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!

 

 

 

 

 

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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.

 

August: Songs in my Heart

You would have been ninety-eight today. I mark the date as the day awakens—crickets chirping, and birds beginning their morning chorus, a little later now in August than June. I imagine you as you were before you got sick—larger than life, or so it seemed. Until you shrank, encased inside a body that had become frail, and then your life shrank, too. In your last apartment, filled with bric-a-brac (a word that always sounded like a magical game to me), the Chinese vases and statues, the antiques that shared space with other collections–books and papers, drawings and old art projects we had made—later, after you were gone, and the space echoed with silence, we found the old school lunch boxes and report cards in your closet.

 

Your grandchildren, my daughters, played on your balcony. I remember red geraniums there, but perhaps I’ve added them in my mind, as I’ve added them to my kitchen window box. I think about my daughters playing and singing, wonder if their love of music came from you. I wish you could have seen the women they’ve become. You would be so proud of them. (I hate that you are gone.) I suspect you, and not my mom, bought the Broadway soundtrack recordings that my sister and I listened to so often when we were little, making up plays in our Dallas bedroom. I remember you singing. Did you have a soundtrack running in your head, as I do?

When I was a teen, you drove me crazy singing “Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head” over and over again. I hated that song (I hate that you are gone); I’d love to hear you sing it again. With age, I’ve realized the universe is filled with music, though we don’t always hear it. Some songs drift through your brain, others you hear in your heart.

 

Heart-songs float through time

stars, the proud troubadours, sing,

tones linger like dreams

 

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My dad’s birthday was yesterday, August 9. This Haibun is for Colleen’s Weekly Poetry Challenge. The prompt words were hate and pride. I had another idea that used the words much more definitively, but this happened instead.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ghosts From Whistling Space

Monday Morning Musings:

From whistling space

dust swirls and burns

glowing

singing

lighting the universe

reaching shores,

then, like tides

sweeping back to the sea

tumbling again and again

in a wave

a new formation

a new song

a new life born

an old life lived

connected

eternal

 

We go to the movies

a ghost in a white sheet

views his life

rooted to a place, a home,

a place always there and not

time moves differently for him

and for us, in watching him watching

beautiful, sad, but perhaps hopeful, too

(open to interpretation)

there is much for us to discuss

over coffee, of course,

 

and as we walk through a city

filled with old and new

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A Path to the Past in Summer Bloom

 

observing how the seasons alters its look

summer flowers making everything bright and beautiful

 

the city changes over time

here was once a creek

that grew filthy with waste

a sewer

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covered now by grass and trees

bucolic space in urban expanse

expansive thoughts arose here, too

made a nation

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Maybe someone should write a musical about him. 

bodies buried now

yet ghosts still walk among us

paths that bend in time

 

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we hear their voices whistling in the wind

in the space around us

feel their ideas

(legacies)

ebb and flow

the things they left behind

 

We take my mom on an outing

away from city ghosts

though they linger in memory,

she talks of her parents

her mother sewed piecework for a time

during the Great Depression

her father was upset that his wife went to work

But she worked in their store, didn’t she?

Yes, but that was different, she says and laughs

her brother, my baby brother, I miss him, she says

he was an active child

always falling out of things—the carriage, his crib–

he fell out of my mom’s bed once

she was supposed to be watching him

he bumped his head on the radiator,

she never told her mom

but, I guess it didn’t hurt him

he lived a good life,

though it ended before my mom’s

and now we share the memory of him,

a ghost living in our hearts

 

We sit drinking wine, overlooking the vineyard

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it’s a beautiful day

we watch families

children playing with a beach ball on the grass

hawks flying overhead

we sit discussing the past and the future

our conversation ebbs and flows

thoughts linger, pause—

and float up into space

 

We eat Pakistani food at my daughter and son-in-law’s house

their dog chases creatures, real and imaginary

birds whistle and sing,

echoing us,

or do we echo them?

We sit with greenery all around us

then eat cupcakes that look like flowers

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My daughter’s beautiful and delicious creation.

(summertime)

I wonder about the people who used to live in this house

and what was it before them–

Field? Farm?

And before that?

Did native Americans walk here

in migrations that followed the seasons

circling round, year after year

ghosts walking among us

watching us

rooted to this spot

waiting for something or someone

waiting for a sign,

a message,

a whistle perhaps

a thought that has floated up

swept up in time

and brought back down again

lighting the universe

 

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We saw the movie A Ghost Story.  Trailer here.   I think it’s a movie that people will either love or hate. It’s a definite Merril movie, but my husband loved it, too.

 

We drank coffee at Customs Coffee House at 2nd and Chestnut, Philadelphia,

went to Sharrott Winery  

And ate Pakistani food from Mera Khana Restaurant   I could eat those vegetable samosas every day!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Safe Harbor: Haibun

Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

–from Emma Lazarus, “The New Colossus”

 

Our ship is stalled in the harbor–the weather, customs duties, bribes to officials—who knows why? We live in suspended time in a liminal space—on a ship, but not at sea; people who have left their homes, but who have not found a new one, refugees. I worry about leaving—perhaps it would not be so bad to stay? But it is too late, we are sailing. Weeks seem like months, as my stomach rolls and heaves with the ship, till at last we arrive. We are weary, but grateful for our new home, a small room in the house of distant kin. At night, we walk to the beach to escape the heat of the day. My sister’s face mirrors my own—relief that the journey is over, sadness that we may never see our parents again, and joy that we are safe. We dance on the sand under a moonlit sky.

 

Faults in men, not stars

lighting a sea-crossed journey

freedom has a price–

beckoning with torch raised high,

the beacon separates, too

 

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This is for Colleen Chesebro’s Weekly Poetry Challenge.  The prompt words were mirror and harbor. I remember my grandfather telling me about when he was a boy, after he, his mother, and his sister left Kiev, their ship was stuck in Trieste. I don’t know why or how they got there. Trieste was then part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. I mentioned him in a previous post called Feast of the Immigrant. 

And here’s the Hamilton mix tape based on the line from the show, “Immigrants, we get the job done.”

 

 

Time Tumbles

Monday Morning Musings:

 

When I was young I played on the beach with my sister

we built sand castles and moats

and body-surfed the waves

peaches and plums dripped with sticky sweetness under the summer sun

for years, I imagined their taste mixed with bits of sandy grit–

memories held in mind’s drawers, sliding in and out,

tumbling in time

 

My love and I walk the beach hand and hand

summer-warm skin, golden-toasted

bodies young, futures imagined

(but not)

lazy days and languid nights

hot kisses dancing across flesh

burning, tumbling in time

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We walk the beach holding a daughter’s hand,

we walk the beach holding two daughters’ hands,

watch them build sand castles and body surf in the waves

we get hugs and kisses

ice cream melts down faces and onto summer dresses

laughter and tears when storms come

and time tumbles

 

We walk the boardwalk with grown children

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nieces and nephews run ahead and behind

and on top of railings

(Get down from there, Sammy!)

talk of family and this and that

warm summer days

warm memories

ice cream that melts and drips down our fingers

 

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(lick it off)

the sun sets

and the ferris wheel spins,

the moon smiles down on us

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I hear the ocean sing

waves tumbling

like time

 

I hold my love’s hand as we walk across the sand

the tide pulls, ebbs and flows

time tumbles again and again

 

 

Yesterday was our 39th anniversary. We went to the beach for a few hours and then out to dinner. A wonderful day!

 

The Glue of Love and Time

Monday Morning Musings:

“for us physicists believe the separation between past, present, and future is only an illusion, although a convincing one.”

Albert Einstein, in a letter, after the death of his friend, Michele Besso

To time we’re young

a blush over morning

brilliance that fades

repeating through years

and generations

 

Words sail through space,

bubble like champagne,

like the thoughts shared by friends over wine

through time

What is the glue, she asks,

that binds us,

that holds us together

some friends, but not all

over distance and years?

 

I have no answers,

the universe is a mystery

the dazzling beauty

of the night sky in June

the rhythms of nature and time

sometimes it comes together

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Heritage Vineyards Mullica Hill, New Jersey

other times though,

there is confusion and contradiction

the day that changes from sun to rain

and back again

we walk through city streets

see a bride and groom

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smell the scent of rain-damp flowers

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get caught in the next downpour

nature is confused

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We watch a movie

of family and history,

and family history

a mystery

life, death, survival

hiding underground

and then burying the secrets

the sins of the father

haunt him and his children

like ghosts

spirits that rise from graves

there is jealousy, too,

and sister-love

and music

some also underground

circling

becoming the means to an end

to forgive

to heal

 

We walk through crowds of people celebrating Philly Pride Day

rainbow flags on display

(people, too)

have dinner at a bar

then on to see a play

a musical

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another tale of family secrets

the father has a hidden life

(some boys, some underage)

many in the audience chuckle knowingly

watching his daughter coming of age

coming to know herself

and, of course, I remember

(not a letter)

but the phone call,

the funny, memorable, filled-with-laughter phone call

from my daughter

not that it’s a surprise

not that it changes anything for me

though it changes her world

and it must have been a scary call for her

and she must have sighed with relief afterward,

but love is love is love

and all I want is for my daughters to be happy

the show has more secrets

and more tragedy

and three versions of Alison—

not separated–

past, farther past, and present–

existing at the same time,

as it does within our minds

 

It is Father’s Day,

my father is gone for many years

I think of the secrets he must have had

the life before children

I see old photos of him

younger hims I never knew

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I can’t talk to him,

or I could,

but he can’t answer me

not in words that I can hear

perhaps in dreams

or illusions

or in a bending of time

still there are bonds, love,

glue that binds us

despite secrets

despite not knowing

he lives in my heart and mind–

is he gone–or not?

 

Welsh Cookies

I made Welsh Cookies–called Daddy Cookies at our house–for my husband for Father’s Day.

 

We saw the movie Past Life, an Israeli movie set in 1977 in Israel, Germany, and Poland.  Trailer here.  We saw the musical Fun Home, based on Alison Bechdel’s graphic novel. It won five Tony Awards in 2015. Here’s the Tony Awards performance.

Words and Dreams

Monday Morning Musings:

 

Words and dreams rise, drift

in hope, or sink, shift

full force

on birds’ wings, fly swift

divorce

from horror, and lift

like laughter, a gift

of course

 

Full strawberry moon

bright orb, a festoon

the scent

of strawberries, strewn

dipped, we taste and swoon–

I meant

it’s warm, there’s wine, June

it sings, birds in tune,

consent

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to listen and see

what was, what will be

here, now

mom, daughter, and me

eat and talk we three

allow

questions randomly

eat deliciously

somehow

we’ve done this before

in many rooms, doors

fold time

intersect mine, yours

wine and food in scores

fold time

again, we’ll eat, doors

open, close, time roars

hold time

 

suns and moons will rise,

glorious their guise,

bloom peace

humming from the skies

(hearing it a prize)

don’t cease,

hear the river’s sighs,

song of dove that flies

in peace

 

shadows and color, wine and cheese

poetry murmurs in each gentle breeze

 

through words and dreams we spin

cycling lives while time begins again, begin

 

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Sweet dreams

I didn’t get a chance to do dVerse’s lai prompt last week.

So, I decided I’d try a set of connecting lai (though not a tale of adventure so much) –ending with two rhyming couplets. Damien Donnelly’s poem, Limitless mentioned folding time, so I borrowed the phrase. Thanks, Damien. 😉

The June full moon (last week) is called the strawberry moon because it’s strawberry season. (And by-the-way, they are delicious dipped into cannoli dip, but then what wouldn’t be?)

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Coffee and Home

Monday Morning Musings:

 “If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world.”

–J.R.R. Tolkien

 

“Coffee is a lot more than just a drink; it’s something happening. Not as in hip, but like an event, a place to be, but not like a location, but like somewhere within yourself. It gives you time, but not actual hours or minutes, but a chance to be, like be yourself, and have a second cup.”

–Gertrude Stein, Selected Writings

This universe must be home

(has always been home)

I wake warm and comfortable

drink coffee

(always coffee)

live mornings of caramel joy

remember a voice

a smile

cats

celebrate a secret sky waking

 

I wake to the smell of coffee

a childhood memory,

an adult reality,

a scent wafting through time

am image, too, coffee cups and morning newspapers

spread across the kitchen table

(now joined by laptops and phones),

the table in my young childhood home

lived in the kitchen-dining-den space—

my mother hated it—the space, not the table–

and when I was teen, she, no longer with my father,

bought a house with a separate dining room,

a large, center-hall house with five bedrooms

that became too much for her to keep up with

but it was the house by which my siblings and I later measured all other houses.

In that dining room, my boyfriend, now husband, learned about Sunday brunches

with lox, blocks of cream cheese, bagels, herring, boiled new potatoes, and crusty rye bread–

and on the little enclosed porch we’d sit before a fire late on Saturday nights and drink coffee and consume the treats, fried and sweet, from Dunkin Donuts, wiping sugar from our faces with paper napkins and kisses.

 

Food and friendship, more valuable than gold,

I eat Vietnamese food with a friend

we laugh and talk

she tells me (I had forgotten) that she dislikes tomatoes

then is surprised to find them in her stir fry,

we laugh and talk

I slurp vermicelli noodles with extra hot sauce

and we sit, chatting and catching up,

her mother’s house, her childhood home, sold

she is pleased that the new owners seem like good people

another family for the house

to imbue it with new dreams,

the old ones will fade from the walls

like night shadows gradually erased by the dawn

 

We don’t order coffee

though we laugh and talk for two hours,

the restaurant owners, mother and daughter, probably eager for us to go,

but we’re enchanted by the little girl, daughter of one, granddaughter of the other,

eighteen months old

she blows kisses and says good-bye.

 

A few days later, my husband and I go to a first communion party

the daughter of a daughter of long-time friends

we sat with them every Friday night in their first house

a TGIF Sabbath meal each week of dollar hoagies and beer

we were there when our friend went into labor with the daughter whose daughter

we’re celebrating at this party

where I sit and talk the entire time with another friend, my twin

though her skin is darker, her hair shorter,

we’re twins of the heart

we wear our matching bracelets

talk about another friend who could not be there

but who is linked to us

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New Year’s Eve, 2016 We are linked, heading into 2017.

 

and catch up on news, share photos, her sons, my daughters,

it’s a miserable day, cold and raining, more like March than May

but warmed by friendship

 

After that, my husband and I travel to my daughter’s house

bringing wine for her and her husband,

we laugh about all the wine we’ve ordered

delivered to our door all in one day in three large boxes

so that the UPS man thinks we’re having a party

we eat Pakistani food with them at a nearby restaurant,

the genial owner recommends dishes,

“We have new items”, he says,

“try the spring rolls, vegetarian.”

They are different from Chinese spring rolls,

delicious, though not as good as the vegetable samosas,

our favorites,

my daughter and I share the platter,

everything is delicious, eggplant, vegetable korma, naan, the goat our husbands have

(I suppose)

“Always a pleasure to see you,” the owner says as we leave,

and we assure him that it’s always a pleasure to visit his restaurant,

and it is, even on a cold and rainy night.

 

In the morning, a package of chocolate covered strawberries arrives,

a special Sunday delivery,

from my other daughter and her wife,

a thoughtful present,

a scrumptious treat for Mother’s Day

even first thing in the morning.

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Later I will talk to her on the phone,

hear about her trip to national parks in Utah

(while they still exist)

learn about her surprising facility for rock climbing

and allergy to Los Vegas

I miss seeing her, but it is good to hear her voice

from across the miles

 

We have lunch at my sister’s house

where we take my mother for Mother’s Day

 

Before lunch H. had made a grand entrance,

“Hi, I have to pee and sprints through the living room.”

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We later talk about the house she and her husband have fixed up to sell.

It was their first home, bought with an inheritance from my father,

her voice breaks a bit as she describes painting over the clouds in her first baby’s room.

The sun is out, and we sit for the garden for a bit

though it gets windy

My family is goofy and wonderful

I love them

 

I’ve baked a flourless chocolate cake

because there must be chocolate

 

 

and my sister buys, rather than brews, coffee

from Dunkin’ Donuts to have with it,

which makes me think again of those long-ago days

I think of all the mothers and daughters

the houses we’ve lived in

the coffee we’ve consumed

and despite all that is wrong in the world

I’m happy to wake in the morning to my coffee, newspapers, and cats,

to my husband saying, “Can I pour you another cup?”

 

The joys,

transitory like the flowers that have recently bloomed

 

but no less beautiful for that

timeless in our memories

the sky has cleared in the morning,

there is a half-moon hanging crookedly in the sky humming a song of hope

I go inside and pour a cup of coffee

a cat settles on my lap

this universe must be home

especially if there is coffee

–and love

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A Barricade, a Bear, and an Egg

We’re headed to my in-laws’ house, or perhaps the Jersey shore. A family road trip. My husband is at the wheel; our daughters in the back seat. They hold their beloved stuffed animals on their laps. There are no headphones or cell phones. In our future, when they’re older, there will be both. I’ll tune the radio to NPR. We’ll hear the election news or listen to an interview with actor Dev Patel. But here, now, I put a CD into the dashboard slot. The prologue begins, “Look down, look down, don’t look ‘em in the eye.” My husband would be happy never to hear Les Misérables again, but I don’t mind hearing it for the 200th time. Our daughters sing along. Correction. Humpty and Ahh Bear sing along. Aah Bear sings Éponine’s part and sobs with loud bear sobs when she dies. There is no barricade here in the car, but I see it nonetheless. Imagination is powerful, powerful enough to let me hear stuffed animals sing and make the tears of a teddy bear real.

 

Just one performance

life, replayed in memory,

paused and played again

 

 

 

I seem to be stuck on musicals, though that’s nothing new!  This is a haibun for dVerse. We were asked to write about singing along with music on a drive. You can listen to “A Little Fall of Rain” here. (Unfortunately, not the Humpty and Ahh Bear version.)