The Blue Room

ALI142426

Adriano Cecioni, “Interior with a Figure,” [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

 

“I’ve put you in the blue room,” the landlady of the respectable seaside boarding house had said. “I’m sure it will suit you.”

Lillie was at the boardinghouse to regain her health. She suffered from a nervous condition, according to her aunt’s physician. In his view, it was brought on by all the reading she did. She needed fresh air and exercise to cure her of her fancies.

They all said—her aunt and cousins—that she was too sensitive. Even more so since the young man she had hoped to marry was killed in the Crimean War. She always seemed more comfortable reading her books. Immersed in fictional worlds, she escaped the constant chatter and gossip of her cousins. Thus, while her aunt wasn’t looking, and despite the doctor’s orders, Lillie had slipped a book into her small travel bag.

On the first night in the blue room, tucked in bed under the warm quilt, she read her book, before blowing out the candle and drifting off to sleep. Somewhere between sleep and wakefulness, she sensed she was not alone. A luminous presence hovered nearby. “Lillie,” he said. “I’ve been waiting for you.”

The next night, he came again just as she fell asleep. This time he kissed her. She began to long for the nights and his caresses. She barely spoke to the other women staying in the boardinghouse, although they muttered about strange noises coming from her room at night. For three weeks, she sleepwalked through the days, but at night, in her dreams, she was alive with passion.

One morning, she did not come down for breakfast. They found her body in the blue room under the crisp, white sheets. A book was by her side, The Demon Lover.

 

This is in response to Jane Dougherty’s Microfiction Challenge. –although I went over 200 words with this one. Oops.  The prompt was the painting above by Adriano Cecioni.

I had been thinking about Victorian views of women, medicine, and hysteria. I discovered after I wrote the story that there is well-known story called “The Demon Lover,” by Elizabeth Bowen. Written in 1945, it is about a woman affected by the Blitz in London, and who upon returning to her home there, find she may or may not have been contacted by her fiancé killed in WWI.

 

 

 

Rain Dance

“Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0″CC BY-SA 3.0,

 

The dance of rain

on window pane, all misty grey

the dance of rain.

The first few drops, a slow pavane,

the lightning flash, a sky ballet,

to boom and crash, twirling away

the dance of rain

 

This poem is in response to Jane Dougherty’s poetry challenge. This week’s challenge was to write a Rondelet using the prompt “summer storm” and the photo above.

 

If Not Happily Ever After

 

 

The soothsayer paused, not wanting to say / I was a princess,

watching, and on edge because / once upon a time

people demanded proof / there was magic

no more razzle dazzle now / now I live

like Sleeping Beauty       / on the streets

awakened with a kiss      / and hoping to score

a bit of bliss, if not happily ever after / just one good dream, till tomorrow

 

This poem is in response to Secret Keeper’s Writing Challenge.  The prompt words were

Watch/Edge/Proof/Pause/Sooth

I wrote a cleave poem. The left side is one poem, the right side is another poem, and both sides read together form a third poem.

 

 

Far Away: Microfiction

 

Theodor_Kittelsen_-_Far,_far_away_Soria_Moria_Palace_shimmered_like_Gold_-_Google_Art_Project.jpg

Theodor Kittelsen [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

 

 

“Run!” his father shouted, and the boy ran. His small body dodged soldiers and bullets, and he ran. Leaving his father and the occupied city, he ran till he reached the tunnel, crawled through it and ran again. He didn’t know where he was running to, only what he was running from. And so he ran, traveling farther than it seemed possible for a boy of his size to do, until he could run no longer.

Now stopped, panting, he stood on a grassy hillside, and gazed in wonder at the glowing, golden mountains in the distance. They seemed to pulsate with radiance. He had never seen such a sight, and overcome with exhaustion and emotion, he fell to the ground. His eyes closed. He felt the flutter of wings. There was a faint scent of caramel in the air, and he heard a voice of unearthly beauty. It sang like a cello and whispered, “Don’t worry. You’re safe here.”

His eyes opened. He was in a bed. A woman bent over him. “You’re safe now,” she said. She held a bowl of soup for him. A cake with caramel icing sat on a table nearby. He sat up and ate.

 

This is in response to Jane Dougherty’s Microfiction Challenge.

The prompt was the painting above, an illustration by Theodor Kittelsen, for a fairy tale with the caption, “Far, far away Soria Moria Palace shimmered like gold.”

 

With Wrinkles and Mirth, Remember it All, Remember it Well

 Monday Morning Musings:

 H: We met at nine

M: We met at eight.

H: I was on time.

M: No, you were late.

H: Ah, yes, I remember it well.

We dined with friends

M: We dined alone

H: A tenor sang

M: A baritone

H: Ah, yes, I remember it well.

–Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe, “I Remember It Well, Gigi (1958)

(You can watch the clip here.)

 

“With mirth and laughter let old wrinkles come.”

–William Shakespeare, The Merchant of Venice, Act 1, Scene 1

 

The weekend began, a cancelled flight

a change in plans, arrival not in morning light

but dinner time instead

the arts and crafts afternoon postponed, but summer roll making takes place

dipping rice paper, filling, and rolling; no art or grace

perhaps,

IMG_4209

but we like to eat and talk and talk and eat

spicy, hot, crunchy, and sweet,

We say L’chaim, and toast with Sangria,

my girls and their spouses here together

we celebrate good news, now in summer weather

with cats under foot and spirits high

we laugh and talk, and so time flies.

 

With mirth and laughter

I remember it well.

 

The next day, for my mom, her birthday party

she’ll be 94, though not as hale, she’s still hearty

coming, too, her cousin S.

They live in the same Philadelphia building, on different floors,

they’ve both lived years, well, let’s say scores.

S. says at her age every birthday is a big one

(She’s just celebrated her 90th, but still ready for more fun.)

My husband and I drive them to my sister’s

our daughters and their spouses are in another car.

We pass a street, and S. recalls, a memory from afar

of a friend of hers that lived there once.

S. says, “They had a drugstore.”

and a husband who thought he was more.

He was not very bright, but rather full of himself,

 

With mirth and laughter

She remembers him well.

 

S.compares him to a current political candidate.

He thought he was so great,

he lost his business, a gambling debt

then became a maître d’ at a fancy restaurant

where he put on a fake British accent, no savant

that accent sometimes came, then went.

We pass an apartment house where S. once resided

my mom jumps in, with a remark, decided

a refrigerator S. mentions is like one they had in France.

 

(Now pause while I digress from rhyme

while Mom and S. discuss this time.)

 

“Where in France?” asks S.

My mom at first does not remember.

But then with triumph, announces, “Paris.”

“We were never in Paris!” says S.

“I don’t like Paris. It’s a big city like New York.”

“It was Paris,” my mother insists.

“You bought dishes,” says she.

“Oh, you’re right,” S. says. “It was Paris. I bought some dessert plates.”

“You bought a whole set of dishes,” my mom says, “You had them sent.”

“No, I bought some small plates. They tied them in a box with strings

and we carried them.”

Ah yes, they remember it well.

 

At my sister’s house, we arrive to celebrate

Generations eat, talk, laugh, debate

(Because we love to eat and talk)

We do so, then there’s cake with candles

My young great nephew expertly handles

this carrying it in with proud aplomb

IMG_4222

so for cakes, there’s more than one

because we need more birthday fun

My young grandnephew eats his—using both his fork and his hand

(because sometimes life is just so grand)

Then it’s time to share some cards and art

signs of affection, from the heart.

14088555_10208538194966865_7416833225803542522_n

Repeal Hyde Art Project, Megan J. Smith

With mirth and laughter

We remember it well.

 

There’s a movie of S. with a scene from one “real”

She was young, the movie quite “B”, a clip from the reel.

She tells us the story of how she was a director’s assistant

then became the line coach for actresses not gifted

with brains, as much as beauty, and lines they uttered shifted

or could not be recalled at all.

So S. was given a scene and sits at a desk, but she asked for pay first

no more work without being reimbursed.

My daughter-in-law tell of her analysis of a survey of teenage risky behavior

There are more stories that day, of middle school age problems and dramas

It’s the age, we all agree, nodding daughters and mamas,

Oh yes, we all agree, but they outgrow the drama.

 

With mirth and laughter

We remember it well.

 

We head out, S. says it was a lovely party.

(I am glad both my mom and S. are still so hearty)

Then S. says with a laugh

“It makes you want to get another year older, just so you can do it again.”

And so we set out then, set out then, driving in the rain

to take them home from this celebration

with food purchased and packaged in the trunk of the car

which I carry upstairs, thankfully not too far.

A day of stories and celebration–

We may not remember it all, but we remember it well.

“With mirth and laughter let old wrinkles come.”

14079674_10208538740060492_9128407378148126870_n

Dawn is Waking: A Ghazal

The_Dawn_by_John_La_Farge,_1899,_oil_on_canvas_-_Fogg_Art_Museum,_Harvard_University_-_DSC01212

John La Farge, “The Dawn,” 1899, Fogg Art Museum, Harvard University, Public Domain, Wikipedia

 

 

From the sea, in golden robes, from dark night, dawn is waking

Rubbing sleep from rosy cheek, from moonlight, dawn is waking.

 

Robin sings a morning trill, acolyte, as light is breaking

Cats yawn and stretch, then bathe, with bird in sight, as dawn is waking

 

Tides flow and ebb, leave crabs and water sprite, along the beaches

Gulls swoop to capture them, in raucous flight, as dawn is waking

 

And the woman and the man, what of them when light first rises

Seeking warmth, seeking love, embracing tight, when dawn is waking?

 

Smiths of words, with pen in hand, come to light, in morning’s quiet

Waiting for inspiration, for love, write, as dawn is waking.

 

Jane gave us quite a challenge this week in her poetry challenge.  This is my first attempt at a ghazal. You can read how to write one here. Or more here.

The prompt was the painting above, “The Dawn,” by John La Farge.

 

 

 

Time to Read

William_McGregor_Paxton,_1910_-_The_house_maid

William McGregor Paxton, “The House Maid,” [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

 

Wise minds seek wise thoughts,

with care press on—reading books

in discreet corners

 

A haiku in response to Secret Keeper’s Writing Prompt.

This week’s words were:

Thought/Care/Discreet/Press/Seek

I thought this painting by William McGregor Paxton nicely illustrated my haiku. It was probably some sort of household book, but I like to think this housemaid was sneaking some time to read a novel.🙂

 

From Rainbows: Microfiction

 

 

Archip_Iwanowitsch_Kuindshi_009

Arkhip Kuindzhi [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

 

From the weathered porch of the country cottage that had belonged to her grandparents, Astrid sat watching the rain. She loved the scent of rain. Petrichor, she thought, enjoying the sound of the word.

Her mother said Astrid used words to keep people away. Astrid wondered if that was true. She had come to the cottage to sort through her life. Her on-and-off again relationship with another professor was now off, permanently it seemed.

Before the rain began, Astrid had been reading her grandmother’s diary, enjoying her words. She read of her grandmother Elisabeth’s twenty-fifth birthday, a story of love, of an embrace and a pearl necklace.

The rain ended suddenly, as summer storms often do, and a glorious rainbow appeared. As Astrid gazed at the prismed archway, she thought she heard violins playing “Vienna Waltz,” her grandmother’s favorite. Then a couple in old-fashioned formal clothing took form before it, twirling in three-quarter time. The couple danced closer to Astrid; the woman turned and smiled at her. I must be dreaming, Astrid thought as she saw the woman’s face. She heard her grandmother’s voice in her head, “Open your heart and love will find you.” As abruptly as they had appeared, the couple vanished. There was a swirl of light, and Astrid looked down. A pearl lay on the porch floor by her feet, glowing in the rays of the setting sun.

 

This story is in response to Jane Dougherty’s Microfiction Challenge. The painting above was the prompt. (My husband said, “Interesting how you got this from that.)

You can read Elisabeth’s story here.

Poetry and History

Monday Morning Musings

IMG_4188

With Susan Weidener at my poetry workshop for her Women’s Writing Circle

 

“Prose is words in their best order; poetry is the best words in their best order.”

–Samuel Taylor Coleridge

“Herodotus says, “Very few things happen at the right time, and the rest do not happen at all: the conscientious historian will correct these defects.

–Mark Twain, A Horse’s Tale (1907)

“I dream a dream that dreams back at me”

–Toni Morrison, A Mercy

 

It was a weekend of poetry and history,

ancient arts,

poetry, the word

derived from the ancient Greek, “I create,”

the forms,

honed over centuries,

the sea metric cadences of Homer,

the structure of Shakespeare’s sonnets,

the beauty of its language and rhymes,

discussing love and mortality,

the spare words of Emily Dickinson

magic with dashes

varied styles,

reflections on nature and life

best words in best order,

words in place and time.

 

I teach a workshop

with these ideas in mind—

to provide some guidance

to give my knowledge

(such as it is)

to women who want to

write their lives, their history, in verse

to help them find the best words

to capture the magic

to help them release it

in the right order.

 

We sit in a hotel conference room

large windows covered partly by pleated white shades,

in the lobby desk clerks laugh and flirt,

but in this room

we sit round the table

with a candle burning,

enlightening light,

coffee and water at hand

(nourish the body

as well as the soul).

I give the women prompts

and they create magic,

the right words come

in the right order.

 

“How did it go?”

my husband asks me,

he offered to drive me,

drive me

to the workshop

and home again.

Though I would have done it,

I was grateful for his gesture.

“It went well,” I reply

I feel good.

As we travel home,

I gaze at the traffic and cornfields

bright white clouds

fat, puffy sheep

frolicking across a field of blue,

Chester County, Pennsylvania.

Are they more real because I’ve recorded them?

I wonder.

We journey home to New Jersey

and I think of how these women have inspired me

and given me confidence in myself

my abilities to create,

to share the right words

the best words

in the best order

 

IMG_4191

The next day,

My husband and I go to the movies,

Anthropoid,

a film about an historical event,

the plot to kill Reinhard Heydrich,

Architect of the Final Solution,

“Butcher of Prague.”

It is a true story of bravery and courage,

though fictionalized,

the men are humanized here,

they are not stone figures, no,

not larger than life,

their hands shake on triggers,

they love,

they feel regret.

And was their sacrifice worth it

in the end

when thousands were killed in reprisal,

the town of Lidice razed?

Something to ponder,

the costs of war

morality and immorality,

how to fight evil.

Still, no one can discount the bravery

of these seven men,

ordinary men

who did the extraordinary.

I think of Herodotus

(In my head,

his name pronounced

in Ralph Fiennes’s The English Patient voice)

telling history as an entertaining narrative.

There is a line,

but sometimes a story is richer

and somehow more true

for being told as fiction

by using the best words

in the best order.

History is not simply the lives of the great

or of defining moments,

floods and plagues,

wars and assassinations.

There are ordinary men and women

who lived through each of these moments

who survived

or died in cataclysmic events

that change the world

or fail to change it.

It is important to tell their stories, too.

And what of me?

And what of you?

What about our lives?

How do we tell our own histories?

I ponder this,

searching still to find

the best words

and the best order.

 

Susan G. Weidener, Women’s Writing Circle

Where you can find information about the groups and her books.

Also, find Women’s Writing Circle on Facebook

And Susan Weidener on Twitter

 

Here’s the official trailer for Anthropoid (be advised that the movie gets violent).