Looking at Yesterday, Seeing Tomorrow

Monday Morning Musings:

“Sunrise, sunset,
Swiftly fly the years,
One season following another,
Laiden with happiness and tears.”

–from Jerry Bock and Sheldon Harnick, “Sunrise, Sunset,” Fiddler on the Roof (1964)

After thousands of sunrises and sunsets

the years fly quickly,

faster now, summer turns to autumn,

spring tears fall and shoots appear–

winter snow glitters on our heads.

 

Once I was a turtle,

slowly walking across a road

I hid my head from others

though I showed off my lovely carapace,

then you took me from my shell

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and brought me into the world of people.

I showed you the world of books and art,

introduced you to exotic turtle food

and we played and burrowed deep,

into our blanket nest.

 

Our children were fawns

long-legged, shy, and fey,

until their camouflaging spots faded,

and then they sang the songs of birds

and gathered the wisdom of owls

 

tossing words, pitching music, and beaming light

into the world–

sometimes it was reflected back

in all the colors of the universe,

bringing love.

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And now?

The water calls to me in rivers, streams, and oceans,

I sometimes carry the heavy weight of my shell,

but you share the burden,

and when I look at my reflection,

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I see worlds beyond worlds–

the absurdity of the upside-down,

the glowing rays of a double sun

the promise of all the ifs,

and the hope in infinite possibilities stretching to forever.

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I do not look to yesterday but walk into the future.

 

We celebrated our 42nd wedding anniversary a few days ago, but we’ve known each other since ninth grade. To celebrate, we went to Ocean City, NJ and walked on the beach for a couple of hours in the morning, avoiding people as best we could. Then later we went on our first real outing since March. We went to a winery for our anniversary dinner, where we sat outside physically distanced from the other patrons, and after a brief thunderstorm, we enjoyed wine, pizza, and gelato. I think we were both a bit giddy to be out. I put my mask back on whenever our masked server came to the table.

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Merril’s Movie Club: Back to more obscure Merril films. Both are on Netflix. We watched See You Yesterday, which we both really liked. All of the acting is excellent, especially the two engaging leads who portray brilliant Black teens hoping to get scholarships to good universities—a future. But this is very much a Black Lives Matter film, and they attempt to change the past. Playing on the theme, Michael J. Fox has a cameo appearance.

We also watched Bulbul, an Indian horror film—though it’s not a jump out of your seat horror. It’s more of a dark fable with beautiful cinematography.  It deals with a child bride and her life as an adult in her husband’s household, where her best friend is her brother-in-law. There is a tale of a demon/goddess who lives in the trees and swoops down to attack men at night. The story is retold throughout the movie. We both liked it, though I think I liked it more than my husband did.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

To See the Stars Behind the Sun

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Monday Morning Musings:

 

“To see the stars behind the sun. . .

Somewhen a boy is counting stars.

Somewhen a man is photographing light.

Somewhen his finger strokes the stubble on another’s cheek,

and for a moment everything is relative.”

From Neil Gaiman, “In Transit (for Arthur Eddington)”

 

Some of you know the news already that my mother died early Saturday morning, but this is my official WordPress announcement.

She had been in a nursing home, and she died of Covid 19-related complications. Yes, this is real, and I can’t tell you how angry I am at the people who are not taking this seriously, including the horror in the White House or his enablers. Given the current circumstances, we were unable to be with her, and we do not when we will have any type of memorial service for her.

Friday I went into a flurry of comfort cooking and baking. We visited with our daughters virtually, as we’ve been doing recently on Friday nights.

That night, I dreamt several times of people waving goodbye. Each time, I woke up after the dream with the image lingering in my head. Then early in the morning, my sister called with the news. For a long time, my sisters and I have called each other, saying quickly, “No one has died.” She told me this time it wasn’t one of those calls because my mom had died.

 

My parents were married to and divorced from each other twice, but he was the love of her life, and I think she was of his, too. Towards her end, she remembered only the good times, and she thought my father lived in the same nursing home. He’s been dead for over twenty years.

 

On Sunday morning, I went for a long walk. At the river, I cried, threw a stone into the water, and said goodbye to my mother, as I watched the ripples on the surface and watched the river flow.

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Delaware River, West Deptford, NJ April 2020

 

Two stars in orbit—

causing time and space to shift

 

in tumbling waves

the universe ripples,

 

stops, frozen–

 

a moment caught,

a family vacation,

you laughing,

heels kicking in the air

as you fling yourself across a motel bed

young and beautiful

 

somewhere

 

learning a new dance with a girlfriend,

or meeting a young man at a party–

he runs after you

to get your phone number

traveling in the wrong direction–

or the right one

 

to somewhere

 

you see the stars behind the sun.

 

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Time and Timeless

Monday Morning Musings:

“There is a certain part of all of us that lives outside of time. Perhaps we become aware of our age only at exceptional moments and most of the time we are ageless.”

–Milan Kundera

Art and music travel through our genes, stopping at some destinations longer than at others, like the train our older daughter takes from Washington, D.C. after visiting archives at the Smithsonian. She takes hundreds of photos of sketch books, correspondence, diaries, and newspaper clippings of our artist ancestor, Abraham Hankins. She shows me newspaper articles—how his mapmaking skills saved his life in France during WWI because he was left behind to draw maps when the rest of his unit was sent into battle and killed. He also trained as a singer, until gassed during the war, and apparently, he wrote some poetry, too. But my daughter becomes even more fascinated by his French wife Estelle, called Esther by my family. After Abe’s death, Estelle makes it her mission to get her late husband’s work into major museums. There is still much to learn, and most of the people who lived then are gone. It is my mom’s ninety-sixth birthday.

 

skipping stones hit pond

concentric circles ripple

spring turns to summer

Abraham P. Hankins,
Pocket Full of Dreams,
Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, Bequest of Mrs. Abraham Peter Hankins

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We celebrate my mom’s birthday in sunshine with shades

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

munch on snacks, laughter cascades

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

as we discuss pets and art and politics

with eyes rolling—intermixed–

as my niece describes her “other family,” with their alternate truth—

if only we could blame it on the folly of youth—

but salacious tales about the Clinton’s gleaned from right-wing memes,

treasure troves of garbage carried by the false fact streams

they insist it’s true,

what does one do?

We move on to sandwiches and cake

blow out the candles, make

each moment count, and we laugh, dance, and sing—

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

it’s in our genes, so let’s bring

it on in celebration of familial love

rock the ghosts from rafters above

and around, perhaps they watch from some place–

that shadow there, across your face.

 

The weekend is full with movies, puppies, and wine

we dance, laugh, eat, drink—feeling fine

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My mom tells us that Abe asked her mother to sing with him at a family gathering. She says her mother had a beautiful voice, but that my uncle, my mom’s baby brother, cried when their mother sang, so she stopped singing. I had forgotten, she says, but now I remember some of those songs she taught me. Songs of the shtetl that crossed the ocean. We, the grandchildren never learned the songs. I like to think though that no song is ever lost. Each note rises. Birds carry some, and others float high into the sky filling the clouds. I think that is why I hear music in the rain, and why rainbows sing, and the moon hums. We are filled with star music, and it returns again and again to us. Music flits like spindrift from the waves of time.

 

Stars sail ink-black seas,

cat against me softly snores,

dreams dance to moon song

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We Laughed Till We Cried: Haibun

My sisters and I help my mother try on new clothes on Mother’s Day. She has trouble getting up and sitting down, and she can no longer see very well. All of us, including my mom, laugh so hard at the maneuvering and manipulation of her body parts in and out of sleeves that we cry. Our tears fall lightly like the spring rain dampening this day. Our giggles create a euphonious sound, a rainbow of multi-colored tones that arc across the small room. I tuck this moment into the folder in my mind labeled “Mom Memories.”

 

fledglings cry for food

spring to summer, then they fly–

stormy skies soon clear

Carroll Sargent Tyson, Jr.
Kingfisher
From the portfolio Twenty Birds of Mt. Desert Island
Philadelphia Museum of Art

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Xenia Tran who is the guest host for Haibun Monday at dVerse asks us to write about compassion or self-sacrifice without using the words.

I’m also linking to Frank’s Haikai challenge, Spring Rain

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Woodland Magic: Haibun, NaPoWriMo, Day 17

In my childhood memories, when my grandpop visits, it is always a golden-glowing, long spring day with an azure sky dotted with drifting marshmallow clouds. When I am perhaps four or five, he takes me and my younger sister on a walk through a wooded area in Philadelphia. We stop to eat a snack. My grandpop shows us how to rinse our hands in a spring that flows between some rocks and rub them together until they dry. It does not take long on this pleasant day, but I think it is an amazing trick to dry our hands this way. Suddenly, three horses with riders materialize on the trail and gallop past us. The horses are huge—or so they seem to me–and it happens so quickly that it is almost like a dream, a magical moment in the woods. The magic of the woods stays. All these years later, my grandpop, the horses, and the wondrous spring live on, a warm spot in my heart.

 

light lingers, pauses

capturing spring memories—

nimbus of white blooms

Henry Ward Ranger, “Spring Woods,” [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I am taking care of three prompts with this Haibun:

The prompt for Day 17 of NaPoWriMo is to write about a family anecdote. This is simply a memory I have, but close enough.

Victoria, who is retiring from hosting duty for dVerse asks us to write about lingering day for Haibun Monday.

And Frank’s Haikai Challenge, asks us to use the prompt warm.

Connections, Past and Future: NaPoWriMo, Day 9

Monday Morning Musings

“I guess I can say that I just wasn’t connecting to everything, because I wasn’t given enough information to know that we all are connected somehow. To every living breathing thing.”

–Denis Dodson, a Maryland prisoner, in Anna Deavere Smith’s, Notes from the Field

“On Passover, among other traditions, we pass down “the spirit of roast beef” and how to make light and fluffy kneidlach instead of “sinkers.”

—from our family Haggadah

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Winter turns to spring,

the week is fraught

and we are caught–

the minor annoyances and major fears

(of fate held back, now it seems, for years

coming due,

in arrears)

the morning call about my mom—

not as frightening as one late at night,

but still the toll

the stress of them all. . .

 

And so, we are comforted by rituals

though celebrated past the date

still cherished, even if they’re late

connecting with our ancestors,

connecting with our past

remembering absent faces

remembering all that’s passed

 

Passover, a celebration of freedom

but so many are still not free

we watch a filmed performance

about people caught in circumstances—

a need to redesign

the school to prison pipeline,

though many are disinclined

(after all, there are profits to be had

in the incarceration of those considered bad)

But how to address the major issues–

there will always be officious officials.

There are big problems, addressed in this drama

food desserts, racism, epigenetic trauma?

Freedom Fighters, John Lewis

the brightest, the truest—

and still problems go on—

a young girl thrown across a room,

and I wonder if we’re doomed?

 

We celebrate freedom

we were slaves, now we are free

but for so many that will never be.

My family picks and chooses our traditions,

most of us without true religion,

accepting each other and the love that we need

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

and so, we sit at the Passover table to read

my daughter’s Passover play

(this year’s edition)

each reading our part,

with laughter, we start–

some allusions maybe going over some heads–

the Pharaoh likened to current leader who believes his lies,

(despite the facts before his eyes)

and Moses to Hamilton who’s not going to throw away his shot–

perhaps high art, it’s not,

but we laugh as we sing and say

Dayenu

and name the plagues,

then almost through

pour more wine

and let us dine

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In the after-dinner glow

I am comforted by our rituals

and all we hold dear,

connections to the past

my niece says do you know—

grandmothers literally hold a part of their granddaughters in their bodies

in the already present eggs of their girl babies in utero?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

and so, it goes–

this love of family

past, present, future—

an arch

through which we pass

somehow connecting,

in the parade of time

moving forward and back,

and we here are fortunate not to lack

nourishment of love, food, the mind.

I see the students march,

hear my daughter talk of how she teaches,

begin to hope that some glimmers of light reaches

far away,

floating through both words and deeds

following the leads

of young and old

truth and justice, never old

hoping this trend to hate recedes

hoping the light grows

hoping truth and beauty proceed

Seeking a patch of light

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here’s an article from The Atlantic on Anna Deavere Smith’s one-woman play, Notes from the Field, in which she plays many different roles. A filmed production is currently on HBO. I did some research on prisons for my forthcoming books on rape and sexual violence. Some people may not be aware that the U.S. has the highest incarceration rate in the world.

Day Nine’s Prompt for NaPoWriMo is “to write a poem in which something big and something small come together.” I feel like that is always what happens in my Monday Morning Musings.

It was a busy weekend, so I’m behind on reading, but I will try to catch up later today!

 

 

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

Thanksgiving Ghosts: Shadorma

Gratitude

for life, love, and food,

we gather

together

around the table to eat

where ghosts watch, smiling

 

they hover

as we make toasts to

absent friends,

ancestors,

spirits in our memories

sit with us in peace

 

 

This is a Shadorma for Eliot’s November Challenge.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Songs of Us

Monday Morning Musings:

“Now I will do nothing but listen,

To accrue what I hear into this song, to let sounds contribute
toward it.

I hear bravuras of birds, bustle of growing wheat, gossip of flames,
clack of sticks cooking my meals,

I hear the sound I love, the sound of the human voice,

I hear all sounds running together, combined, fused or following,”

–From Walt Whitman, Song of Myself

 

Beneath every cloud

watch this song bloom–

it is bright sun, wild wind,

moon murmuring peace–

ancient cycles breathe color and bloom

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We gather in a flurry of hugs and kisses,

wings outspread,

bright with color,

like tropical birds

cooing and chattering

instead of trills or caws,

I hear the sound I love,

the sound of human voices

the sound of people I love

it is a moment to remember,

my mother’s 95th birthday brunch.

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We celebrate with food and drinks

in a courtyard room,

doors open to a day of August beauty

we talk and laugh

(the sound of voices)

take photos

(the sound of groans and laughter)

we sing happy birthday

(the sound of music)

and eat the cake my daughter has baked and decorated

 

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Afterward, we take my mother home

she comments on the length of my daughters’ dresses

and I laugh that she who is nearly blind can see this

and the “designs” on one daughter’s arms

We talk about art–

her famous artist cousin, Abe Hankins,

she points out his work on her walls,

he lived with her family for a time

and taught my teenage mother dances,

he had lived in Paris and brought French style and flair,

he wasn’t a starving artist because his wife supported him

(or so my mother says)

one daughter is enchanted by a photo of my mom with her cousins

when they were all young

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my mother tries to remember a hospital she was in

when she a little girl with diphtheria

“well, it was ninety years ago,” she says

no sound of planes in the sky when she was young

no telephone in her house

parents who traveled by ship across a sea to live here

never to see their homeland again

war and peace

sounds of life and sounds of silence

fuse, follow, ancient cycle

breathe in

breathe out

 

we open presents,

more art,

this time from one daughter

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a poem and cookies from me

all sounds running together

stemming, streaming from hearts full of love

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We go home, change into PJs

eat again and watch TV

my sisters text me and my daughters–

“Can you believe I’m eating again?”

commenting on how my mom has–

well, her own sense of reality, sometimes

voices in our heads, voices on the screen

fusing together

time for dreams

 

The next morning, I wake to birdsong

it seems effortless and amazing

but what do I know?

bravura display, to my human ears

I go for a walk

listening to Hamilton

and almost dancing to the riverside

Sunday morning sunshine,

a little breeze

the end of summer,

autumn is on the way,

another cycle of the seasons,

the cicadas hum

the geese march, swim, fly, and honk

the flowers are blooming

(And I’m not throwing away my shot.)

all the sounds running together, combined—

birds and Broadway

 

In the afternoon, we go to a wine festival

taste wines

sample foods

eat the cheese and enjoy the day

enjoy each other

ancient cycles

time-bound and timeless

the sounds I love running together,

combined, fused or following,

the sound of nature

the song of myself

the song of all of us

echoing in my heart

blossoming

 

 

The Oracle seemed in tune with my weekend. We celebrated my mom’s brunch at Jerry’s Bar in Philadelphia, and we went to the Riverwinds Wine Festival in West Deptford, NJ.

A special shout out to Ken of Rivrvlogr  of writes poetry, especially haiku and tanka, of nature and current events, and Robin of Witlessdatingafterfifty  who takes photographs of her family and area of Ohio and write book reviews in verse. I truly appreciated that they both spent time going through my past blog posts yesterday. Check out their blogs!

 

 

 

 

 

Truth in a Cookie

These cookies, your favorite,

are my favorite, too,

my daughters named them,

“Mommy Cookies,”

I baked these cookies for them

and for me

I baked them for events, for friends,

for moments of heartbreak

and moments of joy–

for memories.

I baked them for you.

 

I think of all the recipes handed down,

mother to daughter over generations,

measured by sight and feel

cooked or baked to taste,

I think of these cookies,

back in Eastern Europe–

the original version–

hard and dry,

kept in a tin,

taken out to have with tea,

but evolving over time

with new additions,

(like families)

becoming sweeter

and more nuanced,

cookies that are made

(now)

with ingredients of old world and new

bridging history in a bite,

tasting of past, present, and future–

what I see in your eyes,

the girl who was

the daughter, the mother, the grandmother,

what I see in my daughters’ eyes,

years gone, years yet to unfold,

bitter, spicy, crunchy, and sweet,

the definition of a cookie,

the measure of a life

 

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This was a poem I wrote for my mom’s 95th birthday.  I made her some of these mandelbrot cookies as a gift.