Posts by Cheryl, Gulf Coast Poet

A retired teacher, I live with my significant other on the Gulf Coast of Florida. I enjoy the beach, walking outdoors, movies, and reading. Hanging Out with Wild Animals is a book series of photos and poems about my encounters with Florida animals. Wonders is a book of poems inspired by the men I have known and loved. Life in Inspiring Places is a book of photos and poems about the places rich in history and natural beauty that I have called home. Excerpts from the books and additional poems can be found on my website. Cheryl Batavia

Barney, the Purple Dinosaur

Barney, the Purple Dinosaur, Photo by Katey Batavia

Barney, the Purple Dinosaur

In October, from Russia, Katey and Joe,

came to Florida twenty-five years ago.

Friends and relatives sent gifts of welcome.

Hanukkah and Christmas gifts filled our home!

That January, when Katey turned five,

we agreed that a book was the best gift to give.

On Katey’s birthday, when Papa came home,

the birthday plans all came undone!

When Papa came in, Katey was overjoyed.

Between Papa’s feet was a Barney toy.

From the wheelchair, Barney saw his new place.

A gigantic grin spread over Papa’s face.

Katey kissed Barney’s purple cheek,

and the talking dinosaur began to speak.

In his goofy voice, Barney said, “I love you.”

It was unmistakable, Katey loved him too!

We lost Papa six years later in January,

weeks before Katey’s eleventh birthday.

Barney lived with Katey for twenty-three years.

His demise last year left Katey in tears.

This year, I found on Amazon,

Katey’s Christmas present, a Barney clone!

Barney now lives in Texas, where he’ll say,

“I love you,” to Katey every day.

Katey Batavia and Barney, Photo by Katey Batavia

Copyright© 2020 by Cheryl Batavia


My late husband, Drew, and I adopted Katey and Joe from Russia in October, 1995. We lived in Miami Beach, and Drew, AKA “Papa,” was a very devoted father until his death in January, 2003. Katey now lives near Dallas, Texas with her older sister Ellen, a cat, a dog, and two other roommates. The new Barney, the Purple Dinosaur, just joined the household.

How Do You Spell Merry Christmas?

Santa by Tima Miroshni from Pexels

How Do You Spell Merry Christmas?

(Acrostic)

Manger scenes telling the Christmas Story

Exchanging gifts with friends and family

Relatives and friends visiting

Remembering to hang your stocking

Yummy food in December

Christmas Pageants with lines to remember

Hanging mistletoe up high

Reindeer flying across the sky

Invitations to parties and balls

Singing Yuletide carols

Trees we decorate

Making cookies and cakes

Advent wreaths with candles

Santa and his elves

Christmas Eve, Photo by Vicki Yde from Unsplash

Copyright© 2020 by Cheryl Batavia


The acrostic is an old fashioned staple of school and Sunday school programs. Each child holds up a letter and recites his “piece.” The letters often spell MOTHER for Mothers Day, HAPPY THANKSGIVING or MERRY CHRISTMAS.

Christmas Wreath, photo by Cheryl Batavia

Merry Christmas!

Eighth Night of Hanukkah

Happy Hanukkah!, Photo by cottonbro from Pexels

Eighth Night of Hanukkah

(My memories from the 1990s)

On the eighth night of Hanukkah,

We’re celebrating with Grandma and Grandpa.

Candles will shed soft light

on the faces of our family tonight.

Children light the menorah carefully.

Their father smiles approvingly…

A quiet moment lingers like a dream…

before latkes, applesauce, and sour cream.

Enjoyed by glowing candlelight,

Hanukkah gelt is a sweet delight.

Children eagerly await

opening present number eight.

Photo by PublicDomainPictures from Pixabay

We sing,”Dreidel, dreidel, dreidel.”

Our pennies are on the table.

Spinning dreidels with Grandma, it’s clear,

“A great miracle happened here!”


Copyright© 2020 by Cheryl Batavia


Hanukkah is the Jewish festival of lights that commemorates the rededication of the second temple. There was enough oil in the temple lamps to burn for only one night, but miraculously, it burned for eight nights. “A great miracle happened here!” is the message conveyed by the Hebrew letters on the dreidel. A dreidel is a top that is spun in a traditional gambling game. Our children and their grandma played for pennies.

Hanukkah is celebrated for eight nights. At sundown, the Hanukkah menorah is lit. One candle is lit on the first night. Another candle is added each night until, on the eighth night, all eight candles burn. Children receive a present on each night of Hanukkah.

A traditional Hanukkah food, latkes are grated potato pancakes fried in oil often served with applesauce and sour cream. The oil symbolizes the oil that burned for eight nights in the temple lamps. Hanukkah gelt is chocolate coins wrapped in gold foil. Our family also enjoyed chopped liver on matzos (similar to crackers) and matzo ball soup at Hanukkah.

Cactus-Tailed Cat

Cactus-Tailed Cat, Photo by Cheryl Batavia

Cactus-Tailed Cat

In nineteen thirty-six, in Sunday school,

someone said: Did you hear about Harvey?

You mean that guy who always acts the fool?

I heard that he has Hepatitis B!

Oh, wow! I didn’t know that he was sick!

They think he could die. We might lose a friend.

We’ll cheer Harvey up. Think of something quick!

A dozen roses would be nice to send.

The Sunday school class wanted to be kind…

Roses were too expensive, it was clear.

A cat with a cactus tail…What a find!

What a perfect gift to bring Harvey cheer!

Harvey, my Dad, was too stubborn to die!

Fifteen-year-old Harvey dodged tragedy!

That cactus-tailed cat was the reason why

they joined the Church…Harvey’s whole family!

Harvey became a Methodist preacher,

devoted to service for fifty years.

He was a story-teller and teacher;

he visited the sick and calmed their fears.

My Grandma gave me the cactus-tailed cat

that changed the family’s way of living.

The cat’s now a gift for my daughter that

honors her life of service and giving.


Copyright© 2020 by Cheryl Batavia


This poem is based on a true family story as told to me by my grandmother and my father. The first three verses are an imagined conversation showing how the Sunday school class decided to send the cactus cat to my father in the hospital.

The cactus-tailed cat is ready to send to my daughter, Ellen, in Texas. Ellen is an ordained Baptist chaplain and is taking seminary classes. She has taught Recovery classes for several years and is an administrator for the program.. I am not sure what her future plans are.

Disclosure: The cat is posing for this photo with an improvised cucumber tail. She is looking forward to getting a new cactus tail when she arrives in Texas.

Reflections on Thanksgiving

Native American Corn, Photo by Marcus Winkler from Unsplash

Reflections on Thanksgiving

1620 was a year of tribulation.

The Mayflower voyage was no vacation!

In America, one hundred Pilgrims arrived.

By spring, only fifty-three remained alive.

Befriended by a Native American tribe,

they grew corn and learned to thrive.

1621 was a year of jubilation,

harvest time at Plymouth Plantation,

when the Pilgrims and the Wampanoag

gave thanks together and got along.

A time for gratitude and celebration,

plans for peace and co-operation.

Peace and cooperation were transient,

but Thanksgiving was a hopeful event.

Brotherhood, the spirit of Thanksgiving,

can transform our way of living!


Copyright© 2020 by Cheryl Batavia


Harvest festivals have been observed all over the world since ancient times. Several States claim to be the site of the first Thanksgiving in the US, but Plymouth, Massachusetts, though probably not the first, is the most well-known. Native Americans rescued several struggling American colonies in the early days. The Wampanoag befriended the Pilgrims at Plymouth, teaching them to grown corn and celebrating Thanksgiving with them.

The history of our country, as in many countries, has been blemished by racism, persecution of indigenous peoples, slavery, and religious intolerance. Many people have fought these evils, and many wrongs have been righted. The fight continues. The first Thanksgiving at Plymouth Plantation is a hopeful example of brotherhood and peace.

Abracadabra!

Photo by Ameen Fahmy from Unsplash

Abracadabra!

Questions work magic!

Great discoveries appear

when we seek answers.


Copyright© 2020 by Cheryl Batavia


This poem was written in response to Ingrid’s EIF Poetry Challenge #8, and was awarded third place. My sincere thanks to Ingrid for posting the challenge on Experiments in Fiction and to Jaya Avendel of Nin Chronicles, who judged the challenge.

New Era of Optimism

The Jefferson Memorial, Washington, DC, Adobe Stock Photos

New Era of Optimism

New leader chosen…

New era of empathy,

integrity, and truth.

New rule of law,

new dawn of democracy…

Call for unity.

Quell the violence.

Preserve the environment.

End the pandemic.

Rejoin the global family

in achieving common goals.


Copyright© 2020 by Cheryl Batavia


Joe Biden was declared President-Elect of The United States of America today, 10/7/20. Inauguration Day is 1/20/21.

Grandma

Grandparents & grandchildren, Photo by Aletia2011, Adobe Stock

Grandma

Our Grandma, Frances Ellen Tustin,

had to babysit, so she left after two years of school.

She had learned to read! She used that skill

to educate herself and lived her life to the full.

At twelve, Grandma worked as a hotel maid.

Married at seventeen, she had two sons.

She and Grandpa worked hard to support

their family during the Great Depression.

Our grandparents moved a lot, flipping houses.

Grandma wallpapered, painted, and plastered.

The last house they renovated was her childhood

home, using all the skills they had mastered.

Photo by Brett Jordan from Unsplash

Grandma lived there for more than thirty years,

raising chickens, planting grapes and fruit trees.

She grew asparagus, strawberries, and flowers,

and cultivated her garden into her eightees.

Grandma decorated her home with hooked rugs,

handmade quilts, and afghans she crocheted.

Her grandchildren were always proud

to wear the beautiful clothes she made.

Photo by Mae Mu from Unsplash

Cooking in restaurants and caring for the sick…

Grandma had many jobs over the years.

She was a long-time Sunday school teacher

who had earned the respect of her peers.

We always ate well at Grandma’s house…

Everybody loved her black walnut cinnamon buns!

Grandma fed us chicken cacciatore and cookies.

We gathered eggs in the henhouse. That was fun!

Photo by Natasha Skov from Unsplash

In summer, Grandma gave strawberries

to friends and neighbors and made strawberry pies.

A huge bowl of strawberries waited for us at

Grandma’s. We couldn’t eat them all, but we tried!

The Raggedy Ann and Andy Dolls Grandma made

were in demand at local gift shops.

The dolls she made for her great grandchildren

were always loved a lot!

Photo by Non Vay from Unsplash

Most of my generation wanted to be like Grandma.

Great granddaughters, and great nieces, too,

are named “Frances” or “Ellen” or “Tustin,”

a gentle reminder: Be known by the good works you do.

Reprinted from Life in Inspiring Places


Copyright© 2019 by Cheryl Batavia