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Sunday Best: saplings

FREE VERSE REVOLUTION chose my poem “A Rocky Start” as one of the top three for the weekly challenge Saplings.


Dear reader,

And so the end of Blossom is here! Thank you to everyone who contributed a piece to this month and to those who have continued to follow, read and share the work published on Free Verse Revolution.

May’s theme is Illusion and contributing slots have disappeared; there are only three remaining which haven’t been filled or reserved. If you are interested in submitted before the submission window closes – see the guidelines here.

To catch up on the final pieces of April:

Tuesday – Holly Rene Hunter

Wednesday – Seraphina

Thursday – Devika Mathur

Friday – Candice Louisa Daquin

Saturday – Tabitha Delaney

This week’s prompt was ‘saplings’ and there were several responses across Instagram and WordPress. Below are the top three: if your piece wasn’t chosen I hope you will continue to respond to May’s prompts, it was a tough call!

A Rocky Start – Barbara Leonhard

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Ekphrastic Poetry · Free Verse Revolution · Poem · Poetry

A Rocky Start

Sapling, you shoot roots in the shallow bucket

engorged with sharp bits of seed hulls

left by the squirrels, picked at by cardinals.


Your tender, slender stem, elongated spine,

extends from cracked dirt in a clay flower pot,

the old home of an expired aloe vera plant. Can your trunk


lengthen and thicken under the garden chair? Will raccoons

wrench you from your place and scatter your limp leaves

or twist them in play? Wash them in the water pan?


Your stubborn roots dig into the garden

on half-turned clumps of earth. A wretched end,

I tear you from the soil and toss you

into a pile of ivy shorn for mulch.


But you, irascible sapling, you

survive in stone.


©Poem and Image: Barbara Leonhard

Barbara Leonhard is a writer, poet, and blogger at Extraordinary Sunshine Weaver.  Her podcast Poetry: The Memoir of the Soul explores universal themes such as Grief, Kindness, and Presence. She taught writing for many years at the University of Missouri and is the author of Discoveries in Academic Writing. She is also a regular contributor to Free Verse Revolution, Phoebe, MD: Poetry + Medicine (, and Go Dog Go Café.

Poetry Blog:


Bagua · Poem · Poetry · Tai Chi · Writing

The Art of War: Enter the Dragon

The Art of War: Enter the Dragon

He sees me at a distance

from the Salvation Army.

The soft glow of my white hair,

my short stature and square hips,

a slight limp,

a slow stride,

I am an easy mark

to a desperate bully.

Mam! Mam!

Come here!

Come here!

It’s like he’s found his prize.

He doesn’t see these deep lines

tracing the fingerprints of my soul

on my small face.

Each mark, a scar,

a battle won.

I am no kitten!

Come HERE! He commands.

I hear shouts of dominance,

impatience and irritation.

Does he think I’ll cross to HIS side!?

I veer into the parking lot of a bank.



He is crossing the

street in pursuit of me!

Come HERE!

He demands

like he is calling the pigs.

I take to the ATM area

to get to Broadway.

He’s advancing!

Leave me alone! I yell.


He’s on my back.


Give me MONEY!

Leave me alone!


I do not cower to extortion.

My duty is to self!


He flashes the cigarette butt

burning into his fingers.

He shows his teeth,

planted cock-eyed

behind tense lips.

I show him my piercing eyes. The flames,

my shield, my sword.

I am no stranger to bullies.



I advance to his face.

My scars deepen as I scowl.

My spirit finds its gateway.

My light is charged.

He persists, speaking loudly

in another language, but not imploring.

He isn’t my tribe. He doesn’t know

the rules here.

I’ve read the Art of War.

Do not press a desperate

soul too hard,” says Sun Tzu.

However, I assess the enemy’s

slight build.

Should he touch me, I’ll advance

and strikehim under the jaw

with the root of my palm

and throw him into the ATM.  

His screams will be filmed.


He practically hits me

with his near-empty bottle of Dr. Pepper.

I see no tears or pleas

for pity. Only dominance

over an old lady.

Show your banners!

beat your drums!” exclaims Sun.

I glare at the offender

with the eyes of a dragon.

Don’t let my shape or size

deceive you,

I am a round stone

gaining momentum

down a steep slope.

I will sweep you away

into a chasm.

Still he demands money. His tone,

You, Woman, give me money!

NO! I yell.

Leave me ALONE!


Sun whispers, “On contentious ground,

attack not. Lure the enemy by

pretending to flee.

One moment. I suddenly nod my head.

I open my purse and the perpetrator

doesn’t grab it.

He thinks I’m getting money,

but I take out the phone.

Police! I yell, I’m calling the POLICE!

911!  POLICE!

I gather myself, my troops, and my honor.

I withdraw slowly, back onto Broadway,

my eyes always on my foe.

I wave my phone at him as a new saber.

The baying jackal curses

and retreats into the shadows.

Battle bleeds another scar.

Victory, purifying fire.

Harmony, restored.

Such is the art of war,”

nods the smiling Sage.

Revised 02/07/2020


©Barbara Harris Leonhard,

Image: Google search, Sun Tzu, The Art of War

Healing · Original Digital Art · Poem · Poetry

Sleep Chose Me

Sleep Chose Me

Sleep chose me

To take this walk on crisp leaves

Smothered by frost.

Colors, thread bare faces,

Glassy lattice in sun,

Forming halos for owls

As shade dissolves into moonlight,

Magical stasis.

Linger here in truth,

Alone with feathers of snow

Clinging briefly to crystal,

Blazing its fire,

Sizzling in waves of storm

Like smothered sand bits

On the wild shore

Holding my footing.

The colors dim into food for forest.

I trample the earth into new stone,

Bedrock for soul,

My blossom,

With the will to live

In granite.

©2018 Barbara Harris Leonhard

Image: “Building Blocks” digital art ©2018 Martha Harris See Martha’s Artistic Flarings




Audio · Ekphrastic Poetry · Poem · Poetry

Life Finds a Way


Life Finds a Way

Though battered and bruised,

Your soul pinched off

Like a pruned plant,

Your bark sheered

To pristine skin,

Your torso shattered

By lightening and storm,

Your limbs entangled

In shackles of pain,

Your crown toppled over

By axes and saws,

Your bounty sheered away by winds,

Your roots chopped off

From sacred sources,

Life will find a way

To feed those roots,

Creating saplings in new blood.

Enriching the heart.

May your Will find the way

For new seeds, new growth,

Around the obstacles to your being.

Nature perseveres.

May you be your tree of life.


Copyright © August 9, 2017 Barbara Harris Leonhard


This article has amazing pictures of trees that have survived great adversity.


Audio · Poem · Poetry

New Audio: Spared

Spared a winter but not a spring.

Hail thrashes, splitting the wind

Into crystals lit by flashes,

Revealing shadows touching down

Like long fingers pointing curses.

My husband, the one-eyed lamp,

In our basement cave,

Checking the radar on his I-phone.

The cats subdued by the growling wind,

Finding refuge under a table by their litter.

And I, swathed in a blanket,

Sitting on the porta-potty seat,

Left over from a surgery,

To remain a throne in a storm.

My messages failed to send.

Roars diminishing to low growls,

Lightning flails like extinguishing flames,

Thunder stomps like a child wanting attention.

It passes over without forgiving.

New-born daffodils embracing the deluge now strain for morning.

Even storms are gifts.

Copyright © 2017 Barbara Harris Leonhard

Image: Brusheezy (free download)