Editor’s note: This is the first part of a series on creative writing. We will publish the other participating writers in the next installment.  

By Connie Leinbach

A group of islanders has continued a writing group through the devastation of Hurricane Dorian and now the COVID-19 pandemic.

The group is an evolution of the Word Play group begun a few years ago by Marcy Brenner as a weekly Wednesday evening gathering to explore the written word during the winter in the former Coyote Music Den in Community Square.

Earle Irwin, who coordinates the Words on Wednesdays, group said Word Plays was the topic at a post-Dorian Community Center lunch where earlier members lamented this one more hurricane-related loss.

Irwin relates the following:

Then Pat Garber had the courage, after consulting with the originator of the group, Marcy Brenner, to take a stab at reconvening the group.  That’s when I stepped in, to assist with logistics and getting the word out.

The group reformed in late February and had three meetings before Covid-19 restrictions interrupted the physical meetings. After a few fumblings with online possibilities, the group settled into our common comfort zone: weekly email exchanges of inspiring words, our own original or as written or spoken by others.

Many writers have yearned for free time to write; unrestricted time is the substance of a writer’s fantasies.

Yet faced with that kind of time–an unstructured block plopped down unexpectedly in a writer’s lap–also provides the makings of writer’s block.

“Words” provides a safe space where writers can find both solace from their demons and the stoking of their creative juices. Some of us are writing to process our own reactions to a pandemic. Others write to escape, turning to writing as productive means of thinking about something else. 

The Poet
My take on Joyce Kilmer’s beloved poem “The Tree”
By Pat Garber

I think that I shall never see
a person as foolish as me,

who thinks they need to write each day
as if they had something to say!

The world needs not another poet
I chide myself, although I know it.

Yet still these words and lyrics flow
from what strange place I do not know.

The verses grow inside my head
hoping that they will be read.

So I take my paper and my pen
and write foolish poems, once again.

Poems are made by fools like me;
I wish that I could make a tree.

Haikus re Covid-19
By Pat Garber

Jan. 2020          Virus is coming…
                         but “who knows?  It may vanish
                         as if by magic.”

February           The virus is here
                         but only old folk will die
                         Most need not worry.

Early March     Virus is spreading.
                        Fear and uncertainty reign.
                        People grow sick and die.

Mid- March      Virus is cruel.
                         Media talk of nothing else
                         Shops and schools close.

Late March       Press conferences.
                         Do not listen to fake news
                         or your president.

Early April         The virus is here.
                         Parents stay home with children
                         playing together.

Early April         Virus is a hoax,
                         A conspiracy theory.
                         Go protest in streets.

Mid-April          The virus? We don’t know.
                         “Try injecting some Clorox,
                          Or a hair dryer.”

Late April          The virus is good.
                         Earth takes a breath of fresh air.
                         Birds and flowers sing.

Early May         The virus is change.
                        Changing how we look at life;
                        What we know we need.

Summer           The virus will end.
                         Will the lessons we learn stay?
                         It is up to us.

Pat Garber. Photo: P. Vankevich







By Terrilyn Grace West

My bare feet caress
each shell like fingers of a
rosary. Amen.

Photo by Terrilyn Grace West












Terrilyn Grace West


The following are by Peter Vankevich

And You, Mr. Jones?

I shelter in place
In my Isolation row
Hearing just the wind 

Some “Cliff notes” about this next one. You hear them calling incessantly in the village this time of the year. They are Eurasian-collared Doves, exotic birds that showed up on the island about 10 years ago. They are pushing out the native mourning doves. Here is my attempt at a haiku, but first, listen to the  Mourning Dove  and the Eurasian-collared Dove in this profile

  Also, my concluding line is an allusion to the Eugene O’Neal play, “Mourning Becomes Electra.”

Mourning Dove
Eurasian collared dove

On Eurasian Collared Doves displacing Mourning Doves

Who who WHO intruder asks
Not the soft coo of  the mourning dove
Mourning becomes Eurasian

Hay Fever on Ocracoke Island

A gust of spring breeze
Moves the hanging porch storm lamp
Cedars start to sway

Peter Vankevich









The group also experimented with tankas. A tanka is a 31-syllable poem, traditionally written in a single unbroken line. A form of waka, Japanese song or verse, tanka translates as “short song,” and is better known in its five-line, 5/7/5/7/7 syllable count form.

Tanked Tanka
By Earle Irwin 4/28/2020

Stay-at-home this day:
Let spouse do his fishing thing
Alone in the surf
He captures leaping bluefish,
The whale they flee, with cell phone.

Earle Irwin







By Nancy Aldridge


Playing hide ‘n seek
Virus, virus, Where are you?
In the sky so blue?
Lurking on the counter there,
Leaping in my mouth so fair.
Sticking to our shoes,
How you spread is daily news,
Stay 6’ apart,
Protect your face and your heart.
Vaccine, please come do your part.


Nature holds us,
It encircles our beings & gives us a place to rest,
A place apart from worry.

Birdsongs remind us to rejoice
To welcome each new day
To take wing & soar.

Above, around & through
The broken bits of who we were as a planet.
Above, around & through 
Swirling possibilities of the Collective We
That is emerging. 


Nancy Aldridge


Marcy Brenner contributes her song “Joe Bell Flowers.”

Legend has it that Mr. Joe Bell, who lived and died on Ocracoke, scattered the seeds of this wildflower all over the island as he walked.  Now locally known as the “Joe Bell” (Gilardia/Indian Blanket) this flower, like the women of Ocracoke, is lovely and rugged. 

This song is for them. 


She’s singing in her kitchen
While she rocks and sews
Her man’s out on the water
“Old Drum” boiling on the stove
Through her kitchen curtains
A melody floats so sweet
On the breeze
Down the lane
To my heart
Across a sandy street

Joe Bell flowers
Blooming brave in the rough
Tempests may toss you
But you pull through
Joe Bell flowers
Beautiful and yet so tough
With some rain
A little sun
Just enough
You’ll become
The little crumbs
I find that bring me home

The ocean whispers softly
Through the cedars and the dunes
I whistle in my kitchen
Cooking up my words and tunes
I close my eyes to hear her
Sing her children down to sleep
And I weep
Nighty night
And sleep tight
And pray your soul to keep


Time will cast our seeds
To the wind
And we’ll bloom here
And everywhere we’ve been

Marcy cake decorating. Photo: Lou Castro


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  1. On one end of NC we have Boone, el 3333’, and on the other, OI at 3’ yet the people are basically the same. Noticed that?

  2. Thank you, writers, for sharing your words of wonder, resilience, beauty and hope. Your perseverance in writing and meeting/sharing is greatly appreciated. We are very much looking forward to the next installment. Thank you, Peter, for your clarification about the doves. Being from PA, we thought the Eurasian Collared Dove was just a Mourning Dove with a southern accent! Now we know. Peace, love and hugs to all!

  3. Out of our mouths
    In very worst times,
    Come words of wisdom
    And salve for our minds.
    Thanks to you, Connie and to all Ocracoke writers, for your beautiful words!

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