!

      • Marybeth Bland says:

        We don’t have a feeder but the birds always pauss for a moment on our arbor. They come even If nickel is lying on the deck

        And the Houss in back has a lilac bush.

        This year we are being visited by so many black capped chickadees . I am not sure why. Isn’t spring fun?

  23. carolyn says:

    brown and dying back
    spring bulb foliage hides
    quails nest full of eggs

  24. Marybeth Bland says:

    We brace the blossoms
    as they open
    they reach towards the sun

  25. Honeysuckle vine
    embracing nut tree branch
    reflecting sunset

    • I like the way “embrace” in Sharon’s poem echoes “brace” in Marybeth’s.

      And, poets … I just added an image to our Poet’s Gallery from Sharon, to go with her poem “Honeysuckle vine.” In her email Sharon tells me it is her first attempt at freehand watercolor. Wonderful!

      It’s the first image in the gallery, which you can see by clicking the link Poet’s Gallery in the sidebar on the right, or follow this link:

  26. For those poets who joined us earlier this year in “Friends in Linked Verse,” the online class in linking verse forms, I’m happy to share with you that a haiku I wrote for that class has been chosen for publication in the Haiku Society of America’s 2013 anthology. Here is the poem:

    about to blossom
    we meet again by chance
    under the plum tree

    Those in the class probably remember this as the poem that started our renku. I’m delighted that it will appear in this year’s HSA anthology.

    • Marybeth Bland says:

      Utterly fantastic . Does this make you a haiku master ?

    • CaroleAnn Lovin says:

      Margaret —
      Congrats on your poem being selected for the HSA Anthology!

    • Congratulations Margaret. It’s a lovely poem.

    • Brad Offutt says:

      Wonderful, and much deserved. For me, Margaret, being always a student is much richer than being a master. But be you haiku student or haiku master, you are a Master Teacher. How wonderful that a teaching haiku, so meaningful to us, is recognized as masterful.

  27. Marybeth Bland says:

    a butterfly
    pauses by the pink flowers
    I gasp and shout

    a monarch
    my dog looks up

    • Marybeth, I really like the way the two parts of this poem echo each other and also contrast with each other. I like the pink flowers in the first part and “monarch” in the second part. Especially like the contrast between the poet’s response (gasp and shout) and the dog’s more sedate response (looks up). This is a complete picture with a lot of personality.

  28. Very nice Marybeth. I love butterflies.

  29. CaroleAnn Lovin says:

    a friend departs —
    the pounding of my heart
    tenderizes it

    Comments welcomed!

    • Interesting & surprising use of “pounding” and “tenderizes,” CaroleAnn. Engages me both emotionally and physically. Then it makes me think about the relationship between the body and feelings. I like it that this poem engages my feelings & body first, then my mind.

  30. Darting through trees
    Hummingbird romance
    Gentle spring rain

  31. Marybeth Bland says:

    I walk past the cherries
    a gentle mist falls
    cooling me down

    a lawn mower sounds
    blocking the birds song

    • Marybeth Bland says:

      a pitch black raven
      holds a cherry
      as it flies from our tree

    • Marybeth Bland says:

      I wrote this whle on my walk but am not remembering exactly how I wrote it. Oh well

    • Marybeth, I like the way your poem links & echoes Sharon’s “Darting through trees.”
      Lots of sensory detail in these two verses … the cherries give me a sense of color & flavor, the mist is both visual and tactile, and the lawn mower is both sound and smell.

  32. CaroleAnn Lovin says:

    Where’d everyone go???
    Here’s my latest response to Gibson’s quote — comments welcomed:

    lighthouse beacon
    sweeping the high ocean waves —
    heart revealed through the night

    • Very nice Carole, sounds like a lovers evening.

    • This is interesting, CaroleAnn. The image of the lighthouse beacon sweeping the high waves is very powerful. I especially like the use of the word “high” … not sure why I like it, but I do! For me, high waves and lighthouse together so strongly suggest the ocean, I think the poem would work okay without the word “ocean.”
      And it’s interesting to juxtapose the lighthouse with the heart being revealed. What would you think of “in” instead of “through”? I’m also wondering about making “heart” plural. That might change the poem more than you want. But it creates a stronger picture in my mind, of two people working out a relationship.

      lighthouse beacon
      sweeping the high waves–
      hearts revealed in the night

      • CaroleAnn Lovin says:

        Thanks Sharon and Marybeth–
        Margaret —
        Yes, of course, the poem can do without the word “ocean” (LoL) and “in the night” reads well…. However, I hesitate to change “heart” to the plural as that seems to changes the poem too much from what I had in mind….
        So does the revision so far work?

        lighthouse beacon
        sweeping the high waves —
        heart revealed in the night

    • Marybeth Bland says:

      My haiku energy was not there. I love your haiku

      we eat dark cherries
      picked from our trees
      The juice stains our hands

  33. carolyn says:

    I guess we must all be on sabbatical.

    icy blue water
    races over slate gray rock
    sweet peas grow wild

    • Carolyn, I like this also, I see this at the beach when we go to the cabin. Leaving this morning in fact, for our annual family gathering.

    • Lovely juxtaposition, Carolyn! I like the wildness of the racing water next to the wildness of the sweet peas. Lots of color in this poem — the sweet peas add shades of pink to the blue & gray of the opening lines.

  34. Dear poets — I’m sitting in my office, looking out at rose campion and dandelions in bloom, and realizing from CaroleAnn’s comment, an email from a friend, and my own sense of time passing, that it’s been a while since I was here in short-poetry-land. I got pulled away by a couple of big work projects, one of which (editing a book for couple of other authors) is over now — hurray! The other project will keep going, but I hope to have a bit more time to read –and write — poetry with you.

    these long days…
    the time it takes a flicker
    to fly from here to there

    I plan to have a new posting for us all to contemplate soon. In the meantime, I will read some of your new stuff!

  35. Marybeth Bland says:

    My haiku is up above. But I want to tell everyone that Thd trainer came Monday morning to video tape me working with nickel. Only thr hottest day of the year!

    This tape will go to all the trainers who will be on the look out for my next dog. With mixed feelings I will say it could be any month now. Nickel will retire to a wonderful farm full of rescued alpacas, horses, cats and whippets.

    • My parish’s rector just retired, and we have called a new rector who will come in September. Every Sunday, we pray for the retiring rector, the new rector, and the parish. Marybeth, your transition from Nickel to your next service dog feels the same to me.
      Praying for Nickel, your next companion, and for you,

      • Marybeth Bland says:

        Thanks Margaret. I will follow your church and add my new dog to my prayers. What a wonderful idea.

  36. carolyn says:

    When I cleaned up the dead foliage of my daffodil patch, I discovered a quail’s nest full of eggs.I left the dead foliage and the nest alone. I watched this nest and hoped the raccoons wouldn’t discover it as they did a killdeer’s nest earlier. While working in the garden again, I saw two quail sporting a line of little balls of fluff. I went and checked the nest in the daffs and sure enough there was evidence of hatched eggs. I feel confident that mom and pop quail were letting me know that the eggs hatched just fine.

    dying foliage
    is the giver of life
    quails eggs hatch

    • Fabulous — thanks, Carolyn, for letting us know that the eggs hatched. Ever since your earlier poem about the nest, I’ve been wondering how the quails were doing. Glad to hear they hatched okay.

  37. carolyn says:

    I had ten yards of medium bark delivered earlier in the week. I had arranged for a man to help me but he got a permanent job and couldn’t. I was thrilled that he got steady work but it left me with a mountain of bark to spread. I tried to find someone else without success so all week I played around in the bark. Yesterday as I worked in the garden my neighbor and her daughter came with shovels, wheel barrow and gloves. “Where should we start?” they asked. I stood dumb founded so they just started. We worked for three or four hours and completely finished the west garden. It took about half of the bark. Truthfully, they did more work than I but they are many years younger also — well that is my excuse. To top off the day other neighbors brought crabs for dinner and champagne too.
    What a wonderful world!!!

    dark clouds
    loom over the mountain
    the sun bursts through

    • Love your story of neighbors coming to help. Just like the old days when it was normal for neighbors to come and pitch in. I had 5 yards of wood chips from a tree trimming service dumped and the grandsons came and had it all moved into the berry rows in little over an hour. Those times make your heart feel good doesn’t it?
      Great haiku,

      • carolyn says:

        Thanks Sharon! Yes, those times are heart warming. We see and hear so much violence that often we forget how wonderful people really are.

    • How wonderful. This reminds me of an article I read some months ago about how people respond in disaster situations. After a disaster, news reports tell about looting and so on. But this person actually did some field research, and discovered that by far the most common response people make in disaster situations is help each other. When people imagine something bad is coming, then they get scared and don’t necessarily act well. For example, if people think bad economic times are coming, they might hoard food. But when a real disaster strikes, the more likely response is to share food, not hoard it. Isn’t that interesting?

      Not all that close to your situation. After all, a pile of bark is not a disaster! Just made me think in that direction … the goodness in people, and the joy of helping, and being helped. And how a job that seems so big can be utterly transformed when it’s not faced alone.

      And yes, those young legs and backs! God bless them!

      I’ll echo — what a wonderful world!

      • Marybeth Bland says:

        Yes that is so wonderful and it happens more than we know.

        Years ago I left my black beret on the bus. I called when I got home. Thet had the bus driver look for it, it was not there but she did remember a young Develomental delayed woman walking off the bus wearing a black beret. So on he’d break she drove to the group home, retrieved my beret and brought it to my house. The young woman had found it and claimed it. I am a hat person so was ever so grateful

        And now for a haiku

        morning meditation
        ww sit in silence
        fog engulfs us

        a rooster crows
        a junco trills

  38. Marybeth Bland says:

    Here is another

    I eat cherries
    my dog watches every move

    • Marybeth, I like the scene of eating cherries while the dog watches. What would you think of making it even shorter:

      I eat cherries
      my dog watching
      every move

      Somehow that gives me a greater sense of suspense.

      I like the bird song in the fog during morning meditation in your earlier one, too.

      • Marybeth Bland says:

        I had changed it last night in my nature journal. What do you think of this

        I eat cherries
        my dog watches

  39. Dear poets,

    For those who follow this posting through the comments, this is to let you know that we have a new posting, “The Open Door.” Check it out!

    You can get to it through the menu system at the top of the page. Choose Lectio+Haiku on the menu, and the new post will show up on top of the listing.

    Or, here’s the link to the new posting:

    To receive email notification of all comments, make a comment (add a haiku) to “The Open Door,” then click the box that says “Notify me of follow-up comments via email.”

    Before turning to the new posting, I encourage you to look through “My Tender Heart” postings one more time. We traveled deep into the human heart this month. I’m looking forward to where the creative spirit leads us next.


  40. Oops — put a bad link in my previous comment. Here’s the good link to the new posting: