She Dreamt of Flowers

She dreamt of flowers in her head

instead of winter’s gloomy tune

she heard brightness, gently tread

on blossoms silver, underneath the moon,

of a bird in hand, to him, she crooned

(humming sweetly).

 

She started when the sun arose–

happiest with a starry sky

when she could then repose

after eating—feeling time fleeting–

every second, she felt her heart beating–

(questioning what was seen)

if this was life, or a dream?

 

This is for dVerse. Lillian has asked us to use one of Catrin Weiz-Stein’s images.

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Image by artist Catrin Welz-Stein

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Bound through Time: Haibun

This haibun is for Colleen Chesebro’s Tanka Tuesday. This week we’re supposed to use synonyms for bond and seek. This is also for dVerse, where Björn is hosting. He has asked us to write about mirrors. I am fascinated by mirrors and art with mirrors.

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Jan van Eyck, “The Arnolfini Portrait,” [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

I first see this painting in an art book of my parents that I like to flip through. I am drawn to it and its mysterious, infinite mirror world. The couple looks young. The man’s hat seems too large for him, as though they are playing dress-up. The woman is in an elegant, heavy green gown; her hair is shaped into elaborate “horns” that peek out from her lace-trimmed headdress. She is not pregnant, I learn, merely fashionable. Is this a wedding or an engagement? The artist announces in a bold script above the mirror that he is here–a boast for the ages. He sees everything, but is he also one of the guests reflected in the mirror scene?  Here in this painting, life goes on endlessly through the looking glass, while remaining unchanged. The couple is forever young and forever bound together. I, however, grow older, still looking for answers, though no longer sure of the questions.

 

Reflections of souls

time-caught hands clasped, now timeless

eternally spring

 

 

 

Rising

Monday Morning Musings:

“You may write me down in history

With your bitter, twisted lies,

You may trod me in the very dirt

But still, like dust, I’ll rise.”

From Maya Angelou, “Still I Rise”

Full poem here.

I.

I rise before the sun,

a woman’s work is never done,

or so the saying goes–

but often yet denied a place

debased, erased

from education, business, science, and the arts

kept apart, or not allowed to start

never mind, we’ve given birth to the human race

created beauty and gone to space,

although harassed and worse,

some want progress gained to be reversed

(believing in mythical pasts and Eve’s curse)

but we move onward, oppose coercion

and being brutalized and minimized–

we advertise and mobilize–

trying not to polarize–

OK, perhaps a bit we moralize

but feeling like we’re pressurized

we rise

again, we rise

 

I march (again)

with a friend

she was my daughters’ teacher

(way back when)

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and we talk and cheer

reaching for something dear—

hope, instead of fear—

this is not a fight only for straight, white women,

rights are for all regardless of skin tone or orientation in

who they love

(is love is love is love is love)

yet why do some believe that to have what they desire

means others’ dreams should then expire?

They’d build a bonfire of the vanities

produce dark cavities,

gaping holes in knowledge—truth and beauty gone—insanities—

while the Doomsday Clock shows we more than ever jeopardize

life as we know it

(afraid to admit this)

we reach for the prize

rising still

again, we rise. . .

 

and from the crowd celebrating Womanhood

I wander north–as I said I would

to celebrate two women and art on a smaller scale

because loves trumps hate, and it prevails

 

II.

 

I learned my mom wanted a career in fashion design,

or so she says now, perhaps then she was resigned,

as she went to secretarial school, learning typing and shorthand.

but then war came, with its demands

she willingly bucked the rivets and worked in shifts

then married, raised children—but art uplifts

and it was there for her, when she had time

perhaps no longer in her prime

days, to months, to years, the lows and highs

her parents, my father, her brother died

though weakened,

yet still she’d rise

 

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Her cousin, like a sister, began a Yiddish club

a language almost gone, but rising up

through songs they sing and memories

of parents or grandparents’ spoken tongue

(curses uttered, lullabies sung)

I ask about the story I heard

that my grandmother had a lovely voice

and that she was often the choice

at family gatherings

asked to sing with Abraham Hankins, the artist cousin, famous

(shameless, we name him thus)

she says he studied music first, but his voice was almost done

(because of mustard gas during WWI)

she says–

he learned to paint in the hospital—“art therapy isn’t new”

but an online biography reports the opposite is true

born in Gomel, then sent to Philadelphia to live with his cousins

(I know he lived with my mom’s family, but there were dozens)

talented, he studied at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts,

then enlisted and wounded

the experts concluded

singing would expand his lungs, damaged from the war’s ravages

it turned out that he excelled in this field, too,

studied in Paris, this is true,

but though music called in tenor voice,

ultimately, he made a choice–

following when his heart said, “art.”

My cousin tells me about his studio

with many windows, but little else

and of the patron who, well-pleased

sent him frozen vegetables–beans, corn, and peas—

along with a freezer to store them in

vegetables at least to eat

not a starving artist, painting in the street

I am impressed by the work, cousins and mother’s

as well as those of many others

I love color, but I can’t draw—

no talent there at all–

maybe it skipped on to my daughter,

as her poster art I’ve carried twice to help me energize

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Rising through the shadows

as we gather to rise

when again, we rise

 

While the art show reception is going on,

my husband puts together with care

for my mother, a new armchair,

kindly doing his share

for the woman who gave his wife life

so she can more easily rise–

it’s more difficult for her now

but she finds a way somehow

to paint and laugh and still to rise

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as women have done throughout the ages

with baby steps, on platforms, and in stages

to rise

again

to rise

 

 

 

 

 

Old Masters and Time

Monday Morning Musings:

“To wrestle with the angel—Art.

–Herman Melville, “Art”

 

“So come the storms of winter and then

The birds in spring again

I have no fear of time

For who knows how my love grows?

And who know where the time goes?”

Sandy Denny, from “Who Knows Where the Time Goes”

 

I wonder how I’d explain a museum to someone from another world

the whys of collecting, the how, and the who

and what they thought they knew

about this technique or about this blue

(see, the artist mixed it here with red instead)

how tastes and trends change over time.

The Old Masters painted their world as they saw it

mastering techniques, adding some wit,

(perhaps even a bit of spit)

brushstrokes broad or fine, celebrating less the ordinary,

and more the sublime

wondering about fate and time

and posing a patron though it’d cost him dear

as wise and good, a god among men

(though insincere)

with bright façade and a gilded veneer.

 

Curating and restoration reveal meanings

what the artist really meant or thought

(perhaps different from when the painting was bought)

Here we see a painting thought to be about frivolity

but skilled work shows it true intention–

a work about consequences and mortality

and the artist herself overlooked

when past her time

the same old story again and again–

her paintings are attributed to well-known men.

 

We wander through the museum’s Great Hall

Diana is illuminated for the season, and all

the world,

(at least this part)

seems festive,

see here, she’s positively glowing

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and the Calder mobile across from her is blowing,

or perhaps I imagine it so,

as Diana breathes a winter sigh

and sends the mobile flying high.

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We leave the museum,

walk down the steps, now immortalized by a fictional boxer

though I prefer to simply admire them as they are

(a part of the whole, and not the star)

walk down the Parkway, heading toward the river

the air is fine for winter, Mother Nature delivers

a perfect day to walk and talk

on so, on to the Rodin Museum

we stand before the Gates of Hell

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and the Burghers of Calais, and a shade

was he afraid

of ghosts and spirits,

the sculptor wrestling with demons, wrestling with art

depicting emotion with single body parts.

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Rodin, “The Cathedral”

 

We walk on, the day still warm

the storms of winter, not yet come,

pass buildings and monuments-

people, places, and events—

and books and art, the contents

of our history and culture

still standing, still valued, sometimes revered

though the purveyors of ignorance and hate, have feared

the spread of truth and beauty,

and are more willing to incarcerate

than educate–

roads well-travelled through time and space

yet still I hope we can erase

the fear and hate

to wrestle with the angel art

because our time is brief

and who know where it goes?

We close our eyes,

and on it flows

carrying the monuments and the art

like Oyzymandias, nothing will remain

but while we can,

we carry it in our minds and heart

in the sound of the birds and laughter,

and museum art–

we take these moments

to watch the people and drink some wine

to glory in this, yes, unexpected sunshine.

As past, present, and future conflate

for a moment, here in this urban landscape,

this Christmas fete

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from behind us the music, and skaters skate

round and round and figures eight

and I remember and contemplate

a memory of my sister and me

from a hotel window high above, we

watch skaters there from long ago–

I wonder, where did they go?

 

Later that night, I watch the moon, bright and full

and hear the geese honk to friends and mates

it’s time to go

I wonder, do they ponder about their fates

or simply accept what is, not what might be

do they see how time flows and goes?

And as for me, I circle round through time, through art,

through dreams and memories held closely in my heart

I’ll wait for the storms of winter

and for the birds in spring again

I’ll wonder where time goes

why it’s sometimes fast, but sometimes slows

but know only that on it flows

and like light and hope, drifts through the cracks,

and somehow, circles back.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Songs of Squirrels, Beauty, and Tradition

Monday Morning Musings:

“I hear America singing, the varied carols I hear,. . .”

Walt Whitman, “I Hear America Singing”

 

“The human soul can always use a new tradition. Sometimes we require them.”

–Pat Conroy, The Lords of Discipline

 

“Perhaps this piece of evolution makes no sense—our hunger for everyday sorts of visual pleasure—but I don’t think so, I think we have survived because we love beauty and because we find each other beautiful. I think it may be our strongest quality.”

–Louise Erdrich, Future Home of the Living God

 

The long holiday weekend is filled with family, food, love, and traditions

my younger daughter and I break bread for stuffing

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it’s a calling, a mission, with certain conditions

some fluid, others unchanging

though life does some rearranging

through time and space

and so, I flashback in my mind  to my sister and me

watching Thanksgiving parades and tearing pieces from loaves

while our mother is at the stove

producing the magic of holiday meals

(then not appreciated, but now, oh the feels)

Now daughter and I, we break the bread

and watch The Gilmore Girls instead

done the day before,

crossing off this chore,

from the to-do list

and while the old, might be missed

a new holiday tradition it seems is born

taking place while the bread is torn

because sometimes we require them

even when the holiday is filled with so many.

 

On the big day—what to do

when our designated squirrel un-molder is not here?*

Another one is drafted and a crowd gathers

Offering advice on this and sundry matters

as the cranberry sauce does not want to leave the mold:

more hot water

use a spatula

A compliment:

Not only is she smooth on the dance floor,

she’s smooth on the squirrel, too.

Critique:

She can’t bang it, it’s a hundred-year old thing.

There will be no banging!

Encouragement:

Come on little squirrel we love you.

do it do it do it

Oh my gosh I think it’s happening

The crowd goes wild:

Yaaaaayy!

Another year with the squirrel!

and so, we talk and laugh and eat and drink

discuss scuba diving and money laundering

the possibility of my mom having off-shore accounts

(she doesn’t, but the thought produces much laughter).

We discover how many people it takes to get

a ninety-five-year-old woman up the stairs to the bathroom

wonder if we’re doomed,

but at least three, it seems,

still, we enjoy the holiday and dreams

watched by the spirits of those no longer with us

it is ever thus,

the ghosts of holidays past,

“remember when,” the common refrain

joining in a train

the days from before

to what will come hence

past and future tense

blended together,

a holiday casserole of memories and dreams,

like the dish of leftovers my sister tells me she made

layers laid atop one another,

savory, tart, and just a little sweet

the art of distinct layers that together seep

to form when mixed through

something entirely new.

 

The next day, we take our older daughter and her wife

on a journey to see visual pleasures

in nature and art, such treasures

a visit with the boating party

scream at monsters

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or just scream

dine by the water

and dance in the woods

we hear America sing

its varied songs

and glory in Impressionistic delight

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Later, we eat leftovers

and watch The Blair Witch Project–

because nothing says family coziness like horror movies–

with food

America singing its varied carols

 

We do a holiday wine tasting in the barrel room

Scott, assists us, keeping up a lively patter

as he describes the wine and other matters

it is a beautiful fall day

and so, we decide to stay

to sit outside

while we imbibe

watching the soaring hawks

and listening to others talk

looking at the daytime moon

enjoying this weather, thinking winter will be here soon.

We eat Pakistani food

and meet out daughter and son-in-law’s neighbors

who have become friends–the kind of whom you can ask favors,

we discuss how our daughters sound alike,

one tells how she used to sneak about at night,

and we counter with embarrassing childhood stories

(the glory of parental territory)

perhaps the start of a new tradition,

of perhaps it is sufficient

to see and relish the present and the everyday.

 

Now, it’s four o’clock Monday morning,

we’re awake for the sake

of our daughter and her wife

who have to catch their flight

though it seems the middle of the night,

yet I’m strangely alert

I hear America singing, the varied carols I hear

of parents and children saying goodbye

of politicians trying to tear apart, like stuffing bread,

when they could be constructing something good instead

of children going off to school

hoping they will learn some tools

to navigate this brave new world

that has such people in’t

both good and bad

some sad, hungering for traditions, or new conditions,

for truth and beauty to negate the hate

I see a squirrel scamper from a tree,

and over us, the moon hums her tune

I watch for the sun to rise in autumn beauty–soon

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We visited Grounds for Sculpture again and did a Holiday Wine Trails tasting in the barrel room at Sharrott Winery.

 

*I explained the tradition of the cranberry squirrel in this post.

 

The Value of Art and Dancing in the Rain

Monday Morning Musings:

“Great art evokes a response. . .emotion.”

Bruce Graham, The Craftsman

“We have a story we want to tell you about a play — a play that changed my life. Every night, we tell this story. But somehow I can never remember the end.”

–Lemml, at the beginning of Indecent by Paula Vogel

“Dance me to your beauty with a burning violin. . .dance me to the end of love.”

–Leonard Cohen, “Dance Me to the End of Love”

 

The day began with a stunning sunrise

a prize or disguise

for what would come later?

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Pitman golf coures, Pitman, NJ

We walk through city streets

listen to the beats

the syncopation of traffic and conversations

the announcements from underground stations,

look at the buildings and public art

take heart that the rain has not yet started.

I notice a clock, a reminder to go inside,

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the theater,

another world unfurls.

 

At the back of stage

projections of artwork by Vermeer

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Johannes Vermeer, “Girl Reading a Letter by an Open Window,” [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

over them we suddenly hear

guns or bombs and the paintings disappear

overlaid with black

then from the back

a man appears to give a speech

he is the head of the provisional government,

the Nazis are gone

the dawn of a new time

but justice must be done.

 

The play is about a forger, a con man

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who longs to be an artist, and when he can—

he also gets revenge upon the man, the critic

the con man’s a cynic

his wife, perhaps anti-Semitic

later she says she should have spoken out

without a doubt

a line that is relevant today

as is much of the play

which explores art, creativity, ability

and should an “expert’s” opinion hold dominion

over art

What is it worth, what is fake and what is real?

what will you pay to seal a deal?

I’m reminded of a man, an emperor with no clothes,

(as everyone knows)

who insists that his paintings (and news) are real

because he could never admit that he was taken

for a fool

(He is mistaken.)

The play is partly a courtroom drama

set in a particular time and place

the space converted

with a clever set and lighting

inviting us to see the different scenes—

office, jail cell, and courtroom.

there are flashbacks to the past,

and an excellent cast.

The setting is important–

the Netherlands had been occupied

those in the Resistance tried to defy

with some success, but also retaliation

leading to the Hunger Winter

and more lives splintered.

What should happen to those collaborate?

The play explores how we express hate

“revenge has become a spectator sport,”

do we resort then to the level of the oppressors?

We walk and talk

See a house with sunflowers

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Walking now a bit in showers

discuss the play over wine, beer, and cheese

then out into the night

see rain reflecting off city lights

prance and dance

tap a beat onto the street.

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Over homemade pizza and wine again

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Cozy inside from wind and rain

we watch a play on TV,

we see

another story based on events that were real,

and we feel,

we definitely feel—

this play within a play

to Klezmer music, the actors dance

and ashes fall from their coats and pants

they dance to the end of love

and perhaps they dance then back again,

there is a scene in the original play,

written in 1907, God of Vengeance

by Sholem Asch

the scene, referred to as “the rain dance”

involves two women, lovers—

the play is about the history of that play

performed successfully in Yiddish in Europe,

then the cast was arrested on obscenity charges

when it was translated into English and performed in the U.S.

(not a success),

the play is performed in the Lodz ghetto, in an attic room,

though all there know, they are probably doomed.

The play is about a culture lost

to time, to the Holocaust,

but it is about past and present

and how art matters

even when people are battered, shattered

their life in tatters,

and though some only value art for its monetary worth

the true value is in what it brings forth

in emotion and feeling

art sends those who value it reeling–

makes us think and want to dance in the rain

again and again

makes us laugh, or cry

makes us sigh and want to defy

Does it change our lives?

Yes, this I know,

art does, and helps us grow.

 

We saw the Lantern Theater Company.’s  production of The Craftsman.

We saw Indecent on PBS’ Great Performances. You may still be able to see in online.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Starry Nights: Musing and Shadorma Challenge

Monday Morning Musings:

“This morning I saw the countryside from my window a long time before sunrise, with nothing but the morning star, which looked very big,”

–Vincent van Gogh to Theo, Saint-Rémy, France, 1889

“For myself, I declare I don’t know anything about it. But the sight of the stars always makes me dream.”

–Vincent van Gogh, letter to his broth Theo, July 1888

 

It was midday, but we saw stars,

swirling lines

and colored bars

65,000 hand-painted frames

aiming to depict the art and life

the vision, the strife

artistry in different forms–the imagination

to take his art, recreate, use animation

caught us,

and we flowed with the waves of light

through bright days and starry nights.

 

Vincent loved

his brother, Theo.

Wrote letters,

long missives

every day penning his thoughts

on art, love, and life

 

The movie involved a bit of mystery

born not just from art, but from Vincent’s history

of writing these letters to brother Theo

and so

Postman Joseph Roulin

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Sends his son to deliver one

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found after Vincent’s death

Armand travels, meets the people with whom Vincent interacted

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Vincent van Gogh, “Dr. Paul Gachet,” [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Learns what they felt, and how they reacted

to his art and eccentricities,

some charged, by his electricity,

others repelled,

the story told almost Rashomen-style

different versions of the artist and the man

and we’re left to understand him, as best we can.

 

An artist for a few years only,

failing at other careers,

art dealer, missionary,

he was a visionary

though his stern parents thought he was a failure,

he painted over 800 paintings in his short career

and it is clear

that he suffered for his art

and gave from his heart

his mother disposed of his work in a crate

finding out–only too late

though she thought he was dim and full of whims

others a genius thought him

 

We walk out into the warm November day

drink coffee

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And look at the colors play

Through city streets and historic sites

And think about Vincent’s short life

 

A few days later

We’re immersed again in art

Using a gift from friends–

sisters of my heart–

we ponder, peruse,

perhaps a snooze,

 

or eat and chat

perhaps a scream

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(imagine that)

I think of light

And creativity

of sun and clouds

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and starry nights

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Ceiling of van Gogh Café

And so, to bed

pillows piled high

from a cat, a gentle sigh

the night here cloudy

perhaps we’ll sleep soundly.

but in our dreams

nothing is as it seems

 

in our dreams

we fly, starry skies

swirl and flow

on light beams

we ride, silver stardust flows

magic of the night

 

Immersed in art

through starry nights and clouded days

seeing magic, creativity,

imagination, a constant, that stays

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We saw the movie Loving Vincent. Trailer here.

We visited Ground for Sculpture. I have many more photos that may appear at some point.

I missed a couple days of Eliot of Along the Interstice’s November Shadorma Challenge,

so I’ve put a couple into this week’s musings.

Something in the Light

Monday Morning Musings:

“I want to move on

I want to explore the light

I want to know how to get through,

Through to something new,

Something of my own—

Move on. . .

Something in the light,

Something in the sky,

In the grass,

Up behind the trees. . .

Things I hadn’t looked at

Till now. . .”

–From Stephen Sondheim, “Move On,” Sunday in the Park with George

 

There’s something in the light of autumn

the way the sunlight streams low between the changing leaves

leaving summer behind, but somehow looking forward, too,

in a last burst of flame-charged energy till they, their quietus make

and something in the light changes again

producing grey and violet skies

till the earth wakens again in the spring,

moving on.

 

***

A vineyard hayride

to a field of pumpkins and apple trees

I listen to snippets of conversation

The mother talking about the Noah’s Ark movie

“It shows you what it was really like back then.”

So much crazy wrong there, but I restrain myself,

move on to explore the light

look up at the trees

and there below

things I hadn’t looked at till now

things I hadn’t seen before–

the way the sun makes the apples glow

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and the shadows dancing in the breeze

and the music of the yellow jackets buzzing around the fallen fruit.

.

We drink our wine

darker than the apples

or garnets glowing in the light

tasting of sun and earth and promises,

we listen to a musician play classic rock and blues

watch the children and the dogs enjoying the warmth

on this summer-like day in October

but there’s something in the light,

different now in the fall from our summertime visits

we move on through the seasons

and I make applesauce when we get home.

On Sunday, we travel to my sister’s house,

stopping first to pick up my mom

who was confused about the day

and was not ready for us

her vision nearly gone,

her world is shrinking

the light in her eyes dimmer

as she moves on, five years short of a century

I think of all she’s seen–

the memories of people and places that play in her mind

now a bit confused–

I wonder if how we see the world changes it?

Did the Island of La Grande Jatte change because of Seurat

and how he saw the light?

If we could see more colors, more light

would it change anything?

How does one move on after seeing Monet’s water lilies or Van Gogh’s starry night?

Do we ever see these things the same way again?

Painting by Sylvia Schreiber

Enter a caption

 

We meet my sister and her wife’s new dog

my mom says she’s glad they’re keeping this one

they keep  returning them, she says

not true, of course,

but she sees things differently now sometimes,

and I look up to see something in the trees

something in the sky

the light—

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We eat and then take her shopping

the shoe department, a mix of Kafka and Catch 22,

(something in the department store light?)

somehow, we maneuver and decode

before we explode

purchase two pairs of shoes

black and navy

(slightly different in the light)

and move on to bras.

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Imagine now,

five women in a dressing room,

two manipulating my mother,

making jokes as they handle her breasts

inserting them into cups

all of us finally laughing–

and then a fart,

producing bent-over-as-tears-stream-from-your-eyes-laughter

finally, we stop, breathe–

there’s work to be done,

and a timetable–

we get my mother her bras

then back to the house for dessert,

Mandelbrot and brownies,

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because why bother with anything that’s not chocolate?

We sit outside in my sister’s garden

enjoying the sun, enjoying the light

until it’s time to move on.

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From the stars

and to the dawn

in light that reaches us

from billions of years away

we see something there

and something here,

something in the light

moving on

The Footbridge: Tanka

glimmer-green dancers

flow in Sarabande rhythm

beneath the footbridge

music travels through space, time

captured by the artist’s brush

 

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Claude Monet, The Japanese Footbridge and the Water Lily Pool, Giverny, 1899
The Mr. and Mrs. Carroll S. Tyson, Jr., Collection, 1963
Philadelphia Museum of Art

 

 

Claude Debussy, Sarabande pour le Piano, L95 

This is a tanka for Colleen Chesebro’s Weekly Poetry Challenge.

The prompt words were music and art.

 

The Letter

I open the letter, read the words again and again. But they don’t change. They recount the battle and your acts of bravery. They describe the sudden storm, a tempest that battered your ship against the rocks, as you were journeying home to me. I had warned you not to go. I told you of my dream, where the storm clouds gathered and flew like demons, covering the moon, and you appeared beside me, cold and still, dripping, smelling of the sea, smelling of decay. I felt the pain then, clean and sharp in my breast. You laughed at my fears, called me Cassandra. Perhaps I am, for you did not believe me. I look at the ring on my finger and think of this other love-pledge you have given me, feel him flutter-kick in my womb. A son. He’ll be born in the spring. I will tell him about you.

 

ghosts drift in moonlight

clouds obscure the pale glowing

drops like silver tears

Vermeer,_Johannes_-_Woman_reading_a_letter_-_ca._1662-1663

Johannes Vermeer, “Woman in Blue Reading a Letter,” [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

This haibun is for Colleen Chesebro’s Weekly poetry challenge. The prompt words were clean and sharp. I’ve also used  this week’s Secret Keeper’s  prompt.  The words: | OPEN| ROCK| RING | ACT | LETTER |

Jane Dougherty used the Vermeer image above for a post this week, also using Secret Keeper’s Words.  I like it so much, that I decided to steal use it, too. The painting is carefully constructed and illuminated, of course, but I also like the literacy of the woman that is portrayed as unexceptional. Also, though it is most likely the fashion, the woman in the painting does look pregnant.