Swamp Monsters Rising

 

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Brors Anders Wikstrom (1854-1909), “Mangrove Swamp,” [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

“I suppose my critics will call that preaching, but I have got such a bully pulpit!”

–Theodore Roosevelt, President of the United States, 1901-1909

 

All the world’s his stage,

the phone, his bully pulpit,

emitting fear and rage,

small thumbs all atwitter

producing chirps, smirks,

false promises that glitter.

 

Perhaps this is a test—

but monsters crawl from the undrained swamp

fetid creatures that once were buried,

ravenous beasts, they stomp and chomp,

intent on destruction,

wise on obstruction,

We the People,

that earnest phrase

will it expire in a Twittery blaze?

No bonfire of the vanities

the burning of humanity’s

souls aflame with freedom lost,

fascist salutes and justice tossed.

 

Life is short, we live and die

and perhaps sometimes we wonder why

the good die young

and the evil ones fly

high in this post-truth world

we must expose the lies,

smile with heart and eyes,

keep kindness and hope,

atop this slippery slope,

support freedom of the press

to get rid of this mess,

take back the stage,

bring back love and fight the rage.

 

This poem is for Secret Keeper’s Weekly Writing Challenge.

The prompt words were: Stage/Short/Young/Test/Live

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thoughts in the Moonlight: Microfiction

 

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Ilya Repin, “Moonlight Night,” [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

 

 

The river shimmered in the moonlight, but for the moment, Jo was immune to its charms. She was pondering the telegram she had received:

“J.  Mission on. Pack your bags.  Love, T.”

Her brother Tommy was an excellent surgeon, but not such a great communicator. As she bent down to rub her setter Dottie’s spotted back, Jo thought about this “mission” and wondered how long she would be gone.

Tommy had told Jo that Mr. Roentgen’s discovery could change medicine and medical care. The new apparatus that the commission planned to ship abroad used these invisible rays–X rays– to photograph bones right through the skin. The X ray devices could also be used to see bullets or shrapnel within a body.

We keep improving ways to kill one another, Jo thought, I suppose it’s only natural that we find new ways to treat those that survive.

She pictured all the politicians she had seen shouting slogans, ignoring facts. She admired scientists who checked and re-checked and shared their knowledge. A German scientist discovered X rays, and now English doctors were using the discovery to help Greek soldiers.

Perhaps, she thought, with these new-fangled X ray machines, the young men, pawns in squabbles between nations, might have a better chance of surviving the carnage of the battlefield. Tommy and the other surgeons, and she and the other nurses would do their best, however inadequate it might be.

Calling to Dottie, Jo turned to take one last look at the river. Then she squared her shoulders and strode back to the house to pack her bags for Greece.

 

This story is for Jane Dougherty’s Microfiction Challenge. The prompt is the painting above, “Moonlight Night” by Ilya Repin. Even though the painter was Russian, I thought the woman was English, and she seemed to be pondering something. I found out that X rays were discovered the same year the painting was completed, 1896. Soon after, X rays were used in field hospitals, and a group in England financed the transportation of a X ray machines with surgeons and nurses and sent them to Greece during the Greco-Turkish War of 1897.

You can read more about the early use of X rays here.

 

Singing an American Tune

Monday Morning Musings:

 

“Oh, we come on the ship they call the Mayflower

We come on the ship that sailed the moon

We come in the age’s most uncertain hour

And sing an American tune

Oh, it’s all right, it’s all right

It’s all right, it’s all right

You can’t be forever blessed

Still, tomorrow’s going to be another working day

And I’m trying to get some rest

That’s all I’m trying to get some rest.”

–Paul Simon, “An American Tune”

 

“In folks nearest to you finding the sweetest, strongest, lovingest;

Happiness, knowledge, not in another place, but this place—not for another hour, but this hour.”

–Walt Whitman, “Carol of Occupations,” Leaves of GrassPreparation, Anticipation

  1. Preparation, Anticipation:

I don’t feel as organized this year,

distracted by the election, by the news, by work

and this and that,

still, I cook applesauce, bake challah and pumpkin bread,

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placing them in the freezer to wait for the holiday,

I make mushroom gravy,

(which, by the way, is delicious)

while listening to “Hamilton,”

dancing around the kitchen,

grandchild of immigrants,

I sing an American tune,

preparing for this holiday of food and gratefulness.

 

Two days before Thanksgiving

younger daughter comes over to break bread for stuffing,

packages of sliced white bread

(stuff I would never buy to eat),

it’s what we have always used for stuffing

a family tradition for this family holiday.

My sister and I used to break bread while watching

Thanksgiving parades,

then–long ago–my mother made the stuffing,

but time passes the tradition baton to the next generation,

or, perhaps a different metaphor,

a page turned in a book,

the story continues, characters die, new ones appear,

the plot changes, and who knows how it will end?

But we are here in this hour, in this story, happy and grateful.

 

We watch an old episode of Gilmore Girls,

It is Thanksgiving in Stars Hollow,

mother and daughter—them, not us—

eat four Thanksgiving dinners in one day.

We laugh, as we break the bread into small pieces,

letting them fall, filling my huge stock pot

(did I mention we like stuffing?)

and try to imagine eating four Thanksgiving meals.

H. calls later that night,

Did the cranberry sauce jell last year? I’m trying to figure out how long it needs to cook?

Cooking is not an exact science with us,

it’s done by taste and feel,

with sometimes a ghost or two hovering nearby

they whisper in our heads,

You do it like that.

Remember that time?

 

At H’s house, on Thanksgiving Eve, there is a family cranberry sauce making activity.

I have given her the cherished squirrel mold,

and with my 94-year-old mother in attendance,

they cook, strain, and pour the mixture in the mold.

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  1. The Holiday Meal

On Thanksgiving, here at my house,

my sister-in-law unmolds the sauce.

“You do it once, and it becomes your job,” she says,

 

It takes three of us to wrangle the cooked turkey onto the board to carve it.

Wine opening, similarly becomes a joint effort

after the corkscrew breaks and the cork is shredded on two bottles.

But we need wine at Thanksgiving,

and where there’s a will, there’s a way–

with a new corkscrew and bit of muscle.

 

To my mom:”Are you okay, do you need anything?”

Reply, “Life is good, I just finished my wine.”

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Food and conversation flow around the table

(like the wine)

tidbits of both, chewed, swallowed, or scattered like crumbs,

we all say we miss our older daughter and her wife,

but they will be with us next year,

we tease my great-niece about her boyfriend

We’re only in seventh grade!

We laugh when my great nephew exclaims,

“That’s why we’re sisters!”

(and then realizes what he said).

We have discussions about other Thanksgiving meals,

younger daughter has made mashed rutabaga

for her daddy because his grandmother used to make it,

there is mention of carb-free Thanksgivings–

a group shudder, unthinkable.

 

We discuss my mother’s mother’s cooking.

she koshered the meat, salting it till it was too dry to eat,

my older sister says,

but she was a good baker, my sister says,

“She excelled at carbs!”

We eat, we drink, we are more stuffed than the Thanksgiving turkey,

and there is still dessert–

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But it’s all right, it’s all right,

it’s part of the American tune,

songs of many cultures,

songs of immigrants,

songs of many types of love,

because love is love–

I am so grateful for this family.

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Then it’s over, everyone leaves,

the hiding cat reappears

My husband, designated driver and dishwasher, texts me that he’s stuck in traffic

I put “Hamilton” on again

dance around the kitchen while I take care of dishes

And then it’s time to get some rest.

 

  1. The Day After

Younger daughter comes over to watch the NEW Gilmore Girls series.

We are so excited,

we eat Thanksgiving leftovers–and watch the entire series,

Winter, Spring, Summer, and Fall.

Gilmore Girls practically demands binge watching and binge eating,

we do our part.

Happiness in this hour,

and the next

and the next

(stopping to make coffee and get some pie)

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Ghosts from the past on the TV screen,

ghosts from our past, too,

before daughters were grown and married.

Time has marched on for both our families—the Gilmore’s and my own,

people lost, and people added to the family,

traditions continue,

traditions evolve,

life comes full circle,

but still

there is happiness in this time,

in this place,

it’s an American tune

and after the holiday is over

it’s time to get some rest.

 

 

 

Moonstruck

 

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Samuel Palmer, Kornfeld im Mondenschein,” [Public domain or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

 

Before the dawn, I saw the moon,

her father nearby, he stood there forthright,

seeking her radiance, no, not immune

to her empyrean charm, her pale, silver light.

 

Her father nearby, he stood there forthright

with pride in the memory, he thought of her birth,

to her empyrean charm, her pale, silver light

flirting with shadows, brightening the earth.

 

With pride in the memory, he thought of her birth

as if in a trance, the twins, moon and sun

flirting with shadows, brightening the earth

timeless and time-bound, till time is done

 

I hear her humming, I hear the song,

seeking her radiance, no, not immune

to magic moonlight, in still-darkness of morn

before the dawn, I saw the moon.

 

A Pantoum for Secret Keeper’s Writing Challenge.

The prompt words were: Birth/Trance/Pride/Seek/Flirt

When I walked outside this morning to get the newspaper (support the press!), I was struck by the beauty of the bright sliver of moon with Jupiter by her side.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Golden Egg: Microfiction

varnadragons

 

Journal Entry, 4773

Ambassador Armstrong and I traded stories after dinner. I enjoyed hers about the boy who flew too close to the sun. She admired our language, saying it reminded her of the birdsongs of her planet. In response, I told her this tale:

Eons ago, great, winged creatures inhabited our planet. The Mianthx were massive, lumbering creatures, powerful of body, but dull of mind, and without our grace and beauty. Unlike us, with our shimmering, varigated feathers, they were covered in dull, grey-green scales.

There was Mianthx prophecy that foretold the appearance of a golden egg—from which a great leader would be born. And one day, an ordinary Mianthx produced such an egg and showed it to her mate. The couple was overjoyed. It was their first egg. They shared in its care, keeping it warm in their birth pouches. When the birth-time came, their family members and officials (alerted to the news of the golden egg) gathered around to witness the event. The midwife helped the Mianthx couple with the hatching process, but all fell silent when a small being with soft, downy, multi-colored feathers appeared.

“It’s so strange-looking,” some onlookers whispered, “and what are those odd sounds it’s making?”

However, her parents loved her and called her Dulcka, or “Dear One.” As Dulcka grew older, she became a being of wondrous beauty, with feathers glowing and iridescent in the light. Her appearance was matched by the kindness of her soul, and by her mellifluous voice, like a chorus of flutes—so unlike the raspy voices of those around her. She became beloved by all.

One day the world was threatened by a vast, dark cloud that was starting to block the sun. Without light and heat, all life would perish. Dulcka flew high in the air, higher than any of the Mianthx had ever flown. There she sang to the wind, telling it to blow the cloud away. So powerful was her voice, that the wind obeyed her, and the cloud was dispersed, letting the sun shine down once again on our planet. Dulcka was lauded for her deed and re-named Melasios, or silver-voiced leader.

In time, Melasios mated with one of the Mianthx, and they had a baby, who was born with soft, downy variegated feathers. It is said we are all descended from Melasios.

 

This story is for Jane Dougherty’s Microfiction Challenge, using the sculpture pictured above. And once again, I’m way over the word count.

This story is a sequel to this story.

 

 

 

A Final Bloom Before the Cold

Monday Morning Musings:

“It was a happy thought to bring 
To the dark season’s frost and rime 
This painted memory of spring, 
This dream of summertime. “

–John Greenleaf Whittier, “Flowers in Winter”

 

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A surprising last bloom of the geranium in November.

 

A final bloom,

flowers that were vibrant red

fragrant in the summer heat,

now scentless,

a different hue against autumn’s rusts and gold,

in the cold,

a final bloom,

tired, but heroic,

a reminder,

a last hurrah,

as the nights grow longer

and we must grow stronger,

winter is coming.

 

The skies darken and the winds howl,

we huddle under blankets,

fill the house with the scents of cinnamon, apples, pumpkin,

and freshly baked bread,

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Apples cooking for Thanksgiving applesauce

 

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Artisan-style bread to eat with our soup

 

I think of tea and oranges that come all the way from China,

we eat, sustaining ourselves with hearty soup, a hunk of cheese,

a glass of wine and Netflix,

we smile and dance with the opening credits,

wondering where life is headed,

winter is coming.

 

We go to see Loving

a quiet, unassuming film

about the landmark decision,

Loving v. Virginia,

we watch and listen

two ordinary people,

black and white,

they want to marry, not fight,

but their marriage a crime under Virginia law.

I want to scream at the hypocrisy

the result of the slavocracy

of the state of Virginia, how

centuries of miscegenation,

and the degradation

the rape of black women,

and the suffering of families,

and the telling of lies.

But the heart is not silenced

And love still sings.

I cry at the end,

happy with the result that justice brings,

that our system worked then,

(and I think, too, more money to the ACLU.)

 

We discuss the movie over vegetable pakoras,

vegetable soup, naan

yellow dal tarka

and other delights,

a buffet,

and we eat too much,

but they’re all so delicious,

these Indian dishes,

warm and comforting on this cold day

when we sense that winter is coming.

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Autumn leaves against the wind-swept clouds

 

Winter is coming

will we see another bloom?

The bloodred blossoms of civil rights

fading, turning to dust

causes forgotten, results of long fights,

gone with civility,

(utter imbecility)

social contracts, death of the Great Experiment,

But still we know,

that love is love,

and we must shout what’s in our hearts,

Ask not what you can do for your country

Ask not for whom the bell tolls

It tolls for you and me,

good or evil

we are stronger together,

winter is coming.

 

We laugh and talk

Denial?

Well, life must go on

even when the bloom is gone

even in winter.

From within the darkness

we light the candles

to illuminate the room

to cast the shadows to the corners,

amidst the cold,

amidst the gloom,

we seek warmth

and offer shelter

when the winter comes.

 

We prepare for the long winter,

not to be seduced by the stark beauty of the snow

but noticing the cracks in the ice.

The last bloom, as autumn turns to winter,

and we remember spring

a distant, buried memory,

we remember and hope

for new blooms

after the winter comes—

and goes

and spring returns.

 

We saw the movie, Loving.

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Time for blankets–it’s going to be a long winter.

Angels and Magic: Magnetic Poetry

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Walters Art Museum [Public domain, CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

 

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There are fools surrounding a god

of smoke & poison

remember angel voices caramel breath linger long,

listen–

“it is I,

time to wake”

embrace this desire & live no prisoner

fever haunted

laugh open our secret magic

never let peace go

 

 

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in warm night

a marble boy is born

the star bleeds

delicious colors

and will heal him

it is salt-rhythm poetry

glass and fire

for a wild heart

 

Saturday Magnetic Poetry. The Oracle decided to go with some magical realism, or surrealism, or perhaps it’s time for Angels in America (again).  The Oracle is cryptic.

 

The Game

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Albertus Pictor (1440-1507, “Death Playing Chess”

By Håkan Svensson (Xauxa) (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html), CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/) or CC BY 2.5 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.5)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

 

Life and death, becomes a game

(it’s played for keeps)

study the board,

black and white

(in a world of color)

in a world of uncertainty

predictable,

life and death,

black and white,

the stark focus of opposites,

sad, happy, quiet, loud.

Kings captured, castles fall,

we’re all pawns,

in the game

a draw

only delays the inevitable

checkmate

 

This poem is for Secret Keeper’s Writing Challenge. The prompt words were: Game/Study/Sad/Loud/Become

For some reason, the image of the knight and Death playing chess in Ingmar Bergman’s movie, The Seventh Seal popped into my mind. Who know where these things come from?

 

 

 

We Will Talk Amidst the Clouds: Microfiction

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By Makis E. Warlamis (Own work, Daskunstmuseum, 2007-01-05) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Journal Entry, 4772: I woke up early, too excited to sleep. Today I begin my new position as chief consul. Thousands of years have passed since my ancestors made first contact with the world of our guests. We miscalculated then; the inhabitants of that planet were not ready, and we backed off, observing only from a distance. We were surprised that the beings we’ll be welcoming here today finally dominated their planet, and even more surprised that they survived. They were fond of wars, those bipeds.

It’s too bad that we’ll have to transport them from our planet’s surface to our capital. I love how it hovers amidst the clouds, a beacon of serenity, and a perfect place to hold our discussions. Too bad they cannot experience the joy of flight, as we do. There’s the beauty–the glow of light on feathered wing, the iridescent colors, and the glorious feel of the air, as it rushes by, carrying the scents from below and above. Oh well.

It’s time now to go. To meet the Earth ambassador. Apparently she is named for an ancestor who was famous for—what was it? A walk? Oh yes, I remember now, on their moon. Ambassador Neila Armstrong. End log.

I spread my wings and fly out to meet her.

 

This story is for Jane Dougherty’s Microfiction Challenge. This week I’m close to the word count! The prompt is the painting above.

The story is related to this earlier one I wrote.

 

 

Following and Leading with Family and Fish

Monday Morning Musings:

“Where you lead, I will follow

Anywhere that you tell me to

If you need, you need me to be with you

I will follow where you lead.”

–Carole King, “Where You Lead “(Gilmore Girls Theme Song)

 

“So long, and thanks for all the fish.”

–The final message of dolphins to humans, as they leave Earth before it’s destroyed. Also, the title of the fourth book of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy series by Douglas Adams.

 

“I sustain myself with the love of family.”

–Maya Angelou (Tweet, on 23 May 2013)

 

After a long, long week,

a very long week

when we are in shock over the leader

many of our fellow citizens want to follow,

my younger daughter suggests we watch The Gilmore Girls*

while we eat Chinese food and chocolate,

so we sit, comfy in PJs and sweatshirts

while my husband goes for the Chinese food

(General Tso’s chicken for him,

the mock version for us)–

followed by chocolate.

Of course.

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No one can eat like the Gilmore Girls,

but we try to get in the spirit,

choosing an episode from Season Two,

we hear this:

Paris: “That’s crazy. People would rather vote for a moronic twink who they liked over someone who could actually do the job?”

“We can’t get away from it,” sighs my daughter.

“Oy with the poodles already,” I reply.

 

The next day we go to my sister’s house.

meant to be a combination birthday-victory celebration

with a fish tray and bagels.

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It is instead, a much needed gathering of family,

the love of family to sustain us.

 

Son-in-law has never eaten lox–or any of the fish on the platter,

he is forced to try them all.

(“It’s my heritage,” his wife says, though she is a vegetarian who doesn’t eat fish.)

He thinks the whitefish is too oily,

the lox too salty,

but the kippered salmon is tolerable—with lots of onion.

Daughter says, “He would have gotten along well with Grandpop.”

We remember my dad’s love of onions–

onion sandwiches

onion and sardine sandwiches

onion and sardine sandwiches on onion rolls

( with extra onions).

Did I mention he liked onions?

My father liked food,

and gatherings,

and gathering over food.

We sustain ourselves with family and family memories.

 

My mother wants coffee,

demands coffee

I want it now she says

with my meal.

She would fit right in with the Gilmore Girls.

 

You don’t argue with a 94-year old woman who wants coffee.

My sister gets her some coffee.

Remembering how we are sustained by family, love, and annoyance.

 

We discuss the current political situation,

daughter worried about how her students will react.

(She has not seen them since the election.)

I say I think she is a good leader,

and hope they will follow her lead.

Her husband, a veteran, deployed three times,

and not happy with the elected leader,

talks to my sister about getting involved in politics.

Sustained, and upheld by family.

 

My mom says she’s lived through many scary times.

I say I remember being terrified during the Cold War–

duck and cover drills and the Cuban Missile Crisis–

“But there were more sane people in control then,” my niece says.

Sigh.

Oy with the poodles already.

Sustained by love of family.

 

My sister and niece say, if we’re going to discuss this

we need to drink–and chocolate.

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drink, drink, drink

 

In truth, we really do not drink,

and then my niece accidentally knocks coffee onto my mom’s lap.

We’re clumsy, but lovable.

And sustained by the love of family.

 

Time for dessert!

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The cake is placed strategically in front of my daughter, so she can pick at it,

and “clean up” the icing.

(Love of family and food sustains us.)

 

My niece, who lives in a divided household

(in a red part of the state)

says she has needed this gathering,

though we’re not celebrating the election,

we are celebrating family.

We’re sustained by family—

and food.

 

We move to other subjects—

Thanksgiving (and food).

I have safely delivered the squirrel mold

(encased in bubble wrap)

to my niece,

the Thanksgiving cranberry sauce tradition

can continue.

We talk of social media

and kids,

and gender identity

and sex education,

a teenage boy taking lotion,

“I don’t understand—why does he want lotion?”

asks my mom.

(She’s so innocent.)

We hear cheers from the next room,

my sister-in-law and husband are watching football.

It is time to go.

We leave, sustained by family,

full from all the food we’ve eaten,

carrying packages of fish and bagels,

bits of love,

like life, delicious and a bit smelly,

So long, and thanks for all the fish,

and all the memories, too.

And though wishing my other daughter was also with us,

I am sustained by love of family,

as we head off into the darkness

where a super moon is rising.

We need light in the darkness

and love always.

 

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*Gilmore Girls was a TV series about single mother Lorelai Gilmore and her daughter Rory. The series opened as Rory was in high school and ended when she graduated from Yale. In between, mother and daughter had many adventures, drank millions of cups of coffee, and eat enormous amounts of take-out food in the fictional town of Stars Hollow, Connecticut. A four-episode follow-up will be on Netflix in about two weeks.