Thursday, March 30, 2017

A Special Thank You!

A special Thank You goes out to Tracey Finck, literacy tutor with Reading Corps, for choosing my poem for her newspaper article which will be in the Union-Times on April 6 for Princeton Primary School's Poem in Your Pocket Day, April 27.

                                                      Put a Poem in Your Pocket
by Tracey Finck, Reading Corps literacy tutor

Pockets are for portable treasures.
What do you carry in yours? Perhaps important things like keys, or credit cards or pictures of your kids.
We hear stories of soldiers going off to war with a letter from someone they love tucked into their pockets. Bilbo Baggins put the magic ring he found into his pocket to hide it from Gollum.
Most pockets are small, so you have to be choosy.
C. J. Heck wrote a delightful poem about pockets in her first book of children’s poetry, “Barking Spiders (and Other Such Stuff).” She gave me permission to print it here for you:
            I think of all the things I have, 
            I like my pockets best.
            Pockets hold just everything
            (and they give your hands a rest).
            I never know just what I'll find, 
            what special things I'll see,
            to put inside my pockets.
            These are treasures, just for me.
            When Mommy's doing laundry though, 
            she says sometimes it's scary
            finding rocks and frogs and beetles
      and my spiders that are hairy. 

I’ve printed out a copy of this poem and intend to carry it in my pocket on Friday, April 7. That’s the day Princeton Primary School has decided to celebrate Poem in Your Pocket Day. All the students and staff will come with a poem in their pocket ready to share it with other people throughout the day. Some people will write original poems. Others will find a poem they like from a website or book or family member.
Poem in Your Pocket Day originated in 2002 when the Office of the Mayor and the Cultural Affairs and Education Departments of New York City had the idea to celebrate April as National Poetry Month with one day designated for carrying and sharing poems. In 2008, the Academy of American Poets took the idea to all 50 states. In 2016, Canada joined the fun. The official Poem in Your Pocket Day this year is April 27 ( so I plan to carry my poem both then and on April 7 for Princeton Primary’s school-wide event.
Find more of CJ Heck’s poems at Barking Spiders I’d love to hear which poem you decide to carry in your pocket.
  You can reach me at And remember to read 20 minutes today!

“A writer soon learns that easy to read is hard to write.” ~CJ Heck

Friday, February 6, 2015

Children's Poem: "Caterpillar"

If you're like me, your inner child still remembers watching a fuzzy caterpillar as it undulated across something.

They seemed to always be in such a hurry to get somewhere.

I watched in awe, fascinated by their perfect coordination, in spite of having so many tiny legs and feet.

They never seemed to get theirs tangled up like I did ...


by CJ Heck

Fuzzy caterpillar
with your million-jillion feet,
how do you know which foot should go,
as you're walking on that leaf?

You make it look so easy,
right-left-right, the way you do,
sometimes MY feet get tangled up
and I have only TWO ...

("Caterpillar" from the book, "Me Too Preschool Poetry", by CJ Heck)

More Poems from the Book

“A writer soon learns that easy to read is hard to write.” ~CJ Heck

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Poem: When I Finally Close My Eyes


To love is to risk not being loved in return. To hope is to risk feeling pain. To try is to risk failure, but risk must be taken.  The greatest misuse of a life is to die never having risked at all.

When I Finally Close My Eyes

by CJ Heck

When I close my eyes
for the last time,
I want to have lived,
really lived.

I want to know I've tasted
the smorgasbord of life,
having relished the good
and spat the bad back out,
knowing at least I tried it.

When I'm done here,
I don't want to wonder
whether someone caught
the kiss I threw,
I will know.

I don't want to leave this life
with my heart as empty
as my pockets have always been.

I want to know, without a doubt,
I've left something of me behind,
something that's good, not regret
for never making a difference.

When I close my eyes
for the very last time,
I would like someone
to remember
... I was here.

[from the book, "Anatomy of a Poet"]

More Poems From the Book

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"In the end, these things matter most:  How well did you love?  How fully did you live?  How deeply did you let go?" ~ Siddartha Gautama

“A writer soon learns that easy to read is hard to write.” ~CJ Heck

Monday, February 2, 2015

Flash Fiction: "Waiting for a Greyhound"

“Men who flatter women do not know them; men who abuse women know them even less.” 
–Constance de Theis

by CJ Heck

In the early morning hours of a Baltimore Monday, I saw you -- just another nameless lady sitting quietly by herself on a dirty bench in the Greyhound Bus Station.

Like me, you were waiting for a bus; unlike me, you wore a long red coat on a warm spring day and your hat was pulled down to hide a swelling monument of love.

The matching handbag, you gripped two-fisted, leaving only the sleeves of your coat to wipe the sadness from your eyes.  I am so sorry.  I couldn't help but see ...

My God, how could so much misery share that old dingy bench?

What was it in your world that hurt you?  What, (or who), made you feel so beaten down?  What could have happened to make you cram your whole life into a suitcase?

I'm thinking it must be a man and not a very nice one.  No one could ever blame you for leaving.  Maybe wasting minutes feels better here, crying silently and waiting for a Greyhound with your suitcase between your legs, instead of him.

It's merely speculation on my part, but I suppose yesterday's hopes and tomorrow's dreams all die just as easily in a one-way ticket to somewhere else -- and anywhere's a better place than where you were.

Greyhounds may be late, but they don't punch or yell.

(from the book, "Bits and Pieces from a Writer's Soul", by CJ Heck)

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“A writer soon learns that easy to read is hard to write.” ~CJ Heck

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Children's Poem: "To a Baby Firefly"

Firefly Nightlight
One of the many joys I remember from childhood was being outside on a hot summer night.

First we would wear ourselves out playing hide-and-seek in the dark.

Then, we would get a Ball jar with a lid from Mom so we could catch fireflies -- only back then, we called them lightning bugs.

They were such gentle little creatures and I was always awed, as I watched them light up my magical flashing nightlight.

I couldn't help but honor them with a poem.

To A Baby Firefly

by CJ Heck

Little baby firefly,
when your night is through,
does your mother tuck you in
and tell you she loves you?

Does she kiss your forehead
and say in morning's light ...
"Day-day little sleepyhead,
close your eyes, put out your light."

("To a Baby Firefly" from the book, "Barking Spiders 2 (sequel)", by CJ Heck)

“A writer soon learns that easy to read is hard to write.” ~CJ Heck

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

A Lesson About Anger: "The Fence"

The Lesson from the Nails
There once was a little boy who had a very bad temper.
His father gave him a bag of nails and a hammer and walked him over to the fence in the side yard.

His father told him that every time he lost his temper from that day forward, he was to hammer a nail into the fence. 

The first day, the boy had driven thirty-seven nails into the fence. 

Over the next few weeks, as he learned to control his anger, the number of nails he hammered daily gradually dwindled down. The boy had discovered it was much easier to hold his temper, than to drive nails into the fence.

Finally, the day came when the boy didn’t lose his temper at all. He told his father about it and the father suggested that the boy now pull one nail out for every day he was able to hold his temper. 

The days passed and, finally, the young boy was able to tell his father that all the nails were gone.

The father took his son by the hand and once again led him over to the fence. He said to the boy, “You have done well, my son, but look at all of the holes in the fence. This fence will never be the same again. 

I wanted you to learn this lesson, because it is the same way throughout life.  

If we put a knife into someone, even if we immediately pull it back out, it won’t matter how many times we say I’m sorry.  The wound will always be there.

It is the same when we say things in anger.  The words can never be taken back.  Although invisible, they also leave a scar, just like the scar on this fence. Always make sure you control your temper when you are tempted to say something you might regret later."

[Author Unknown]

“A writer soon learns that easy to read is hard to write.” ~CJ Heck

Monday, January 26, 2015

Children's Poem: "I Love Bugs"

Children Love Bugs!
Why are children so fascinated with bugs?

Is it because they see them as something amazing, something funny, or just something cute that's even smaller than they are?

Or could it be because they see bugs as little "friends" who are fun and, like them, just glad to be alive.

One summer day at my daughter's home, I glanced out the kitchen window into the backyard, trying to see my four grandchildren.

There must have been a dozen kids out there! They were all huddled around the slide on the old swing set, waving their arms around and cheering.

They were obviously having a great time with something and yet, my four-year-old grandson, also a part of said crowd, was crying.  I went out to see what was wrong.

I walked over, gave Colin a hug, and asked him what was wrong.  He sniffled, wiped his nose on my T-shirt and said, "We're having slug races, Gram, and Sammy, my slug, stopped racing. Sammy won't go AT ALL, even when I poke him!  (sniffle-sniffle)"

I went over to the slide, a METAL slide, mind you, and I could see right away what the problem was.  Sammy was so slow, he'd gotten himself stuck to the hot slide.

Without going into the morbid "why", I suggested that Colin should probably give Sammy a rest and we would find another slug to race with. While he ran off to start the search, I removed little Sammy's fried body from the slide.

Today, I want to share a bug poem, written for Colin -- from a child's point of view.

I Love Bugs 

by CJ Heck

I love teeny tiny ants
and itchy bitsy fleas,
spiders, big and little,
and grouchy grumble bees,

butterflies that flutter by,
and beetles when they run
from marching caterpillars.
I think bugs are fun!

Skeeters like to bite me,
but lightning bugs, they don’t,
and flies that get inside the house
could bite, but they won’t.

Silly racing centipedes
and slow and slimy slugs
are my very special favorites.
I love bugs.

("I Love Bugs" from the book, "Me Too Preschool Poetry", by CJ Heck)

More Poems from the Book

“A writer soon learns that easy to read is hard to write.” ~CJ Heck

Friday, January 23, 2015

Children's Story: The Ice Cream Cone

The Ice Cream Cone
(Teaching Children About Divorce)

by CJ Heck

Millicent Cole was Jake's wife, Kali and Kristin's mother, and grandmother to Douglas, the eight-year-old son of her oldest daughter, Kali.

Kali was also the daughter who told everyone tonight at supper that she and her husband are getting a divorce.

It was news that rocked Millie's comfortable world for the second time that week.

Now, sitting in the front row on a wooden folding chair, Millie's eyes focused on what first rocked her world, the  rosewood coffin surrounded by flowers at the front of the room.

She was there to say a final goodbye to her beloved grandfather who passed away only two days before.  Already she missed him terribly.

Add that to the bomb Kali dropped tonight about the divorce and it was fair to say, Millicent Kathryn Cole was feeling very, very vulnerable, like free-falling from the sky without a parachute.

Her thoughts wandered to a summer long ago, when she was about Douglas's age. It was the summer she was given the most precious gift she had ever received.

The gift was so dear to her, and yet it hadn't come folded in soft tissue paper in a fancy cardboard box. It had not been wrapped in colorful paper, pretty ribbons, or bows, nor had it come with a store-bought greeting card. It had been such a simple, loving gift and it had come from Grampa ...

Millie had just turned eight when her best friend, Kylie, tearfully told her that her parents were getting a divorce. Her friend was miserable and Millie didn't know what to do, or say, to comfort her. She couldn't understand why Kylie's parents would get a divorce -- and Millie was about half mad at them for hurting Kylie that way.

Millie rode the school bus home in silence.

When the driver finally opened the bus door in front of her house, Grandpa was there waiting for her on the wooden bench. She was glad to see him. Maybe Grampa could help her understand how this awful thing could happen to her best friend.

Grampa gave Millie a big hug. "Hello, Millie-Me!" [That was Grampa's special nickname for her].

Millie told him she was sad. Then she told him about her talk with Kylie and now she felt so helpless. "Why would her parents do that and hurt Kylie? I don't understand." Millie said in a voice choked with tears.

Grampa got down on one knee and hugged her again. Then he suggested they walk down to the park. Grampa spoke in a gentle voice, "I think it's time for an ice cream cone."

After Grampa paid the vendor for their cones, they walked down the little winding path through the park, under the thick canopy of trees, past an old woman feeding pigeons, until at last they came to an empty bench.

After they sat for awhile, Grampa pointed to her cone and said, “You know, honey, falling in love and getting married are a lot like your ice cream cone. You got one scoop and took a lick. Well, it tasted so good, you asked for another scoop right on the tippity-top of that one."

Millie was too busy licking the little drips that were starting to run down the sides of her cone to say anything, so she just nodded her head.

After a few more minutes, Grampa pointed up to the sky. "Today sure is hot. Yep. There isn't a cloud in the sky. The sun’s shining down on you, and it’s shining down on your ice cream cone, too. It sure looks like you’re enjoying it. In spite of all the drips running down your fingers onto your hands, it must be pretty darn good."

Grampa paused, and then he said, "The faster your ice cream melts, the faster you’re licking to catch all of the drips."

Millie nodded again in frustration. It was true. The drips were coming much faster now. Her tongue was having trouble keeping up with them all around the cone.

Grampa saw Millie nod, so he went on. "Do you see those flies and gnats buzzing around? They’ve been watching you enjoy your cone. Understand, they want some of that great ice cream, too!

They’ve started dive-bombing from all sorts of different angles and grabbing little bites all for themselves. With the hand that isn’t holding your ice cream cone, I've been watching you swiping and swatting like crazy to keep the bugs away."

Now Millie giggled. Grampa was making the bugs sound like real people who wanted her to share her cone with them!

Grampa giggled, too, and then he continued. "Now, what if Old Blue was here?

Let's say that old hound dog is sound asleep in the shade over there. Suddenly, he wakes up and sees the drips you’re leaving on the sidewalk down there by your feet. He would probably lumber on over here and lap up a few of those drips. He might even like them so much he'd try and take a few bites right from the cone in your hand!"

Millie thought about the melting ice cream and all the bugs. "I'm sure glad Old Blue's not here, too, Grampa! There's not enough ice cream on this cone for all of us!" She said in a loud voice.

"Well, there you are, honey. You'd be swiping at the bugs with one hand, pushing Old Blue away with your elbows, and meanwhile, the sun would still be melting the ice cream faster than your tongue can lick to keep up with it."

The bugs were being so pesky now that Millie was getting angry. She got up from the bench and tried to run away from them, when all of a sudden --

"P L O P!“

Millie frowned. She looked down at the pile of mushy ice cream and the sugar cone that had landed upside-down on the ground between her feet.

Slowly and sadly, Millie walked back over to the bench and sat down beside Grampa.

She sighed, and after taking one last peek at her ice cream mess on the ground, she asked, “Grampa, why do bad things have to happen to good people?”

“Sweet girl, there is no particular reason.  Sometimes they just do.

You know, getting married can be just like your ice cream cone. It was exactly what you wanted, when you wanted it, and it was wonderful, too.  The love part truly is wonderful.

Sometimes, though, there are just too many inside and outside things that get in the way. Each of those things is taking big bites, little bites, pushing, pulling and shoving, until they've melted down all of the really good parts."

Millie thought about her grampa's words. Getting married sure sounded like a lot of work -- and a whole LOT of problems. Millie made up her mind. “Grampa, I don't EVER want to get married!”

“Millie-Me, that ice cream cone sure was good ... wasn't it?"

"It was the best, Grampa, but it's all gone now!"  Millie sniffled.  "And it was my fault."

"Yes, it finally dropped on the sidewalk, but we both know you worked real hard to keep it, and I'm proud of you. I hope you'll always remember, that while you had it, it was good -- it was really, really good. Wasn't having it worth all the work in trying to keep it?

It doesn't have to be anyone's fault.  Sometimes, what finally happened to your ice cream cone just happens, and in real life, that can happen with a couple's marriage.”

Millie nodded.  She finally understood.

She gave Grampa the biggest hug she could muster and he hugged her right back. "Yeah, Grampa. It was worth all the work. Thank you."

Grampa smiled and kissed the top of her head. "You're welcome. C'mon Millie-Me. Let's go home."

The organ music jolted her back to the present, but Millicent Cole smiled -- not a big smile, mind you, but a smile, just the same.

It was such a perfect memory, and I'll always treasure it. Oh Grampa, you will be so terribly missed ...

"Hi, Gram." Millicent was surprised right out of her daydream. She looked up to see Douglas's tear-stained face as he plopped down in the chair beside her.

"This is a double-dang, triple-dang BAD day, Gram. First Great-Grampa died, then Mom and Dad said they are getting a divorce. Why, Gram?  I don't understand why they are doing that."

"I know, Dougie, I know." Millie said sadly, as she wiped at a tear escaping down his cheek. Then she hugged him. "Let's go see your mother. I think it's time you and I walked down to the park for an ice cream cone."

Then, after wiping a misbehaving tear of her own with a tissue, Millie added, "Dougie, let's go make a memory ..."

“A writer soon learns that easy to read is hard to write.” ~CJ Heck