The Balloon: Microfiction

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Pierre Puvis de Chavannes [CeCILL (http://www.cecill.info/licences/Licence_CeCILL_V2-en.html) or CC BY-SA 2.0 fr (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/fr/deed.en)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

She had raged against the war, raged against the loss, and raged against fate. Her husband and her three sons had been killed; her grandchildren would never be born. Her city was destroyed, and there was no one left to rebuild it. Bodies lay in the streets, dead of starvation, disease, and hopelessness. Now the fire of her rage had died to embers. Over it, her sorrow had once simmered and stewed, but now, it too was gone. She was hollow, like a shell abandoned on the beach. She wondered if her body carried echoes of her life before–when she had dreams.

As she walked toward the ancient walls of her city, she noticed a balloon rising in the distant sky. A sign of hope or help? Too late, she thought. She wondered if she imagined it, as she watched the balloon ascend higher and higher, mocking her. She knew she would never rise; the only way for her was down. She hoped her flight would be graceful, like the balloon’s, a final bit of beauty amidst the tragedy of her life. She stood at the top of the city’s wall, spread her arms, and dived into the wind.

 

After

She floated, carried by wind currents, by angels’ breath. She floated like a leaf upon the water. She heard a sound, like echoing voices, and a door between worlds opened. There was her city spread beneath her, filled with joyous people, busy with the tasks of everyday life. In a blink, she stood now in the market square. Her eldest son saw her and greeted her with a smile. She noticed a balloon high above her. She dared to dream. Here and always.

 

This story was for Jane Dougherty’s Sunday strange microfiction challenge. The prompt was the painting above.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Journey: Tanka

 

Ship berthed, door opens,

friends lost, remembered now, here

the odyssey ends

far from the blue planet Earth,

immigrants from a dead world

 

 

earth_western_hemisphere

By Reto Stöckli (land surface, shallow water, clouds) Robert Simmon (enhancements: ocean color, compositing, 3D globes, animation) Data and technical support: MODIS Land Group; MODIS Science Data Support Team; MODIS Atmosphere Group; MODIS Ocean Group Additional data: USGS EROS Data Center (topography); USGS Terrestrial Remote Sensing Flagstaff Field Center (Antarctica); Defense Meteorological Satellite Program (city lights). (http://visibleearth.nasa.gov/view.php?id=57723) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

 

This tanka is for Colleen Chesbro’s Weekly Tanka Challenge.

The prompt words were friend and door.

 

 

Between Here and Always

Monday Morning Musings:

The Oracle gave me this poem over the weekend.

 

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Between here and always

is light–

vivid soul-blossoms living wild,

secret garden from dark night,

world was and is

 

In February, this month of birthdays,

time moves backward and forward,

fluid

here and always

what was, what is, and what will be

 

even the weather seems confused,

time and season changing from day to day

light and dark

warm and cold

flowers bloom,

secret gardens amidst leaves

covered as snow falls

 

here

always

 

We celebrate my husband’s birthday with Pakistani food,

the owner remembers him and my son-in-law

they picked up food there on the day my daughter and son-in-law

moved into their house,

yes, they looked tired that day, the man says,

(he is pleased we’ve returned)

the food is delicious,

we eat flaky samosas with yogurt sauce and green chili sauce

then our various entries—slow cooked beef, lamb, chicken,

and vegetarian dishes of eggplant and moong dal with palek,

the chef comes out to meet us,

we tell them we’ll come back

here

 

We have wine and cheesecake afterward at my daughter’s house,

 

 

the house crackles and creaks a bit as the heat of the gas fire warms the room,

ghost sounds,

my daughter-in-law mentions a John McCain poster figure

her father used to hide it around their house to startle people,

I recall the mannequin my sister and a roommate had in their apartment

they used to dress her for different events,

one daughter says she saw a woman on the T carrying the arm of a mannequin–

silence,

there must be a story,

then, other daughter asks, “are you sure it was a mannequin’s arm?”

 

here and always,

food, love, and stories.

 

Later, I pull out tablecloths

they’ve been buried at the bottom of a cedar chest

almost two decades now,

once a special part of our daughters’ birthday parties

years of drawings and comments,

words written by children

now grown

scribbled messages,

ghosts of the past,

each daughter takes a tablecloth

Happy Birthday, I say.

They are always in my heart.

 

 

I make a photo/memory album for my mother-in-law

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I have an assistant.

 

born in 1937,

the middle of the Great Depression,

1937,

Amelia Earhart disappeared, Japan invaded China, the Nanking massacre took place, the Hindenburg exploded,  the Golden Gate Bridge opened,

Walt Disney’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarves premiered, and Of Mice and Men was published–

my husband says, yes but the most important thing is that my mother was born

and of course, to her, to him, and to me, it is

without that,

he would not be here

and our children would not be

perhaps there is another timeline,

perhaps there is another always,

ghosts that flicker

just out of sight

another story

but not here

 

We celebrate her 80th birthday

at our house

 

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a friend of hers stops by,

an eightieth birthday party surprise

(“I won’t stay long,” the friend says,

“I’ve just had a heart attack,”

a story I could not make up)

daughters and I have made enough food

to feed twice as many people,

 

 

enough for more surprise people,

or any strangers who might wander in,

we eat and talk

and memories flow–

what was, what is–

my mother-in-law’s wish–

to see my nephew, her grandson, grow up

What will he be?

(What will be?)

At some point, we will look back

at this moment

in snapshots

time frozen

what is now will be then

this warm sunny day,

filled with light,

here and always

our souls blossom

with love

here

always

 

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Banana Chocolate Chip Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

 

If you are in the Sicklerville, NJ area, I highly recommend Mera Khana restaurant. It’s a small, unassuming restaurant in a strip mall–but such delicious food and wonderful people.

 

Ghost Dance: A Quadrille

 

He watched them dance out on the beach,

watched them dance, just out of reach,

he stood and gazed, in a trance,

time stood still, or was enhanced,

a ghost flitted near and took his hand,

he joined the dance, for he was damned.

 

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Thorvald Niss, “In the Morning On the Beach,” [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

 

This is for dVerse, Quadrille Monday. This week it’s hosted by Kim from Writing in North Norfolk. The prompt word is ghost.

 

 

February Hearts and Lions

Monday Morning Musings:

 

“And February was so long that it lasted into March

And found us walking a path alone together,

You stopped and pointed and you said, ‘That’s a crocus,’

And I said, “What’s a crocus?” and you said, “It’s a flower,”

I tried to remember, but I said, “What’s a flower?”

You said, “I still love you.”

–Dar Williams, “February”

 

“This whole earth which we inhabit is but a point in space. How far apart, think you, dwell the most distant inhabitants of yonder star, the breadth of whose disk cannot be appreciated by our instruments?”

–Henry David Thoreau, Walden

 

February grayness brightens with a flower

teasing us before the snow.

The snow moon haunts and taunts

the wind blows,

wild wolves howling in the night,

winter darkness,

and yet dawn comes,

and so will spring.

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First Crocus, National Park, NJ

 

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Watching the February snow. National Park, NJ

 

My daughters and I,

in separate locations,

celebrate our snow day

(though the inch or two in New Jersey

does not compare to Boston’s blizzard)

we share our thoughts,

in text messages

(technology that did not exist when I young)

throughout the day,

as if we were wondering in and out of rooms—

separated by space,

but instantly connected in time,

what we are cooking and baking–

meatballs, lentil soup, artisan bread, sweet potato nachos–

deciding banana bread with added chocolate chips

makes it both bread and cake,

suitable for breakfast or dessert,

one daughter says she just watched, Finding Dory,

and cried,

but then we cry over everything,

TV shows, books, commercials,

other daughter says, “I cried when I burnt toast the other day,

but the point is that you should watch the movie.”

My husband chimes in with a message that he is saving this conversation,

“It is SO my family.”

 

A few days later my husband and I see the movie, Lion,

and my tears flow,

I think it is good I’m not watching it with my daughters,

all three of us sobbing in the theater,

though I notice my husband discreetly wiping his eyes.

I think again about technology,

the nineteenth-century invention, the train,

that separates the five-year-old boy from his family,

that little boy with the heart and spirit of a lion,

a twentieth-century plane separates them ever father

across bodies of water to Tasmania

how a twenty-first-century invention, Google Earth,

brings them back together

It turns out that we see the movie in February,

and it was in February that Saroo Briefley reunited with his family.

 

On a February night I gave birth to one daughter,

and on a February night three years later, I gave birth to her sister,

and so, we celebrate birthdays

with wine and chocolate

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around the holiday of love

hearts and love

chocolate and wine

 

I think of the brilliant February moon,

its light shining through the kitchen window

making me stop and stare,

and gaze at the sky–

technology leads us out to the stars,

to our moon’s craters

and to Saturn’s rings,

Valentine’s love from Cassini

 

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“Splendid Saturn,”NASA Image, PIA06594/ NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute

 

I wake during the night to hear

February’s winds,

wild horse gods,

stallions that gallop in

and seed the ground,

for spring

will come again–

until then, there is chocolate, wine,

and memories.

 

A number of New  Jersey wineries have special wine and chocolate events close the weekend before Valentine’s Day. This year we went to one at Heritage Winery in Mullica Hill, NJ.

Trailer for Lion.

Her Story

 

In a show of power,

he struck her down,

hoping she’d cower

from his bully shout–

you’ve been warned,

and must be punished,

this is what it’s all about,

you’ve violated the rule,

no, I’m not cruel,

you’ve been warned,

now take your seat,

(before I knock you down).

 

History’s age-old tale–

oh, she may flail–

but the shrew must be tamed,

and men are not to blame

if women do not listen–

(do not talk back,

you’ve been warned,

now I’ll teach you a lesson).

With words and whips,

with zippers unzipped,

with laws to subjugate

(it’s a mandate),

victors write the history,

how the story will be told,

but might is not always right,

so, sit tight–

though warned,

nevertheless, she persisted.

 

This is for Secret Keeper’s Writing Challenge.

This week’s prompt words were:

Power/Show/Thought/Love/Write

 

Driving the Poetry

Monday Morning Musings:

“A ‘strange coincidence,’ to use a phrase

By which such things are settled now-a-days.”

–George Gordon, Lord Byron, Don Juan, Canto Vi, Stanza 78

 

We see the movie, Paterson,

a quiet, lovely film about poetry and the beauty of everyday life,

of things like matchboxes and waking up beside the person you love,

coincidences abound,

the bus driver/poet named Paterson who lives in Paterson,

his love’s whispered dream about twins,

and the multiple sightings of twins–

things like this always seem to happen to me,

is it coincidence, synchronicity, or a poet’s awareness?

I eavesdrop on strangers’ conversations,

put them in a poem,

then wonder if the universe does the same,

or perhaps there are other worlds,

parallel,

but with an occasional intersection

the hole in a Swiss cheese cosmos that breaks,

the slice of bread “in a giant cosmic loaf”*

perhaps still connected to another slice,

or are we sandwiched between two slices,

which are nibbled by time?

 

So, I watch this movie with its coincidences,

its references to dimensions and time,

then laugh,

when after seeing the many pairs of twins onscreen,

I discover that same day Beyoncé announced she’s having twins,

and smile at the universe’s joke

when after I had been thinking I should buy a small notebook

to carry with me

to jot down my thoughts

like the poet/bus driver does,

I clean out a shelf,

discover little notebooks,

notebooks given to me years ago,

before I wrote poetry,

as if it wasn’t the right time for them then,

but it is now,

and they’ve been waiting.

 

Am I a historian/poet,

or a writer who writes in many forms?

William Carlos Williams,

the doctor/poet

is a presence in the film–

I didn’t know he was born in Paterson,–

But I know that poem,

you know the one—about the plums?

I remember looking it up once in summer,

I think of plums, warm and fragrant, not cold,

imagine the juice running down my chin,

my skin, summer-brown,

it’s another me I imagine

from a time in the past,

perhaps it still exists in a parallel universe,

when my body was thin and lithe,

unwrinkled,

and firm as a plum.

 

a few days later,

we’ve been pet-sitting,

and now we’re driving home

just the two of us in the car,

sitting in silence,

my mind wrapped in thoughts,

a package that I will unwrap

arranging the contents carefully,

hoping I remember on which shelf I’ve left each one.

 

I say to my husband,

“You know how the character in Paterson drove his bus

listening to passengers and looking around him

while he was writing poetry in his head?

That’s what I was doing–

thinking about coincidences and writing poems,

but while you drove.”

“That’s OK,” he says.

“I thought that’s what you were doing. “

I smile

And we’re home.

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Notebooks

 

“’Stranger Things’: How Realistic are Parallel Worlds?”

 

The poem about the plum, William Carlos Williams, “This is Just to Say.”

Paterson, official trailer.