The Moon Embraced Her: Poetry Challenge, Triolet

My first attempt at a triolet for Jane Dougherty’s poetry challenge. I found it difficult to follow the format and rhyme scheme, especially using a painting prompt chosen by someone else. But, it was an interesting learning experience.

 

The moon embraced her in its light.

She yearned for love, but freedom, too.

Could she leave, could she take flight?

The moon embraced her in its light.

The castle floated, chances few

For her to leave. And yet tonight

The moon embraced her. In its light

She yearned. For love. But freedom, too.

 

 

Call for Contributors: Reference Books

Hi, Everyone! This is a different from my usual type of post. It’s a kind of experiment. I’m looking for contributors for two books. They are both reference books on rape and sexual violence. The articles focus on contemporary issues and situations, not historical. Both books will have an international focus. Contributors should have academic expertise (graduate students who have written on this issue will be considered). I know some of my followers are academics and past academics, as well as independent scholars, graduate students, and people involved in medicine and social science. Or you might know some people involved in fields connected to these areas. Please share with anyone who might be qualified and interested in writing. Or just share!

Call for Contributors: Encyclopedia of Rape and Sexual Violence

To be published by ABC-CLIO, this 2-volume encyclopedia will feature long-form articles of approximately 11,000 words or 40-45 double-spaced manuscript pages. The encyclopedia will focus on rape in various contexts throughout the world, covering such topics as marriage or intimate partner rape, drug-facilitated rape, and rape in war. I am seeking scholars who have expertise in and understanding of contemporary issues surrounding rape and sexual violence–and who can write clearly and objectively on the subject. For more information or to see the list of still available topics, please send a brief CV/bio to Merril D. Smith at merrildsmith@gmail.com as soon as possible. Put Encyclopedia of Rape and Sexual Violence in the subject heading. I would like to have all topics covered as quickly as possible. Entries will be due Spring/Summer 2016, or by August 31.

Call for Contributors: Rape Cultures and Survivors: An International Perspective

Praeger Press will be publishing this 2-volume book on rape cultures and survivors. Focusing on situations in war and peacetime from the late 20th century to the present, the book will examine rape and rape culture, and how survivors (women, men, and children) have coped in various social and cultural contexts. The work will define and study the characteristics and peculiarities of “rape cultures” that are intertwined with ethnic cultures/hatreds and other forms of conflictual social, political, and economic relations. Each chapter will be approximately 25-30 double-spaced manuscript-pages. The articles are meant to have a definite thesis and to argue a particular point of view. The book is aimed at both professionals and students, as well as the general public. If interested, please submit a brief (1-page) abstract and CV to the addresses below as soon as possible. Completed articles will be due before or by September 1, 2016.

For more information or to submit a proposal please email:

Tuba Inal: tubapolisci@gmail.com  or Merril Smith: merrildsmith@gmail.com

 

 

Clearing the Cobwebs, Rearranging the Lines

Monday Morning Musings:

“There is nothing more admirable than when two people who see eye to eye keep house as man and wife, confounding their enemies and delighting their friends.”

-Homer, The Odyssey

“If there is one door in the castle you have been told not to go through, you must. Otherwise, you’ll just be rearranging furniture in rooms you’ve already been in.”

–Anne Lamott, Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life

“I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I have ended up where I intended to be.”

–Douglas Adams

Several years ago, our refrigerator died an unexpected death, and we bought a new one. That one purchase somehow led to a kitchen remodeling project—a new double oven, stovetop, Corian counter and sink, and new cabinets. A few days ago, we bought a new living room sofa to replace the suddenly worn one we’ve had for close to twenty years. (How do rips and tears appear overnight?) That led us to, not another remodeling job, but rather, a rearrangement.

We’ve lived with the same furniture arranged in the same way for about two decades. Oh, we’ve moved some bits, hung paintings and photos, and painted walls, but the essential arrangement has remained the same way for years. The new sofa (and chair) won’t arrive for another 6 weeks or so, but we’re ready to see how they might fit in our newly configured living room. It’s time to look at things from a new angle, to embrace a room with a new view.

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Our first sofa went from two apartments to our house.

My husband retired from teaching in June, after thirty-seven years at the same high school. (Obviously, we’re not impulsive people.) For the past few weeks, he’s been moving items in, out, and all about the house. He’s turned one daughter’s bedroom into a study for himself. He’s moved our son-in-law’s military gear and other items to basement and attic. We’ve been arranging, rearranging, and repurposing items. By we, I mean him. He provides the brute strength. I provide ideas, encouragement, and meals. But I have my own building and rearranging going on.

A few nights ago, I dreamt that I was living in an apartment and that I shared a kitchen in that dwelling with a young woman I know from the gym. In the dream, I was a young twenty-something woman, too.  Also strange, but in the way of dreams, making perfect sense in that dream world, I was starting a garden in my apartment. I was using a type of long, wooden container, like a horse trough that you’d see in an old Western. I think I was growing herbs, perhaps flowers, too, and I was very excited about it. They would all be moved outdoors at a later date. (Presumably by someone very strong.) There was quite a lovely view from my dream-apartment’s large picture window. It was like an estate, Downton Abbey, perhaps. Well, when you dream, dream big, I suppose, even though my dream apartment was small—and with that shared kitchen.

When I woke up, I was amused by this funny dream, but I instantly realized that it was about the two books I am just beginning to work on. I had received an email from one of my editors, confirming that the project had been approved by the powers that be at the press. For one of the books, I’m co-editing with another person—sharing the work as I shared the kitchen in the dream. I have a new computer, and I’m attempting to organize items in it. Rearranging. So now I have two projects with seeds planted. More seeds must be sown. The seedlings need to be watered and weeded. I hope that they will blossom and grow.

A friend and I used to discuss our house dreams. We both seemed to have them whenever we were working on projects or working out personal issues.

A house, like life, is never complete. There are always objects to refurbish, restore, or replace. My husband and I have never furnished our homes in a particular style; we don’t have rooms in which all pieces were purchased together and match. Our rooms are mishmashes of items we’ve bought, inherited, and found. We value comfort over a particular style. Somehow these varied items come together; a little of this and a little of that—much like my soups and stews—and writing.

Furnishings serve a function—a bed is to sleep on; a chair to sit on—but they also convey ideas about the inhabitants. Traditional or contemporary? Frilly or functional? Does the room have family heirlooms? Does it have books? Religious items? Valuable art? Is every surface covered with Knick knacks? Anyone who enters our home would see books, a kitchen that is obviously used, and, yes, cat hair.  It’s who we are.

Houses and furnishings convey class and aspirations. They always have. Even well-to-do 18th century Philadelphia Quakers furnished their homes with the best that they could afford.

On September 14, 1779, Elizabeth Drinker recorded the following account in her diary:

This morning in meeting time (myself at home) Jacob Franks and a Son of Cling the Vendue master, came to seize for the Continental Tax; they took from us, one Walnut Dining Table, one mahogany Tea-Table, 6 hansom walnut Chairs, open backs crow feet and a Shell on the back and on each knee—a mahogany fram’d, Sconce Looking-Glass, and two large pewter Dishes, carrid them of, from the Door in a Cart.

–Elaine Forman Crane, ed. The Diary of Elizabeth Drinker. Boston: Northeastern University Press, 1991. Vol. 1, 359.

The Quaker Drinkers were pacifists, and they did not support the Revolution.

The chairs Drinker describes could describe a pair of chairs owned by my mother. Years ago, when Antiques Roadshow visited Philadelphia, they appraised the chairs, bringing in more than one expert, before determining that the Philadelphia Chippendale chairs were actually 19th century reproductions. Still valuable, still good chairs, but not quite as valuable or interesting as if they had been original 18th century chairs, like the ones Elizabeth Drinker owned.

I remember these chairs from my home in Dallas when I was little, to houses in Havertown, PA, and then my mom’s subsequent moves to apartments in Merion, Philadelphia. They’re now in her independent living apartment. Antique does not always mean fragile, and both the chairs and my mom are sturdy.

I wonder which pieces of furniture in my own home will last the test of time?

Words also last. Will mine? And will anyone want to read them?  A book, like a house, involves building and re-patching. Words, like furniture, get arranged and rearranged. Sometimes words, like objects, disappear or are moved. Sometimes it’s something minor, a lamp, or a comma. Other times, it’s a sofa, or an entire chapter. Sometimes words, like fine furniture, need to be dusted and polished.

I’m always writing, but the start of big projects is a peculiar adventure, exciting and sometimes scary.

For now, I’m ready to climb the stairs and open the door to the castle room. I’ll turn the knob and step inside. Will there be ghosts? Will it lead to an adventure? I’m not certain what I’ll find, but I think it’s where I’m intended to be. And if not, I can always rearrange the furniture.

 

 

 

 

The Moon Hums

My attempt at a shadorma. Jane Dougherty’s poetry challenge. I borrowed her humming moon because I love the idea so much.

 

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Virgil Solis (German, 1514 – 1562 ), Mvsica (Music), , engraving, Rosenwald Collection Courtesy National Gallery of Art, Washington.

 

The moon hums,

The stars pulse in time.

Rhythmic bursts

One, two, three.

A waltzing refrain echoes

Through time forever.

 

 

 

 

 

 

It Snowed and Snowed: I Can See Russia

Monday Morning Musings:

Another post based on lines taken from other works.

“It snowed and snowed, the whole world over,

Snow swept the world from end to end.

A candle burned on the table;

A candle burned.”

–Boris Pasternak, from “Winter Night,” Doctor Zhivago

 

“When the snow flies and the night falls

There’s a light in the window and a place called home

At the end of the storm.”

Judy Collins, “The Blizzard”*

The snow flies and the night falls

Reminding me of winters past,

Of other seas of white,

The time it snowed

When our girls were young

And school was closed for a week.

They played, and I baked

Cookies, and donuts, and bread.

We drank hot chocolate

Ate cinnamon toast

And read books.

It was cold outside, but

It was cozy and warm

Inside,

A place called home.

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The snow flies, and I can see Russia

In my mind. I think of Dr. Zhivago

Trudging, stumbling through the blizzard,

Blanketed in an icy layer of white

Nearly dead

Finding Lara and warmth.

The stunning cinematography of the movie**

Who can forget

The movie images of the country house?

Surfaces a frosty filigree

A beautiful ice palace

And they are happy there

For a brief moment

When time and history freeze

Before the inevitable melting

And the resumption of life.

The death of winter becomes the birth of spring.

The snowy white landscape blooms with yellow and green.

 

The snow flies, and makes me ponder.

I think of my grandfather,

My mother’s father, born in Gomel, Russia,

Now Belarus.

He was traveling west as

Lara was settling into life with Pasha in Yuriatin

And Yuri became Doctor Zhivago,

Just before the war and revolution.

Not that my grandfather was in Moscow,

But he must have experienced the unrest,

Seen the gap between the Pashas and the Tonyas.

 

Did the snow fly during winter nights in Gomel?

Did my grandfather walk through drifts of snow?

I don’t know what his house was like

Or how it was heated.

Was there a big stove?

Did they have a samovar for tea?

Did it seem like it snowed

And snowed the whole world over

When he was a boy?

 

The snow flies, and I think of

When I was a child.

I wanted it to snow,

Longed to have more than a trace

In our Dallas yard.

Then we moved back to Pennsylvania,

And there was snow.

I listened to the radio for school closings,

And went sledding with my boyfriend.

The guys did crazy stunts,

I watched and laughed.

And I married that boy.

 

The snow flies, reminding me of passing hours.

I know nothing of my grandfather’s childhood.

Nothing of his hopes and dreams.

And I cannot ask him now.

Did he play in the snow?

He came to Philadelphia

A young man

Just before the assassination of the Archduke.

Fleeing his homeland only to serve

In the navy of his adopted country

During the time of war and flu,

An epidemic that killed more people

Than did guns or earlier plagues.

He married a daughter, one of seven,

Of another man from Gomel, a butcher.

Would he think it funny that some of

His descendants do not eat meat?

A choice made possible

By his immigration to this country

Of variety and possibilities.

My grandfather worked hard.

I don’t imagine he spent much time

Watching the snow fall.

But after he retired, he learned to dance

And paint.

He walked and swam.

He played with his grandchildren

Whenever he visited from his home

In Miami Beach.

His winter years spent not in winter cold,

But in sun and warmth.

A place of tropical colors,

Of sandy beaches, not snowy fields.

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My grandfather as a young man. The photo is undated, but taken in Philadelphia.

The snow flies and the wind howls.

I’ve cooked and I’ve baked enough

To chase away the chill.

Banished briefly, though not forever.

There’s soup, and bread, and pie.

And we will eat and enjoy.

We’ll sit with blankets and cats

And binge-watch TV.

Tomorrow we may venture out

To see the winter landscape.

But for now

We watch as

The snow flies, and the night falls.

Inside there’s contentment and light,

Color that contrasts with winter’s

Black and white.

A candle burns on a table.

And I am home and warm

At the end of the storm.

 

If it’s snowing, then I’m probably cooking. This is what I made during out weekend blizzard. (After the pre-blizzard cooking.) :)

Honoring my Eastern European-Jewish roots with Vegetarian Borscht

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and Black Bread (Smitten Kitchen)

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And my American birthplace with Pumpkin Pie

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*Judy Collins, “The Blizzard”

**Earlier in the month, I had fun discussing the movie, Doctor Zhivago with Scott Parker-Anderson. See his post on the movie here.

 

 

She Speaks

 

Jane Dougherty’s Poetry Challenge: Take a Favorite Line

“Out, out, brief candle!

Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player

That struts and frets his hour upon the stage

And then is heard no more: it is a tale

Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,

Signifying nothing.”

–William Shakespeare, Macbeth, Act 5, Scene 5

 

She speaks, and

Words tumble from her mouth,

A flood, rapid and incomprehensible

A torrent of glee

A mad rap

Promote the fear

Push the lie.

And back I fly

To remember

Our daughter at three

With Molly doll held tight,

Delivering a paean, elation-created,

Extemporaneous poetry

Joyful rhymes that

Should have been recorded

Hoarded, to be heard again

And cherished eternally.

So unlike these other words

Shallow, strident

Told by an idiot,

Full of sound and fury

Signifying nothing.

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Hugs Not Hate

Books are a Bridge

Monday Morning Musings:

 

Once again Jane Dougherty inspired me with a prompt—a muse for my musings.

“A great book should leave you with many experiences, and slightly exhausted at the end. You live several lives while reading”.

–William Styron, Interview, Writers at Work (1958)

 Books are a bridge to the mind,

A link between author and reader.

Across it

Ideas slither stealthily—or—

Stride boldly,

Characters stroll, march, and dance,

And

Emotions gallop with the force

Of an army.

When I was younger

I fell asleep while reading a book

And I was there.

Astride a horse in the north of England,

Speaking in a voice and accent

That are not my own.

The air was cold,

The horses warm,

And it was so real

That I remember it now

Decades later.

When I awoke

I was sad and wanted to return to this

Foreign land that was not mine.

But that I knew. Somehow.

From a book.

Who hasn’t wanted a wardrobe

That leads to an enchanted land?

Or wondered what it would be like

To go back in time?

To live in another world?

I lived the teenage emotions

Of Anne, feeling first love

And fighting with parents,

The joy of being alive

Even while crowded in

A secret annex during WWII.

And I wanted to not know

Her fate.

I also wished another fate

For another Anne,

Whose head would be parted

From her slender neck.

They placed traitors’ heads

On London Bridge,

A bridge of the living

And the dead.

But not hers,

Which was buried with her body

In the Tower

Where she had been a prisoner.

I read Hilary Mantel’s

Books of Thomas Cromwell

And Wolf Hall.

Tudor England became alive.

I sat at the table with Thomas More,

I rode on the river barges

I saw Cromwell with his family

And pet dogs,

A different side of the man.

I imagined it all

And so

I could hope while reading

That the story might be different

That history might change

And Queen Anne might live.

Still another Anne,

In another time and place,

That’s Anne with an “e,” please,

Delighted me with her love of big words

And the time she got her friend Diana drunk

And accidentally dyed her red hair green.

But I cried when Matthew died,

Didn’t you?

And when Beth, the third of the Little Women, died

I cried then, too.

I read the passage early in the morning

Lying in bed at my aunt’s house

Before anyone else was awake.

Books,  a refuge from the turmoil around me.

Jane Eyre, who became my friend,

Had a friend, Helen, who died in the horrid Lowood School,.

My school was nothing like that,

Although it had its horrors, too.

But that was long before she met Mr. Rochester

Or his mad wife in the attic.

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My daughter’s wedding fan.

I cried for the inhabitants of the plague village of Eyam

Brought alive by Geraldine Brooks,

This time reading late at night, an adult,

My husband already asleep,

But I could not stop turning the pages

Until I reached the end.

During graduate school,

Douglas Adams’s books brought some comic relief.

I laughed so much at his world of unwitting space travelers

That my husband had to read the books for himself.

Remember to bring a towel.

Good advice, always.

I’ve walked side-by-side with Wordsworth

And seen the host of golden daffodils

Beside the lake.

Haven’t you?

And haven’t you fallen down the hole with Alice

And learned to beware the Jabberwock

And not to drink or eat items

Simply because there are notes telling you to do so?

Recently I crossed a bridge with All the Light We Cannot See

To enter a new land

Where I felt the tiny houses that blind Marie-Laure

Could not see,

Smelled the salty air,

Felt the vibration of the bomb blasts,

Knew the wonder

Of an orphaned brother and sister

As they hear a voice and music

That traveled from Brittany

To Germany

As though by magic

To reach their ears.

And the book was magic, too.

Just last week, I closed the pages of Golden Age

The final book of Jane Smiley’s Last Hundred Years Trilogy

The saga of the Langdon family.

I experienced the history of the United States

Through their eyes

And experienced it with them—

Technology, wars, cults, births, and deaths

A farm in the Midwest,

A world in microcosm.

The final page was so brilliant and beautiful–

And perfect–

That I thought,

“I want to read this whole trilogy again.”

So many feelings and ideas

So many characters that I grow to love

All of these books–

And those yet to be discovered and read,

Old and new,

Crossing the bridge,

To new places

Entering my mind

And taking hold.

But the knowledge is sweet,

Minds, like hearts,

Can never be too full.

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Standing on the “Smoot Bridge” between Cambridge and Boston

Smoot Bridge

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sound and The Hard Problem

Monday Morning Musings:

 “Out, out brief candle!

Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player

That struts and frets his hour upon the stage

And then is heard no more: It is a tale

Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,

Signifying nothing.”

–William Shakespeare, Macbeth, (Act V, Scene v)

“Someone tells you you can run the film backward billions of years to an enormous bang and nothing but particles joining up into big clumps like this one one, except not like this one—because on this one the chemistry came alive and kicked into an algorithm that kept unspooling till there was you collecting spit from a poker game, and you don’t bat an eyelid.”

–Tom Stoppard, The Hard Problem

 

Scientists tell us that the universe was created with a bang,

Not with a whimper. Although who knows, for sure

What existed before our world?

Was there a before?

Or did time begin then, too?

 

Who heard the dawn of the universe?

Was there another universe

With other creatures who lived then?

Did they have wings to fly about their planets?

Were they shaped in the image of the gods

That humans fashioned?

 

Now scientists have re-created the sound

Of our universe’s birth.

Did sound exist before then?

Was there anyone, anything

Who felt that shock

The birth

The first cry of the newborn universe?

 

I ponder the glory of sound

And what we do for music,

Tapping out rhythms with a pencil

On a desk

Singing nonsense songs

To babies.

Humans throughout time

Talking, whistling, singing

Infants reacting to our voices

Even in the womb.

 

Animals, too.

Cats meowing to humans,

Whales singing to other whales

Wolves howling

Birds chirping,

Learning new songs

To communicate.

They have dialects, you know.

 

When I was young

We had one telephone with a long cord

And an extension in my parents’ bedroom.

When my mother was a child

They did not have a phone

Until her parents got one for their store.

But people want to connect

To hear voices

And sounds.

In the old Soviet Union,

People recorded rock and roll on X rays

Black market trade in sound

On bones made visible by light.

 

I wonder at the beauty of our Earth.

As we drive over the bridge

Heading west, the clouds so low

I feel that I can almost touch them.

A trick of mind and perspective

Light bending

Mind bending

Well, I have no spatial sense

That’s why I almost failed geometry.

But I’m great a memorizing

And I understand logic

And beauty

And the sounds of nature too,

As we know it here

In our tiny part of the universe,

The tumbling of waves,

The patter of rain

The buzzing of a bee on

A sunny summer day.

 

We see a play,

The Hard Problem,*

Leave it to Tom Stoppard

To tackle the subject of

What is consciousness?

How does the brain

Differ from the mind?

We listen intently

A man plays a saxophone

Mournful,

Or are they hopeful, riffs

Echoed and echoing

During the scene changes

We discuss the play afterward.

While drinking coffee—

(Hear the perking

Smell that divine scent

Taste its flavor)

I think of the movie,

Ex Machina

Can an android truly think?

Yes, machines can play chess.

Certainly, they can hear,

But what does that mean?

It senses vibrations.

Can a machine truly feel?

The tree falls in the forest

The big bang occurs

Would other beings cry

If they heard Barber’s Adagio for Strings?

 

Resolute in Hope

Monday Morning Musings:

This post was sparked by Jane Dougherty’s Poetry Challenge 11—A poem based on a common saying. It’s probably not what she had in mind.

I also drew inspiration from this Washington Post column by Dana Milbank.

 

You can’t pee on my back and tell me that it’s raining.

The phrase is probably more striking in Yiddish*,

But I don’t speak the language of my ancestors

Though my mother spoke it fluently.

Now she remembers only bits and pieces

Of the language her grandparents spoke.

My uncle, my mother’s younger brother, knew it–

Only that, as a small boy, until teased by others

He forgot his first tongue.

Tongue-tied by American society.

 

In the car, my mom recounts old memories, her past,

Sitting there in the front, with my husband driving,

Roads and time both traveled, both flowing past.

She recalls how she and a school friend

Practiced dancing after school.

They were about twelve years old or so.

Giggling together and gliding about the floor,

1930s music and Depression dreams,

Just two schoolgirls having fun.

Children of immigrants in Philadelphia.

 

The dancing could not last long, sessions ending because

My mom had to make dinner, both her parents worked long

Hours in their candy store.

Her friend had chores to do, too,

Since her mother had run away with her lover,

He had been a boarder in their house–

Everyone had boarders in these immigrant homes–

Relatives, friends, and friends of friends.

We’re treated to gossip about people long since gone

And long ago scandals.

 

My mother said her cousin, the artist Abe Hankins,

Also practiced dancing with her, since he lived with them

For a time. She’s not sure how long.

Glamorous and sophisticated, she thought him,

He had just come from living in France.

He knew the latest styles. I suppose.

Was he studying art there

Before the winds of war blew that world away?

I learn he was wounded fighting in the first world war.

He was singer before he was a painter.

 

“He married his niece, you know,” she offers casually.

My eyebrows shoot up from the back seat.

“Oh. . .I didn’t know,” I say.

His brother’s daughter.

Well, the marriage lasted, I guess.

And his paintings now hang in museums. 

Perhaps her story is not quite true

But mixed with others’ stories in the past.

I wonder if my mother is thinking of someone else.

Family history confused.

 

Reflecting on the past as the year turns over and we look

To the future. Reflections and dreams streaming through

A prism of what we know, bending and forming a rainbow

Colored by memory.

My husband and I have celebrated

The turning of the old year to the new with our dear friends.

For almost forty years, we’ve shared a celebration.

How is that possible?

Will we tell our children of long lost relatives?

Confusing their stories with others we knew?

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We’re Still Young at Heart

 

January, named for the two-faced Janus. Backwards

And forwards we go. Should I make a resolution?

THIS is what I did last year.

THIS is what I will do this year.

Good luck with that, if you choose.

But no, not for me. I’ll just wing my way through

Another year, as I always do.

Making daily lists that I often ignore.

But oh, crossing items off feels so good,

Doesn’t it?

 

Looking back and looking ahead, I suppose I could say I’ll

Learn Yiddish. But I won’t.

I could just as well say I’ll learn Italian, Latin, or Greek.

But I’m certain I will not.

I know enough Yiddish though

To know you don’t say anyone got schlonged.

So please do not pee on my back

And tell me that it’s raining.

I know the difference, I assure you.

Even if I can’t say it in Yiddish.

 

Instead, I will resolve to be the best I can be.

And if I fail–Well, it’s in the striving, isn’t it?

Learning comes from books, movies, and even watching TV.

From good talks with friends, and from listening, too.

The new year begins with old and new.

And I can dream of peace and light and good things to come.

Or as Mr. Carson of Downton Abbey says,

(As we bid the cast farewell this year)

“We must always travel in hope.”

 

* Du kannst nicht auf meinem rucken pishen unt mir sagen class es regen ist.

For New Year’s Resolutions, nothing can beat Woody Guthrie’s New Years Rulin’s. He resolves to brush teeth, to love everybody, and to beat fascism– among other things.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ringing Out the Year: Going to the Movies with the Smiths Redux

 

Those of you who follow my blog know that I enjoy going to the movies, and that I often mention movies I’ve seen.  In my WordPress 2015 Year in Blogging summary, I discovered that a February post, “Going to the Movies With the Smiths” was my most commented upon post this year. In the post, I discussed seeing Still Alice and some other “sad movies.” In one of those strange coincidences, just after I read my summary, I saw Stephen Liddell’s post about his top ten movies of the year, which reminded me of some movies I had seen and enjoyed earlier this year including The Imitation Game, The Theory of Everything, and Far From the Madding Crowd.

In the past couple months—the time of year when often the serious Oscar contenders arrive in theaters–my husband and I have seen some wonderful movies. For the most part, they were not movies with lots of action. The movies relied on well-written scripts, nuanced performances, and good editing. There were no superheroes, unless you put investigative reporters, astronauts, and those who challenge social mores in that category, which I suppose I do.

Of the recent movies I’ve seen, I would place Spotlight and Carol in a tie for best. They were totally different types of movies, but both were beautifully done. Spotlight tells the story of the Boston Globe’s Spotlight series that exposed the enormous problem of sexual abuse crimes by clergy within the Catholic church, along with its systemic cover up, which involved not only church hierarchy, but also government officials and organizations. Focusing first on Boston, the movie then reveals the global scope of the problem. The movie does not ignore the suffering and trauma of the survivors of the abuse, who the reporters methodically track down.  One of the movie’s taglines was “Break the story. Break the silence.”  Directing a great cast, Tom McCarthy achieved a movie that was tense and exciting, an amazing achievement for a “newspaper movie.” The audience in the movie theater applauded at the end. I felt like we all let out a collective breath, a feeling that though just a beginning, some justice had been done.

Carol is based on a novel by Patricia Highsmith. It is about two women who fall in love in 1950s New York.  Cate Blanchette and Rooney Mara give superb performances, as they convey so much with merely a glance. Kyle Chandler as Carol’s bewildered husband also does a fine job, as does Cory Michael Smith as the nerdy, creepy “notions” salesman. It is one of those movies that envelopes the viewer in its world. The score is fantastic, too.

Brooklyn and The Danish Girl were my next favorite movies. Both were also have outstanding cinematography and boast wonderful performances by the leads and supporting cast. Brooklyn is the story of an Irish immigrant (Saorise Ronan) to 1950s Brooklyn. It explores homesickness, love, and family—as well as what it meant to emigrate at that time. The Danish Girl, which I’ve written about in another post, is about artist Einar Wegener, who had one of the first sex-change operations in the 1930s. Director Tom Hooper elicits elegant and heartbreaking performances from Eddie Redmayne as Einar/Lili and an even more compelling performance from Alicia Vikander as Einar’s wife, Gerda, also an artist.

Other movies we’ve seen recently and enjoyed include The Martian and Bridge of Spies. I still want to see Trumbo, Room, and, yes, The Hunger Games. (You weren’t expecting that one, were you?) J Well, I’m also looking forward to the new Star Trek movie next summer. See, I’m not a total movie snob, as my sister refers to me. I’m also intrigued by Anomalisa, Charlie Kaufman’s new movie featuring puppets.

I’m a fan of old movies, too. On Christmas Eve, my husband and I watched, or perhaps I should say re-watched, It’s a Wonderful Life. It may be a bit schmaltzy, but the 1946 Frank Capra directed movie starring the perfect Jimmy Stewart is a true classic.

So what movies have you seen recently? Do you have a favorite genre?

*****

Thank you to all who read my blog, and especially to those who take the time to comment. It has been a true joy getting to know you. Welcome to my new readers, too!

I don’t want to end this post without acknowledging my five top commenters in 2015:

Marian Beaman Plain and Fancy Girl 

Luanne Castle, Writer Site

Rachel Carrera

Frank of A Frank Angle 

Rowena of Beyond the Flow Who keeps me up to date on all things Australian.

Do check out all of their wonderful blogs!

Happy New Year! Wishing all of you—health, happiness, good friends, the opportunity to see wonderful movies, to read fantastic books, and to enjoy the goodness of life.  And of course, let’s all wish for world peace.

See you in 2016!