Harbingers of Hope and Fear

Monday Morning Musings:

“They look like what you aren’t expecting. What you aren’t paying attention to.”

Neil Gaiman, “Click-clack the Rattlebag”

“Between those happenings that prefigure it
And those that happen in its anamnesis
Occurs the Event, but that no human wit
Can recognize until all happening ceases.”

–W.H. Auden, Epigraph in his Homage to Clio

 

I wanted to write about spring,

about flowers and birdsong–

petrichor–

the things before

the sky turned grey

and people were killed

as they prayed

(they were prey).

 

Here I see the crocuses bloom,

sunlight pours into the rooms

through windows opened wide.

(How do we stem the tide,

the hate and fear

that appears

year after year

after year?)

 

He says there’s no big threat

as he foments and abets,

time before and time after

disasters loom

say the forecasters

tornados and floods

in the heartland

(land of hearts—

What is the sound of them breaking?)

 

My heart beats

some no longer do–

the ones who aren’t you

reading these words

that fly across the page,

free to sing,

uncaged birds

of nouns, adjectives, and verbs

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of action

and reaction

What should we do?

What can we say

to drive the hate away?

Verbs: endure, resist, speak out, sway

push against the rising tide

the climate’s changing

(too many dead).

 

And is it wrong to drink some wine?

celebrate life

while there’s time?

To laugh at a chicken amidst the vines–

more verbs: to love, to dance, to find romance?

If we don’t do these things

then don’t fear and hate win–

making us grovel and dour

unable to see or smell the budding flowers?

 

And so, we listen to music

“Making the best of a bad situation,”

he sings

we laugh

we tap our feet with the beat

of guitar strumming,

the music remains in my head

humming–

though fear

still floats through the air,

between the happenings

the imaginings

and the paying attention

through the misdirection–

sometimes they look like what

you’re not expecting–

you might misconstrue.

But beware,

sometimes they do.

 

Yet—when I open my door

at the start of day

wondering if I’ve lost my way–

my soul rises and soars

to hear the predawn choir sing

returning to nest again

in budding trees,

I seize this moment

make it mine,

the joy it brings–

harbinger–

now, I write about spring.

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We saw Tom Rush at the World Café in Philadelphia last night. His concerts are always a treat. This concert was my husband’s birthday present.

***The WP Gremlins were enjoying themselves last Monday. Some people told me they never got a notification about my post that day. Here it is, if you didn’t see it and you’re interested.

 

 

 

 

 

 

the language of trees.

This is so cool– a tree alphabet. I’m sharing this from Beth’s site.

I didn't have my glasses on....

NYC Parks Are Using a Designer’s ‘Tree Font’ to Plant Secret Messages with Real TreesNew York City Tree Font Alphabet by Katie Holten

Inspired by the nature around her, artist Katie Holten recently developed the New York City Tree Alphabet. Each letter is represented by an illustration of a different type of tree found in NYC. The letter A, for example is depicted as an ash tree, and the letter O is illustrated as an oak.

Holten is one of the first creatives to become an NYC Parks artist-in-residence, where she was asked to explore “the intersection of art, urban ecology, sustainability, nature, and design.” Holten’s resulting NYC Trees font is now available as a free download to anyone who wants to write secret messages in tree code. Not only that, but the NYC Parks Department plans to actually plant some of the messages as real trees in parks and other public spaces.

“Being an artist-in-residence with…

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Recall the Dreams

 

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Recall when we

watched the moon, a peach

rising—and

crying for

us? The sad music of dreams

and a thousand whys—

 

we want to

run after her and

ask of death,

of whispers,

ugly shadows, yet let it

go, to sleep, aching.

 

The Oracle, of course, knows everything, including the most recent example of human depravity. This is a double shadorma for Colleen’s Tanka Tuesday Challenge, using synonyms for lead and follow

But here’s something else, a bit lighter. I’ve had this song in my head all week because of these prompt words–Carole King, Where You Lead.

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Freya of Pure Haiku selected this haiku of mine for her “Emergence” theme.

purehaiku

crocus blooms in snow

golden cheer in winter gloom

smile breaks on stern face

© Merril D. Smith 2019

Merril D. Smith emerges from time-traveling to find herself still in the kitchen, coffee at hand, cat on lap, and a poem sometimes written. Find out more at her blog, Yesterday and Today.

This haiku is part of our Emergence theme.

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Spikes and Shackles

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Slave Shackles JvL- from Netherlands [CC BY 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D Wikipedia Commons

I see the spiked collar and the shackles. These may have been meant for a child, the exhibit label states. They would fit my wrist, I think. Ghosts hover; my heart aches.

mothers’ cries echo

soar across Atlantic sea—

gale winds thrash the sails

 

This is a quadrille for dVerse. De asked us to use the word spike. A quadrille is a poem of 44 words. Mine is in the form of a haibun, though perhaps not totally traditional.

 

 

Evanescence

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Monday Morning Musings:

“let us dream of evanescence and linger in the beautiful foolishness of things.”

― Kakuzō Okakura, The Book of Tea

(Thanks to Beth of I Didn’t Have My Glasses On for this quotation.)

“You can’t see them, but they are there.
Unseen things are still there.”

–from Misuzu Kaneko , “Stars and Dandelions” Read more here.

“Aunt Esther: You think you supposed to know everything. Life is a mystery. Don’t you know life is a mystery? I see you still trying to figure it out. It ain’t all for you to know. It’s all an adventure. That’s all life is. But you got to trust that adventure.”

–August Wilson, Gem of the Ocean

 

Snow, sun, rain

fleeting moments, each a chain

from then to here—

the dust of stars falls near

 

and ghosts appear

though we may not hear—

 

listen! There the rustle, the sigh

spirits or dreams flitting, drifting by?

Temporary, like our days,

so say poets and playwrights in their plays

 

(how do you measure a year?)

 

we take brief moments to watch the story

days of hope, days of glory

 

(one song glory)

 

days of fear and longing,

days to find a sense of belonging

 

to build walls, or tear them down

to visit the City of Bones, surround

 

oneself with people who care

enough to travel through, and share

 

(seasons of love)

 

the adventure, life

through Underground Railroads, and beyond—the strife

 

of being separated from family, husband and wife

and then finding emancipation is still rife

 

with pain, and different chains

two trains running, and from remains

 

of cities and lives, present and past

and so, if asked

 

(What about love?)

 

we take a chance on freedom,

on love, on hope, and try to teach them–

 

our children, lovers, friends—

that such much depends

 

on what we do now

when we allow

 

to linger in each beautiful pause

because

 

our time is limited to

see the unseen, too few

 

moments in a year

 

(Five hundred twenty-five thousand 
Six hundred minutes
)

 

lost to pain, despair, and fear

 

We gather our rosebuds, while we may

Ok. Wrong season, enough to say

 

we walk and talk, and drink some wine

we walk some more, the day is fine

 

we see some plays

then, find more ways

 

(with a thousand sweet kisses)

 

to find some joy, the mystery

of life, the history

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ours and theirs

so, dance, who cares?

 

It’s an adventure, for real

not always ideal

 

in fact, sometimes awful

perhaps, unlawful

 

But

(No day but today)

 

 

Look! The unseen things are here, there

in earth, moon, stars—everywhere.

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We saw August Wilson’s Gem of the Ocean, a wonderful, stirring, magical play at the Arden Theater. It is part of Wilson’s American Century Cycle, chronically African-American life. This one was one of the last plays he wrote, but it’s the first chronologically in the cycle. It’s set in 1904. We saw Rent, the 20th Anniversary Tour. The parenthetical lines come from Rent songs. Rent is a sort of retelling of La Bohème set in New York during the AIDS crisis. Jonathan Larson (book, music, lyrics) died of an aortic aneurysm a few weeks before the show opened in 1996. We ate at Tria and Monk’s in Philadelphia.

Also, yesterday began Daylight Saving Time, and I hate it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Once There Was a Time

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Vincent Van Gogh, “The Sower,” Wikipedia Commons

 

Once there was a time to sow

to scatter seeds upon the ground

to water well and watch them grow

a time when hope was found

 

to scatter seeds upon the ground

to grow stalks of hate that bled

a time when hope was found

and lost among the dead

 

to grow stalks of hate that bled

that banished love and kindness

and lost among the dead

the acts of willful blindness

 

that banished love and kindness?

That can’t be how the story goes.

The acts of willful blindness?

Now’s the time to speak, oppose.

 

That can’t be how the story goes.

Plants seeds, a peaceful dream.

Now’s the time. To speak, oppose

is fine. See how wishes gleam?

 

Plant seeds, a peaceful dream,

to water well and watch them grow

is fine. See how wishes gleam–

once there was a time to sow?

 

We’re writing pantoums this month at dVerse, so here’s another one from me. There’s still time to join us.

Lillian has asked us to use some part of the verse from Ecclesiastes, which is also used in the song, “Turn, Turn, Turn” as a prompt.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

March Madness: Haibun

Small white crocuses push through the soil, seeking the light. Soon, they’re covered in snow. Here, now, this bipolar month swings between seasons, sometimes in a day. But March gusts will turn to gentle April breezes. Soft showers will carry the scent of flowers, and the trill of birdsong will float through windows opened to the light. I see the beauty of the snow-dusted trees, but I long for spring.

Another year turns,

tender greens peep through soft white–

dreams roll in on clouds

 

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This is for my March Madness prompt on dVerse.

I’m also linking  this to Frank Tassone’s Haikai Challenge on light snow.

 

 

 

 

Art Through Time and Space

Monday Morning Musings:

“I think the life of my community and most communities depends on the storytellers. We only know anything about the Roman Empire or about the lives of the people within the Greek polis from the plays that exist. We can find out from historical archives what laws were in place, but who they affected and how they affected those folks and those people – we only know from the stories and from the storytellers of that culture.”

–Tarell Alvin McCraney, playwright, from an interview on All Things Considered, March 2, 2019

 

 

We see, hear, feel art,

the stories of people and places

through many times, in many spaces. . .

Here–in a building of beaux-arts design

an enthusiastic staff helps us find

our relative’s work–mostly signed–

they pull boxes and boxes, and we’re delighted,

excited to see so many sketches and prints,

a box from his WPA tenure, hints

of the world around him,

and then some of tropical splendor–

realism and abstract and in-between–

perhaps a Chagall influence can be seen?

I like to think they knew each other

from their Belarus and French connections

though these are merely my fantasy, projections

I send out into to space

to find a place

in a story I tell. . .

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Well—onward

to another place,

we traipse a bit north

to a university

to see–

and listen

to our daughter talk of art

(be still my heart)

and therapy—

and I’m aware

of all the tales that could be told

young, old, sad, bold–

hers and mine

and those around us,

we capture moments, capture time,

art, part of our stories,

part of our hearts

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Arriving in the mail,

these little bowls,

not great art, but

that wasn’t the goal

instead, when we look at them

we’ll remember part of our story—

a date—a day

to work with clay.

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Then comes another night

another artist

takes his place

with tales and music

we embrace

 

Bruce Springsteen’s show

he says it’s magic

and so, we’re caught in his spell

as he tells us about his life

his parents, his mentors

his friends, his wife,

we learn about the boyhood beech tree

he climbed, but now it’s ceased to be,

moving tales of his father

then his mother

and all the others,

people who influenced him

to tell his stories in music,

the songs of generations come

and gone.

 

Another day,

there’s rhythm and swing,

and it does mean a thing

telling a story of people and place

strings, horn, and bass,

blues chords and a riff–

there, a glimpse of what if?

Ella and Count Basie,

nothing too racy, just jazz with a pop

a trumpet note that might never stop,

and we’re clapping for the tapping

but when we go outside

the rain has turned to snow.

The mood? Let’s call it indigo

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Watching the Snow

Watching the snow. Mood Indigo, or perhaps Kind of Blue.

 

And so, it goes–

we walk to the train

and it’s home again

to think of stories in music,

and rhyme

that have inspired us,

traveled through time

from place to place

and made homes

in our hearts and minds.

This urge to create,

we’re fated to generate

and express our feelings,

our truth, our passion–

whatever the fashion,

the stories find their way

even when we go,

they stay–

a testament to what was,

or what could be,

a world that maybe

only the artist can see.

 

My daughter made this Web site about Abraham Hankins. It’s a work-in-progress

The staff at the print department at the Free Library in Philadelphia were so helpful and enthusiastic. What a pleasure to visit there! You can follow them on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/freelibrarypix/

We watched Springsteen on Broadway on Netflix. Trailer here.

Friends very kindly offered us their tickets for a Philly Pops concert when they couldn’t use them. It was a fun concert, though we cancelled our plans to go out afterward because of the weather.