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.

 

 

 

 

 

Queen of the Universe

 In the morning,

a song slips,

slides suddenly into my head

“Shall We Dance,”

a mini-movie in my mind,

Anna and the King twirl

I see her gown swirl

just that,

just for a second

the way dreams  do,

encompassing entire lives

in a flash, flame, and then disappear,

and I wonder

what just happened?

I go about my day,

but later,

in my car,

I turn on the radio,

hear a clear soprano voice sing “Shall We Dance,”

it’s an actress touring in The King and I,

coincidence, synchronicity, cosmic joke?

I wonder

just for a second

(time expands and contracts

paths diverge)

just for a second,

I wonder—

how do these things happen?

Perhaps I really am,

Queen of the Universe,

I could bring world peace,

people would sing and dance,

we’d all have

a clear understanding,

this kind of thing can happen,

can’t it?

(another path perhaps,

another road)

a truck passes me,

I keep on driving

 

1024px-Etruskischer_Meister_002

Details of two dancers from the Tomb of the Triclinium in the Necropolis of Monterozzi
Public Domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Dance, Don’t Fight

The radio interview was on Here and Now .

 

 

 

 

 

 

Shadow Portraits: NaPoWriMo

Monday Morning Musings:

“We kiss in a shadow

We hide from the moon

Our meetings are few

And over too soon”

From “We Kiss in a Shadow,” Oscar Hammerstein II and Richard Rodgers, The King and I

“When you are old and grey and full of sleep,

And nodding by the fire, take down this book,

And slowly read, and dream of the soft look

Your eyes had once, and of their shadows deep; “

–From William Butler Yeats, “When You are Old”

 

When our older daughter was young

she was afraid of shadows

perhaps she sensed that they were alive,

captured, like Peter Pan’s

when our porch windows were shut.

“Shadows hurting you,” she would say,

only “you” meant “me,”

her pronouns confused,

and so, we played in another room

where the shadows were benign.

those porch shadows are long gone

the girl is a woman,

her small, curly-haired shadow gone,

except in my heart,

now older, I take out these memories

like a book,

to read before the fire.

 

We go to a dance performance,

a fusion of dance and shadow puppet theater,

a full-length production

of athleticism, grace, and imagination,

we’re caught in traffic on the way there,

an entire block closed,

a large crane in its center, reaching to the sky,

casting a shadow over the street

where police officers chatted,

(ignoring the frustrated drivers).

We manage to get to the theater,

pick up our tickets,

get to our seats

(close enough to see the dancers’ muscles),

about a minute before the show starts–

it’s worth it.

The story opens with a girl getting ready for bed

her parents kiss her goodnight,

she goes to sleep on her bed made of dancers,

she begins to dream,

the walls spin,

and she becomes trapped in a land of shadows

where she goes on a voyage of discovery

turned into a dog-girl

experiences the joy of a dog riding in a truck,

the horror of being forced to perform in a circus,

controlled by a whip,

the ecstasy of first love,

the girl becoming a woman,

the shadow world is a magical, fantasy world,

the dancers’ bodies tumble, roll, fly

the hour and a half goes by quickly,

the dancers perform an epilogue,

a shadow tribute to New York City,

bodies creating the Statue of Liberty, the library lion, 42nd Street,

and other iconic spots,

and then to Philadelphia,

the Liberty Bell, the “Rocky Steps,” Pat’s and Geno’s Steaks,

at the final bow, the dog-girl dance leaps into the air,

seemingly still full of energy,

the shadows of the show behind her now–

until the next performance

 

IMG_5733

 

We leave smiling

into a day of sunlight and shadows

in a city where history has cast a long shadow,

shadows through history,

now and always,

shadow worlds

where people are forced to work,

living secret lives,

held in bondage

or living hidden,

an underground economy,

people who can only kiss

in shadows,

though love is love is love

there are shadowlands all around us

obscured by smiles and sunshine

 

 

We walk and talk,

see students celebrating Holi,

their faces and shirts bright with colors,

no shadows on their smiling faces,

on this spring day

the flowers smile and dance in the radiant light,

we drink coffee

discuss the show

later, we go out to dinner,

drink some wine and talk some more,

when we leave

the moon is shining brightly

though not quite full,

I look at her,

wonder what secrets she has seen

from her shadows deep,

hidden lovers and girlish fancies,

we head home,

I dream of shadows and the moon.

 

IMG_5735

 

This musing is for NaPoWriMo, Day 10. The prompt was portrait.

We saw Pilobolous at the Annenberg Center in Philadelphia.

You can see a brief clip of this show performed at another location here.

Dreams

Monday Morning Musings:

“And, as imagination bodies forth
The forms of things unknown, the poet’s pen
Turns them to shapes, and gives to airy nothing
A local habitation and a name.
Such tricks hath strong imagination,
That, if it would but apprehend some joy,
It comprehends some bringer of that joy;
Or, in the night, imagining some fear,
How easy is a bush suppos’d a bear.”

–William Shakespeare, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Act V, Scene 1

The Past and Future Merge

She soared high

amongst the stars,

weightless,

her mind everywhere,

she heard the universe sing

felt its rhythm in her soul,

it was part of her

and she of it,

had always been,

but unaware,

then,

before,

if there was a before and a then,

now she sang with the stars

and knew, she and they were one.

For a moment, she remembered—

a body unmoving on a bed in a white room,

beeping machines now silent,

a man with grief-streamed eyes–

now she saw,

as if looking in a mirror,

hundreds of her, stretching back and forth in time

they were her, and not her

different paths and different planes

all part of the universe,

she sang the songs of the stars and floated through space, time, dreams

 

Now

we wandered through bleak city streets

more like December than March

(but without the holiday cheer),

wet sidewalks with snow piled at the curb,

tinged grey from city dirt,

 

 

we walked into the theater,

found our seats

looked down on a stage,

bare, except for players with instruments,

sitting there,

we’re transported,

through time, space, dreams,

sixteenth-century English,

but timeless ideas,

love gone wrong and right,

couples bemused and bedazzled,

parted and reunited,

magic and fairies,

Oberon and Puck smoking a hookah,

watched what they’ve set in place,

musicians played

and displayed

impressive voices and skills,

(in double roles),

we laughed in delight

puckish Puck, the comical Bottom,

and the mixed-up lovers.

We got a treat at intermission

(for being subscribers)

then hurried back to see the conclusion,

watched the moon rise and set over the stage,

the fairy spells recast,

the lovers paired and married,

and the play within the play,

we applauded and rose,

happy to have been transported for a few hours–

the magic of theater

 

 

 

We discussed the play over coffee,

IMG_5637

me sniffling a bit with a cold and the cold,

and both of us waiting for spring to return,

I said that in Shakespeare’s time

the play would probably be ruder,

I thought of the playwright’s wit and wisdom,

then and now the words hold true,

“Lord, what fools these mortals be!”

words transported through time and space,

a play about love and dreams and magic

 

 

The next morning, I slept late

(late for me that is),

still befuddled by the time change and the cold

in the night I had a dream,

a musical, like Mel Brooks mixed with a touch of David Lynch

sprinkled with bits of Carole King and Toni Morison,

literary and ludicrous,

I woke briefly,

then had another dream,

my cold had kept me from a regular Saturday class at the gym,

I dreamt the same instructor had a special Thursday class,

consisting

(so it seemed)

of alternating ab work and running,

instead of mats,

we had our winter coats spread in lines,

our spots on the gym floor,

I was there with some of my gym buddies,

die-hards

(a strange and slightly ominous word),

we ran,

panting and perspiring,

but there were others,

who stood about,

I noticed one man,

he wore a sweater vest,

After I woke, I laughed,

my subconscious mind makes bad puns.

 

and I thought about dreams and dreaming

and what a fool I might be

perhaps lacking reason,

but still able to dream,

and laugh,

thinking of mid-summer

in the winter weather,

turning shapes to fancy,

imagining creatures in the night,

giving them names

thinking of love, magical and irrational

yet somehow real,

throughout time and space

and in and out of dreams

 

I thought of how Chuck Berry died the other day,

but his music is traveling through the galaxy,

“Johnny B. Goode,”

the stars add rock and roll to their repertoire,

and the poet’s words have traveled through time,

read and performed in schools, jungles, prisons,

and perhaps in space,

today my words may travel across the globe

and be read in different spaces, various places,

my thoughts of dreams

traveling through space and time

 

The_Sounds_of_Earth_Record_Cover_-_GPN-2000-001978 (1)

By NASA/JPL (The Sounds of Earth Record Cover) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

 

The first section of this was inspired by Jane Dougherty’s Sunday Strange Microfiction Challenge.    I didn’t have a chance to get the story in for the challenge. 🙂

 

 

 

 

At Night Ghosts Fly

francisco_de_goya_y_lucientes_-_the_dream_of_reason_brings_forth_monsters_-_google_art_project

Francisco Goya, “The Sleep of Reason Brings Forth Monsters,” Capricho 45, [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Monday Morning Musings:

“Fantasy abandoned by reason produces impossible monsters: united with her (reason), she (fantasy) is the mother of the arts and the origin of their marvels.”

–Francisco Goya, full epigraph on Capricho No. 43

 

At night ghosts fly,

breezes like ice over ocean

can eyes not see this,

our hearts devoured and haunted?

And peace,

a secret perfume

This time,

wake and remember.

–A poem constructed from what I remembered of a magnetic poem before The Oracle ate it.

 

 

An oracle gave me a poem of dreams,

then she swallowed the words

leaving me to wonder about both prophecies

and dreams–

wispy, frangible ghosts,

they vanish,

leaving a trace of perfume in the air.

 

And so, I think of dreams—

there was that one from a few nights ago,

Lin-Manuel Miranda told an interviewer*

that someone had “a curvy name.”

What did that mean,

I thought about it when I woke,

I think he meant the name sounded curvy

somehow,

pleasing and delicious,

on the tongue,

a sort of mouth-feel,

an umami sound.

And I wondered who it was he spoke of?

And I will probably never know.

nor why I dreamt it.

 

That is fine.

At night, our minds try to sort and explain the mysteries of the day,

at dawn, we don’t know what dusk will bring,

though we trust the sun will rise and set,

every day is an adventure,

mysteries delightful or terrible may unfold.

But I would not want to know my future, would you?

And who believes the prophets anyway,

treated like Cassandra

mocked and ignored.

 

But in this new year,

How should we feel?

Peace seems ever elusive,

just beyond an ever-changing horizon.

Reality and truth are meaningless,

Lie-laden Tweets

(the lines neither warm nor curvy)

the thoughts of a man who wants to be a king

or a god,

revered and adored,

But he is a little man,

a bully,

with a handheld bully pulpit,

and so, we must resist,

holding fast against the fetid swamp waters

where the monsters live

and where their dreams thrive and grow,

emerging like demons in the night,

like a vampire, tapping on the window,

do not invite them in

to suck your blood

and still your beating heart.

People like to think the monsters are not real,

but oh, they are,

and they are ready to grab you in the night.

(Quickly, pull the blanket up over your head.)

Yet the evil beasts can be stopped–

because there are heroes,

and there is still good in the world,

and there are still truth-tellers

and truth-seekers,

and we can make a choice,

light or darkness.

 

It was a cold, snowy weekend,

fullsizerender-66

we ate homemade pizza and binge-watched a Netflix show,

an ordinary day,

frozen and white outside

inside, the warmth of wine,

the scent of bread dough baked at high heat,

we watch,

the young woman, who has died more than once,

she may be an angel,

or maybe not.

And is human life and its mysteries explained?

Perhaps,

Or perhaps not.

But she has chosen to remain on earth

to fight, to rescue the people she loves,

people who have become a family.

And there is light and darkness,

and things seen and not seen,

movements that curve,

like a name maybe,

(she has more than one)

to express words that do not exist.

She needs helpers.

and like her,

we must always look for helpers,

and we must strive to be heroes when we can

to wake from our dreams and remember,

to fight the ghosts and monsters of the night,

to scent the air with the perfume of peace,

 

 

Jane Dougherty named the magnetic poetry site, “the Oracle.”

*I heard Lin-Manuel Miranda interviewed on Fresh Air. I don’t think he mentioned any curvy names, but let me know if he did.

We watched OA on Netflix, a series starring Brit Marling. She is also the co-creator with Zal Batmangli. Here is the trailer.