Baskets

Monday Morning Musings:

“Poetry isn’t a profession, it’s a way of life. It’s an empty basket; you put your life into it and make something out of that.”
–Mary Oliver, Georgia Review (Winter 1981), 733.

“There is nothing stronger than a broken woman who has rebuilt herself.”

“I have a right to be angry, but not to spread it.”

–Hannah Gadsby’s, “Nanette”

 

Ask why an ancient wind

rose beneath a hot sun–

they never will

see souls rustle in soft shade.

So,

murmur harmony

to nature’s song

and feel life bloom

 

 

 

 

 

 

***

We listen to the woman, a masterful storyteller,

skilled at creating tension—and

relieving it with a punchline,

but in this set,

she lets the tension linger–

at least for a while

noting both her anger

and its reasons—

reasons that should anger us all.

I think of that,

as neo-Nazis gather in our nation’s capital.

Neo-Nazi? Why should there be new ones

after the defeat of the old ones?

I ponder the other labels–

shouldn’t we all be anti-fascist

and united against hate?

It should be the default mode, shouldn’t it?

 

The novel I’m reading is set in

the early 1930s in Berlin,

the female protagonist had a gay brother

who was murdered.

While they were growing up, she tried

to teach him what she called

“A Code of Masculinity,”

so, he could pass,

but he didn’t.

Hannah Gadsby

in the 1990s in Australia

was assaulted for not being

feminine enough,

she couldn’t pass either. But growing up,

in a culture where she was reviled, left its

legacy on her. She talks about the shame

she felt for being a lesbian, for being different.

 

I think about trying to explain

these weird and artificial binaries

to a visitor from another world,

But how could I,

when they make no sense to me?

You must be this color,

you must love this person,

you must be this religion. Why?

 

And where do I go with this? I seem to have

gone off on a tangent–because

I wanted to tell you about baskets.

Picture the basket itself,

woven together from strands of straw, reeds, or

even wire,

each one different.

And my life, also woven of many different strands.

I weave my basket, and sometimes I take it apart

and start over.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So, let me tell you how

we celebrated the anniversary of my father’s birth—

He would have been ninety-nine. He’s been dead for twenty years,

and I still miss him.

We toasted him with wine–

and ate ice cream afterward,

because he loved ice cream.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We eat Pakistani food with our younger daughter and her husband,

enjoying samosas and other delights

as their dog and cat circle the table,

where there were no scraps tossed,

but love drips,

like melting ice cream,

because it can be messy,

but there is plenty to go around.

 

I could tell you about being with

dear friends over the weekend,

how we eat pizza,

and discuss that new normal, how

it is difficult not to discuss politics

but at the same time,

conversations are fraught

with hesitation—or anger.

How can one be friends with someone

who supports a racist?

 

The saying goes, “Don’t put all your eggs

in one basket.”

We should welcome those who think

differently or look different.

And isn’t part of the joy of having

a full basket

come in examining its contents?

 

There is so much we do not see.

We toss everything

in the basket of life, and pull out what we need

or what we want. But maybe sometimes

we need to look at the basket itself.

 

There is no punchline here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We watched “Nanette” on Netflix. Trailer here.

I’m reading the novel A Trace of Smoke by Rebecca Cantrell.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Telling the Story

Monday Morning Musings:

“Go out and tell the story.

Let it echo far and wide.

Make them hear you.

Make them hear you.

How that justice was our battle and how justice

Was denied.

Make them hear you.

Make them hear you.”

— from Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty, “Let Them Hear You,” Ragtime

 

“Our children

See them running down the beach

Children run so fast

Toward the future

From the past”

–from Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty, “Our Children,” Ragtime

 

 

Dawn comes to tell the story

of the day,

the sun rising, a fact, or perhaps allegory

of what might be,

but at dawn we still have to wait and see

what will unfold over the hours

wait and behold, to see if it’s sweet,

or if it sours.

Will there be light and flowers,

or angry tears of raging showers?

 

We travel over the cool bridge*

Commodore Barry Bridge

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

listening to the voice we’ve named Siobhan,

she guides us to our destination

no hesitation

on her part

though we wonder as she directs

us to wander,

and ponder

at her choices—but she gets us there.

And it’s where we want to be.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s a hot day,

but fine if we stay

in the shade

and made

more pleasant

by costumed musicians playing flute

and a stringed instrument—but not a lute–

Pennsylvania Shakespeare Festival

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

so, we munch

our lunches, listening, as we crunch

and enjoy this day–

wait for more of what it has to say.

Pennsylvania Shakespeare Festival

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s a day of protests,

and I am thankful for those who brave the heat

trying to fight and unseat

the evil—so obvious–that is being done

with children in cages, rights that were won

being stripped away–

a new horror every day–

evil has become commonplace,

even while it’s made banal

(build that wall, he still says

this excrescence, the prez)

And we sway in the breezes of change

wanting to blink and look away

but hoping still

it will go our way–

this story of our days.

 

So, we see this play,

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

a musical, and I’m amazed

at the way

it’s so timely today–

full of immigrants fleeing

and wanting the American dream

though things are not always the way they seem,

as white women are awakened to life beyond their homes

and people of color

striving for rights and equality,

though there is no apology

for the discrimination, only denial

without fair trial

or justice–

And, ok, I get choked up

when Sarah runs down to meet Coalhouse

even though I knew it was coming

and it’s possible I was crying by the end

of the story—I won’t pretend—

it’s true,

I was moved by the magic of theater,

perhaps you would have been, too.

 

It might seem funny that we see

this musical, not a Shakespearean play

at a festival named for the bard,

Pennsylvania Shakespeare Festival

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

but it’s not hard

to understand

the popularity of musicals.

But he wrote of current events and history

and it’s no mystery

that his plays would have been performed with song–

perhaps the audience hummed along

to some familiar tunes.

Though all the female roles then were played by men,

well, things go around and around again

(Remember when we saw a woman play Hamlet’s role?

Gender no longer is the control.)

 

We ask Siobhan to guide us home

where we feed our cats,

(upset at being left alone)

wait for the sun to set

and the moon to rise,

wait for people to hear the babies’ cries

to set the course of things to where they should be,

where children are free,

not locked away, torn from their parents’ arms

but instead, quite naturally, kept safe from harm.

And by and by

the stars twinkle and sigh,

sing to us a lullaby.

I make a wish by candle light

for wisdom to come—perhaps tonight,

I’ll tell the stories of truth and right

and wait for some to listen,

Can I make them hear me?

I guess I’ll have to wait and see.

 

*Our children–actually their stuffed animal friends–named the Commodore Barry Bridge, “the Cool Bridge.

I’ve listened to the music of the musical Ragtime–and in fact, one summer I listened to it so often in the car that I pretty much had it memorized. But I had never before seen the show. This was a wonderful production with Broadway actors with great voices (and some fortunate DeSales students filling in some of the ensemble roles). It was very well-staged and the costumes were great, too.

Here’s Brian Stokes Mitchell singing, “Let Them Hear You.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

Breaking Free

“We’ll know as children again all that we are
destined to know, that the water is cold
and deep, and the sun penetrates only so far”
~ Jim Harrison from Death Again

 

Torn from parents

hearts ripped apart–

how it starts–

the cycle of hate

spinning behind gates.

Business we’re told,

souls are sold

in heat or dank cold

children are taught

the rotational fear,

fraught frontiers–

till some break free

to lead us

from insanity.

 

This is a quadrille for dVerse, where Kim has asked us to use the word cycle, and a response to Day 18 of Jilly’s 28 Days of Unreason, inspired by the poetry of Jim Harrison. Last night we saw Audra McDonald in concert. One of the songs she performed was a medley of “You’ve Got to Be Carefully Taught” from South Pacific (Rodgers and Hammerstein) and “Children Will Listen” from Into the Woods (Sondheim).

 

 

 

 

Breathe a Cloud

Monday Morning Musings:

 

“Fear makes for good servants

and bravery is fraudulent”

       –Jim Harrison from “Vows”

 

The timeless lies

of dictators grappling for power

smiling for the crowds

insisting they are making things better

demagogues feeding the fears

firing them into fury

so that they erupt

like a volcano

spewing lava into the air

to flow over

those people–

criminals

rapists

bad hombres–

them,

those people who take your jobs,

and ravish your women,

animals

not fully human.

We’ve seen this before

but that doesn’t happen here

that’s all in the past

in countries far away.

We thought we were safe,

more enlightened now

(to separate parents and children)

we’re not

paralyzed by fear and indecision

numbed by the normalization

of Twitter rants

but evil has only been buried

in a shallow grave

waiting to crawl out

like zombies

eating brains

and souls.

 

But when to fight

and when to escape in flight?

Do we leave at the first sparks

from the volcano,

or wait till it erupts?

My daughter’s friend goes out for bread

finds herself wind-whipped with ash–

falling from the sky.

Sudden changes–

like the storm clouds that break

for sunshine

and for a night

when we can sit outside with friends

to enjoy a concert

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

watching children dance in the green grass

in innocence and joy

but

the storm clouds return

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

and we sit inside

procrastibake

and watch TV

Mixed-berry Crumble

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

we go to a wine festival

sampling wine

until the wind kicks up

and it is too cold and blustery to sit outside

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

so, we come home

to sip

inside again

 

watch an old movie about war

and bravery and morality

where the coward becomes the war hero,

but when is fighting necessary

how do we stop evil

without glorifying war?

I have no answers–

but know that questioning must continue–

the press, the poets, the artists

truth and artistic vision

The Post and Guernica–

the light in the darkness,

that is bravery, too

 

and when

 

the rain falls,

hard rain

forming puddles

where little girls see rainbows

not guns

stop

look up

sigh

 

breathe a cloud

blush a breeze with joy

over our universe

and use soft rhythm

to time the thing—

eternity

it sails

a vast cool ocean

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’ve linked this to Jilly’s Day  4 of  her 28 Days of Unreason using the poetry of Jim Harrison. And the Oracle added the message at the end.

Don’t forget to vote! One person and one vote can make a difference.

 

 

 

 

 

A Break in the Rain

Monday Morning Musings:

It seems to rain from moon to sun

rain over and over, never done

and then a break, till it thunders

again and again.

I feel lethargic and dull

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

and it’s hard to mull

over this or that—

the people who insist the world is flat,

or guns don’t kill, people do,

except there are more dead kids shot through,

and it seems we will never cease

with hate and violence, the human disease.

 

But in the midst of death we see the love—

yes, pomp and circumstance, uniforms and gloves,

the fascinators, and the meters-long train

(and the sun-filled day with no hint of rain).

It’s storybook fantasy, mixed with Stand By Me,

gospel choir amid the history and pageantry,

but these two appear so much in love,

and if it helps, gets us thinking of

better things, well, I can take a break

in the coverage of hate, it’s not a mistake

to celebrate love, or a wedding day—

a bit of color amidst the world’s gloomy grey.

 

Still–spring insists on being seen

and here, the world is turning green,

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

though I don winter clothes because it’s turned cold

and we go through rain, to visit

friends of old.

We eat Chinese food, laugh, talk over the meal

how we can’t understand the hypocrisy of those who feel

the man in the White House is okay

when they were upset at bare arms and a tan suit,

birthers and ape images, just try to dispute

there’s no racism there,

some very fine people on both sides–but I’d beware.

 

The next day, the clouds break and the temperatures soar,

everyone wants to get out of doors,

I see a hawk atop a weathervane,

Hawk atop a weathervane at Carpenter’s Hall, Philadelphia

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

perhaps she’s trying to ascertain

the state of this territory, her domain,

which no doubt is full of tasty things

grown and born in rain and light of spring.

We walk city streets, where life beats

A flirty car

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

in harmony and patterns, under the blue sky

and birds sing and fly,

and there is so much green and flowers in bloom

filling the air with their perfume,

May in Old City Philadelphia

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

and it is a relief from gloom and rain,

though I know people are in pain

and children are dead, and women are raped

and the world is shaped

by guns, disease, and violence

and we must break the silence—

but for today, just let me feel the sun and say

nothing but “see the hawk there”

and smell the roses over there.

We see a movie about motherhood and coping

with a newborn and others and life,

sometimes mom’s need an extra wife

or helping hands and people to truly see

beyond the façade, the hyperbole

of motherhood’s joys to the cries and sleepless nights

the clutter and exhaustion—along with the delights.

We drink coffee, walk and talk some more

then it’s home to feed the cats, take care of chores.

At Customs Coffee House, Philadelphia

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In the night, my mind wanders and roams

far from home

(Macbeth has murdered sleep)

But in my dreams, I hear the chirps and cheeps,

As the mockingbird sings through the night

and we are fine, it’s all right,

 

the dawn comes with bird choir and radiant light.

 

 

 

 

 

 

We saw the movie Tully, which we both thought was excellent, but I don’t want to give anything away. I’ve seen it described as a comedy. At least not in the modern sense.

I’m reading Jo Nesbrø’s take on Macbeth, set in a Glasgow-like city in the 1970s.

Sorry about the weird formatting and gaps. WP gremlins are still hanging about.

 

 

 

 

 

Garden Shadows

Monday Morning Musings:

“’I am half sick of shadows,’ said

The Lady of Shalott”

Alfred, Lord Tennyson, “The Lady of Shalott”

 

“We’re neither pure, nor wise, nor good

We’ll do the best we know,

We’ll build our house and chop our wood

And make our garden grow. . .

And our garden grow.”

From Leonard Bernstein, “Make Our Garden Grow,” Candide

 

 

All week the sun plays hide and seek

perhaps preparing for the eclipse

my soul also wanders

in and out of shadows

I think about life

blooming in the late summer plants about me

at a make-your-own-terrarium night,

 

 

we each make one,

the open kind—succulents–

though the closed kind would be more interesting to me–

and less so to the cats–

I think,

as we drink wine

and visit with our friends’ daughter who had also showed up

(Surprise!)

I wonder how long our plants will live,

we, who are good at bringing up children and cats,

are not so adept at raising plants,

though the weeds seem to thrive,

still we put them in the sun

(but where there is sun, there are shadows)

and try to make our garden grow

 

As the sun plays in the August sky,

we go to the movies

(shadows turn to light and life upon a screen)

the film is about life and death

and making choices

telling the truth

confronting traditions

rejecting what does not work for you

embracing differences

seeing people as people,

not as members of different groups,

it’s kind of a comedy

and a romance

the comedy of life

the tragedies

funny family dinners

love

and a coma,

existence in a shadow world,

while life goes on about you

 

Afterwards, we sit upstairs

in an open-air part of a restaurant

flowers planted, blooming in boxes outside the railing

and street performers serenade us from below

it’s noisy,

but, hey, summer in the city

a beautiful evening

we watch buses and tourists below us

and pedicycle drinking groups,

laughing and singing

we eat tater tots and pizza

because it’s that kind of night

summertime

and we’re not at war yet,

we walk around

Do these creatures protect the house?

 

just a bit

because there’s work to be done

and an early day tomorrow

the shadows deepen

 

FullSizeRender 179

The sun dances through clouds

casting shadows large and small

on the eighth, Barbara Cook and Glen Campbell both die

glorious soprano and beautiful tenor

perhaps they sing duets in some other world

(do gardens grow there?)

the next day is the anniversary of my father’s birth

he would have been ninety-eight this week

and I think of my mother,

who will soon turn ninety-five

the seasons turning, sun and shadows

Auburn Road Vineyard

The sun comes and goes

hiding

seeking

gone for a woman in Charlottesville

gone for her family

gone for people killed in mosques and churches

gone for women taken as spoils of war

call evil by its name

the darkness of the soul

never brightened by the sun

hidden beneath shadows

 

I watch the sun rise and set

watch the shadows lengthen

as summer turns to fall

I hold on

seeking light

IMG_6513

giving it to the terrarium plants

because they are still holding on, too

despite all odds

we’ve made our gardens grow

 

I wrote about my father here.

We went to Plant Nite at Auburn Road Vineyards.

We saw The Big Sick, official trailer here. We ate at Revolution House.

You can hear Barbara Cook in “Make Our Garden Grow” the original Broadway cast recording of Candide.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Secrets, Adaptations, and Joy

Monday Morning Musings:

Once upon a time, when women were birds, there was the simple understanding that to sing at dawn and to sing at dusk was to heal the world through joy. The birds still remember what we have forgotten, that the world is meant to be celebrated.

–Terry Tempest Williams, When Women Were Birds: Fifty-Four Variations on Voice*

 

“History is that certainty produced at the point where the imperfections of memory meet the inadequacies of documentation.”

–Julian Barnes, The Sense of an Ending

 

 “Raise a glass to freedom

Something they can never take away

No matter what they tell you

Let’s have another round tonight”

–Linn Manuel Miranda, “The Story of Tonight,” Hamilton

 

Screen Shot 2017-03-25 at 7.16.50 AM

 

We wandered

wet spring stone,

an ancient bough,

poetry of lonely bird & squirrel

Listen

There

I know

(almost)

this secret garden

life

 

 

The dawn chorus sang

before the sun appeared

their secret language of chirps and trills

floated through the damp air,

early spring.

I began the day.

 

We wandered old city streets

stepped on bricks and cobblestones

IMG_5666

IMG_5676

 

the stories these stones and buildings could tell

the Founding Fathers wheeling and dealing,

letters and documents they wrote, still preserved,

our laws, our past, present, and future,

but what of the buried secrets

items tossed into privies,

and bodies,

uncovered in construction

thought to be moved long ago,

a lie from the past,

the new built over the old,

history in layers,

the way our life tales are constructed

with secrets and stories

hidden and revealed

 

private secrets and public secrets

the lies we tell ourselves,

the lies politicians tell us,

“Let sleeping dogs lie,”

bold-faced lies

little white lies

lies of omission

lies of commission

“What does the president know

and when did he know it?

 

We saw a movie about lies,

the lies a man has told himself,

stories he never told his wife

(omission)

buried in a secret room in his mind

rooms we see on the screen

his past played over and over

more revealed each time,

we all have secret rooms,

compartments,

where history is written and rewritten,

the personal,

the political,

and as we walked along these streets

we push past ghosts who linger there still

in rooms where they told their stories

and raised a glass to freedom

IMG_5663

City Tavern, Philadelphia

 

IMG_5682

We drink to our own freedom. Pondering the second round at Tria.

We saw a play,

IMG_5691

 

Prague and New York City, 1977

there is an immigrant,

a Czech woman in a surreal dream

wanting the freedom to express herself,

to be an artist,

we hear the folksongs of her friend, Marek,

he was arrested for singing them,

a bird-woman goddess,

she who existed before the Thunder God,

shows the immigrant woman,

what?

Her past?

Her possible future?

Men with pig faces,

followers of the Thunder God,

builders of walls,

conquerors of women,

they exist everywhere,

must we adapt,

live our secret lives within a police state,

a surreal dream

for the immigrant,

what will freedom bring,

What happens when the walls are torn down?

What is the American dream?

Is it a cautionary tale

that anyone can become the president—

cowboy, actor, failed businessman?

Perhaps their time is numbered.

 

We walked past a rally for the current president,

in the neighborhood where men gathered

over two hundred years ago

to give them that right to protest

 

 

in secret hearings

closed to the public,

they crafted a body of law,

then explicitly added others,

free speech,

freedom of the press,

I am thankful to live in a place where the president’s supporters have the right

to gather with signs and make speeches–

though I disagree with their views–

and will use my own voice to protest against hate and ignorance

to sing out

against oppression when I can,

but like a bird woman,

I will celebrate the world, too–

we all need a pop of color on a dreary day,

daffodils in the rain

and secret gardens.

IMG_5688

 

 

*Thanks to Robin of Breezes at Dawn for the reminder about this quotation.

The Oracle gave me the magnetic poem that was perfect for the day.

We saw the play, Adapt, a world premiere by Blanka Zizka at the Wilma Theater. We saw the movie The Sense of an Ending.

 

 

 

Women: Past, Present, Future

 

He never saw her / A hidden figure

though there she was / in plain sight

his property, to do his bidding /  a body, with a brain though

she smiled meekly, got his coffee before he asked / she could outthink him any day

he glared when she dared to speak or dream / she wanted to learn all she could

he told her to sit down and be quiet /  so she persisted

he put his hands up her skirt and laughed /  and she tried to resist

he beat her / she fought back when she could

he told her he was in charge / she tried to change the system

men were always at the top / she educated her daughters and her sons

the world depended on it /  they had to be bold for change

iwd2012

 

A cleave poem for International Women’s Day 2017. The theme for 2017 is “be bold for change.” A cleave poem is three poems in one–left side, right side, and the full lines.

Today’s Google Doodle was a slide show featuring women of diverse backgrounds.