Stardust and Blood

Monday Morning Musings:

 “How close people could be to us when they had gone as far away as possible, to the edges of the map. How unforgettable.”

–Paula McLain, Circling the Sun

“I have perceiv’d that to be with those I like is enough,

To stop in company with the rest at evening is enough,”

-Walt Whitman, “I Sing the Body Electric”

 

In the quiet morning breeze

I gaze at the sky, the pink-tinged frieze

of clouds, a line then brushed

by sun and wind, its blush

faded to white, in the diffusing sunlight.

I breathe in the ancient longing

belonging to us all—for affection,

to find connections

(despite an election)

After all, we’re all made of stardust,

and we’ve emerged from the sea,

to inhale the air made by our trees–

all related, far enough back, we share the same genes.

I don’t know what it means,

But we’re all people, not infestations,

no matter our color, religion, or nation.

 

My cousin comes to visit–

his father was the brother of my mother,

we share this blood-bond

but I don’t think we’ve ever talked

so much, so one-on-one

of this and that

(we pause to watch and pet the cat).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I display some family genealogy

and we try to parse a chronology

of those from our past,

discuss and compare

the connections we share,

different views of relatives we know

(bring out more photos to show),

My grandfather as a young man. The photo is undated, but taken in Philadelphia.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Stories of growing up

an old joke about the Penn Fruit store,

which is no more–

residing now only in our youthful before,

part of the memory,

a moss of summer dreams

that stick, it seems

even in the frost,

when autumn leaves fall,

still they call.

 

We visit the battlefield park,

watch the geese swim in formation

the same way they fly in the sky

(all the whys)

and wonder at their destination,

Red Bank Battlefield
National Park, NJ

National Park, NJ

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

watch the planes, look at the Philadelphia skyline—

this day is more than fine—

we walk and talk

amidst the ghosts of a battle past

after the guns fired and the cannons blast,

the Hessian soldiers here that died.

But they are quiet, and if they tried

to communicate, perhaps it was too late,

we didn’t hear them today

as we walked the pathway

in and out of yesterday.

 

We go on to our daughter’s,

whose soul glows bright,

sit with family by firelight,

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

laugh and talk

and pet their dog,

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

content to be in the moment here

multi-generations, with faces dear,

and if you were perhaps to overhear

amidst the jokes and banter,

you might find fear

of the future,

but it would be mostly love, you’d hear.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Past, Future, and When

Monday Morning Musings:

“Time past and time future
What might have been and what has been
Point to one end, which is always present.”

–T.S. Eliot, “Burnt Norton,”

You can hear him read the poem here. 

“Only a free and unrestrained press can effectively expose deception in government.”

–Justice Hugo Black, New York Times Company v. United States (1971)

 

“Wouldn’t it be fun if all the castles in the air which we make could come true and we could live in them?”

–Louisa May Alcott, Little Women

 

The present passes, becomes the past

the future now, and now is then.

We ask how did this happen and when?

Too fast for us to learn,

to slow for us to train

the grasping hands

the lizard brains?

 

In May 1933, they burned the books–

but that was there and then

now here, and again,

a leader tried to censor the news

suppress the press

(What are the choices? Choose.)

“I am not a crook,” he said

before he fled

his seat of power

(looking ever more dour)

But that was then

and it is now,

though there are echoes of before

(his followers ignore)

hate and fear

always in the air

like war’s harsh glare—

sow discord, let others bleed,

while those in the lead, feed their greed.

 

Bright days turn to stormy nights

we gather inside

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

and hold our fears at bay

waiting for a stay

from thunder and lightning flashes–

the zigs and zags across the sky–

but in the morning,

the birds still sing and fly

this is the present,

the past, the future whys

converge,

the past, present, future merge

as it’s beginning to do within my mother’s head

confusing the threads of history and time

sometimes—no reason, no rhyme—

but just the way it is

a bridge to what is, or could be

if only we can see—

somehow—

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We celebrate Mother’s Day

a made-up holiday

from what was a protest against war

to one of flowers and treats—

for some, for us, it can also be sweet—

Flourless Chocolate Cake and Cannoli Dip

and we’ve done all this before,

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

but still—

my mother has a great laugh—

and it would not be so bad

if that became her epitaph–

gathering with love around a table

as long as we are able

is wonderful and something we need.

No, that is not greed

to desire love and peace.

Perhaps I sometimes long for castles in the air

wish that was here or something there,

want the best for my own little women

as my mother wished for hers

and her mother for her children

in the past, which is now, which was then—

I wonder when?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

February Changed: Tanka

This Tanka is for Colleen’s Tanka Tuesday. We were asked to use synonyms for the words destiny and challenge. Today is the beginning of birthday month in our household–both daughters and my husband.

 

Fate may have spoken

in winter’s chill, buds blossomed,

February changed

 

forever hearts call—testing–

love answers without a doubt

 

 

Passing (Strange) Along the Stage

Monday Morning Musings:

 

“All the world’s a stage,

And all the men and women merely players;

They have their exits and their entrances;

And one man in his time plays many parts,”

–William Shakespeare, As You Like It, Act Two, Scene 7

 My story being done, she gave me for my pains a world of sighs.
She swore, in faith ‘twas strange, ‘twas passing strange.”
–William Shakespeare,  Othello, Act One, Scene 3

 

“Because your mother’s love might seem insane
It’s ’cause she really knows everything
Too bad it takes so long to see what you’ve been missing…

(Love like that can’t be measured anyway)
Too bad it takes so long to see what you’ve been missing”

Stew and Heidi Rodewald, “Love Like That,” Passing Strange

 

The weekend is a many-act play

we’re immersed, we stay

(of course),

actors reacting to sudden cues

a little bruised, confused

wondering how to choose–

pratfalls on the shrinking stage,

soliloquy from the acting sage,

we spout our lines and ramble on

waiting for the denouement

 

We pass in and out

both clueless and without a doubt

stage to stage

filled with joy and filled with rage,

youth to adult

then on to elderly and frail

without fail–

we pass along

we pass in song

we pass through sunshine and shadows–

what will stay and what will follow?

It’s all a mystery,

but before too long

we’ve passed (strange) along, and then we’re gone.

 

In the midst of these farcical days

we pause to see an actual play

through city streets with rainbow flags

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swaying, zig zagging past cars and bikes, we go

wondering, but do not know

when last we three sat this way

(Love like that can’t be measured anyway)

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The play is of a young man coming of age,

there on the stage,

the narrator is the older him,

while he, the youth

tries to find life’s truth

fleeing LA,

passing through European cities

leaving before it all become too real

afraid perhaps of what he’ll feel

passing strange

passing as black,

is there any going back?

We all hide behind our chosen masks

going about our daily tasks

art can save us, or can obscure even more

(we hear this in the clever score)

It’s a wonderful play, we say,

and at the end we clap and sway

thankful to have this balm for our crazy days.

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We walk and talk and drink some wine

 

 

discuss the play, and feeling fine

we talk about my mother,

whose own mother, I find, used to sing

but stopped, when embarrassed,

and it’s strange, in passing

to suddenly hear such things, the past trespassing

in the here and now, and at this age–

yes, the world’s a stage

“Too bad it takes so long to see what you’ve been missing”

 

And so, we leave the warmth for frozen streets

the city marching to a different, syncopated beat

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and we,

well, we’re passing strange

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through our own domains

sometimes the hero, sometimes a supporting role

we see it all

sometimes fall

and fail to reach the unknown goal

(strange)

but journey on

with hope for more laughs than tears

and love to help us with the fears.

we make a wish upon a star

wonder who and where and what we are

then pause. . .

in early morning’s brightening light

the moon gently hums before she fades from sight.

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We saw the revival of the award-winning musical play, Passing Strange, book and lyrics by Stew, Music by Stew and Heidi Rodewald at the Wilma Theater, and we went to Tria Cafe, Washington West, afterward.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For My Daughters: Shadorma, Yeats Challenge, Day 27

I’ve combined prompts again–a Shadorma for Eliot’s November Shadorma Challenge and Jane’s A Month with Yeats Poetry Challenge, Day Twenty-Seven for both.

Today’s quotation:

“Once more the storm is howling, and half hid

Under this cradle-hood and coverlid

My child sleeps on.”—W.B. Yeats

 

 

I watch her

sleep, tiny body

breathes softly

in and out,

time focused

only on the here and now,

her dreams without words

 

 

did her soul

travel from the stars

I wonder,

discover

love grows exponentially

in lullabies sung

  

 

 

 

 

Songs of Squirrels, Beauty, and Tradition

Monday Morning Musings:

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

Walt Whitman, “I Hear America Singing”

 

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

–Pat Conroy, The Lords of Discipline

 

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

–Louise Erdrich, Future Home of the Living God

 

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

my younger daughter and I break bread for stuffing

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

some fluid, others unchanging

though life does some rearranging

through time and space

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

watching Thanksgiving parades and tearing pieces from loaves

while our mother is at the stove

producing the magic of holiday meals

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

Now daughter and I, we break the bread

and watch The Gilmore Girls instead

done the day before,

crossing off this chore,

from the to-do list

and while the old, might be missed

a new holiday tradition it seems is born

taking place while the bread is torn

because sometimes we require them

even when the holiday is filled with so many.

 

On the big day—what to do

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

Another one is drafted and a crowd gathers

Offering advice on this and sundry matters

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

more hot water

use a spatula

A compliment:

Not only is she smooth on the dance floor,

she’s smooth on the squirrel, too.

Critique:

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

There will be no banging!

Encouragement:

Come on little squirrel we love you.

do it do it do it

Oh my gosh I think it’s happening

The crowd goes wild:

Yaaaaayy!

Another year with the squirrel!

and so, we talk and laugh and eat and drink

discuss scuba diving and money laundering

the possibility of my mom having off-shore accounts

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

We discover how many people it takes to get

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

wonder if we’re doomed,

but at least three, it seems,

still, we enjoy the holiday and dreams

watched by the spirits of those no longer with us

it is ever thus,

the ghosts of holidays past,

“remember when,” the common refrain

joining in a train

the days from before

to what will come hence

past and future tense

blended together,

a holiday casserole of memories and dreams,

like the dish of leftovers my sister tells me she made

layers laid atop one another,

savory, tart, and just a little sweet

the art of distinct layers that together seep

to form when mixed through

something entirely new.

 

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

on a journey to see visual pleasures

in nature and art, such treasures

a visit with the boating party

scream at monsters

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or just scream

dine by the water

and dance in the woods

we hear America sing

its varied songs

and glory in Impressionistic delight

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Later, we eat leftovers

and watch The Blair Witch Project–

because nothing says family coziness like horror movies–

with food

America singing its varied carols

 

We do a holiday wine tasting in the barrel room

Scott, assists us, keeping up a lively patter

as he describes the wine and other matters

it is a beautiful fall day

and so, we decide to stay

to sit outside

while we imbibe

watching the soaring hawks

and listening to others talk

looking at the daytime moon

enjoying this weather, thinking winter will be here soon.

We eat Pakistani food

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

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

we discuss how our daughters sound alike,

one tells how she used to sneak about at night,

and we counter with embarrassing childhood stories

(the glory of parental territory)

perhaps the start of a new tradition,

of perhaps it is sufficient

to see and relish the present and the everyday.

 

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

we’re awake for the sake

of our daughter and her wife

who have to catch their flight

though it seems the middle of the night,

yet I’m strangely alert

I hear America singing, the varied carols I hear

of parents and children saying goodbye

of politicians trying to tear apart, like stuffing bread,

when they could be constructing something good instead

of children going off to school

hoping they will learn some tools

to navigate this brave new world

that has such people in’t

both good and bad

some sad, hungering for traditions, or new conditions,

for truth and beauty to negate the hate

I see a squirrel scamper from a tree,

and over us, the moon hums her tune

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

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

 

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

 

Secrets and Shadows: Musings and Shadorma

Monday Morning Musings:

“Secrets, silent, stony sit in the dark palaces of both our hearts: secrets weary of their tyranny: tyrants willing to be dethroned.”

James Joyce, Ulysses

“It’s a triumph of art and friendship over time. And it’s also very important, I think, to hang on to the things that mean something to you. And they transcend time.”

–Judy Collins, “Love, Friendship and Music: Stephen Stills and Judy Collins Collaborate on New Album,” All Things Considered with Michele Martin, November 11, 2017

“There is regret, almost remorse,
For Time long past.
‘Tis like a child’s belovèd corse
A father watches, till at last
Beauty is like remembrance, cast
From Time long past.”

–Percy Bysshe Shelley, “Time Long Past”

 

Secret lives

buried deep in walls

or within

chambered hearts,

echoing the beats, flowing,

waiting for release

 

The garage

old, unstable, and so

down it comes

over the years

it’s housed tools and junk,

a chipmunk or two, amidst the rakes

perhaps a snake.

We were told the wall at the back

was bumped out a bit to fit

a Model T–

But honestly, I don’t know,

and it’s all so long ago.

The roof was shingled many times

and covered with leaves, pollen, and snow

beside it children have played,

and a wandering doe has grazed.

The yard is littered

adorned with its pieces–

fragments of a secret life

forlorn in autumn’s fading light,

a building built to last,

but now

shadows cast, from time long past.

 

The weather now has turned much colder

as the year journeys to its end,

no more harkening back, it seems to say

though time winds round again

through falling leaves and winter snow

to springtime bud and summer flowers,

and in the buildings here on city streets

there’s blending of the old and new

where cobblestones meet asphalt streets

and on concrete pavements,

shadows cast, from time long past

We see a musical about phone sex and love

set in the 1990s,

just before

(it opens a door)

the Internet really became a thing

and here a young man and woman

don golden chastity rings,

and vow to remain chaste till wed.

But now with their upcoming marriage,

they realize they do not really know each other.

They learn in song

(Well, it’s a musical, so we go along.)

we all have secrets lives and secret selves–

shadows cast, from time long past

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It’s a funny, enjoyable show

a quirky romantic comedy

if not profound

it covers some familiar ground,

but still we talk of how it’s set

in a changing time.

a time now past

when our children were young.

And as day becomes night,

in autumn’s fading light

We see a bride and groom

and should we assume

they have lives kept private and

shadows cast, from time long past?

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In the car, we listen to NPR

hear an interview with Judy Collins and Stephen Stills,

old lovers, now still friends,

hanging on to important things

and illustrated with their songs

throughout time

things that last,

shadows cast, from time long past.

 

I think of my mom and dad

meeting in time long before technology

of cell phones and Internet

and they connected,

once they were young and in love

then they weren’t either

keeping secrets from each other

yet still, I think the love was always there

and she to him said a final goodbye

the night before he died

shadows cast over time, long past

 

We take my mom to a winery–

“Cross a wine tasting off your bucket list,”

I say.

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Here we can sit at a table

order our selections

of white and red

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served with cheese and bread

and the atmosphere is convivial,

the conversation, mostly trivial,

but as we move to pizza and more wine,

we’re feeling pretty fine,

we talk of Thanksgiving

and of ancestry

I tell her about my poetry,

she tells me things she remembers–

sitting in her grandfather’s lap

though she doesn’t remember much about him,

and after that he died,

from an injury to his skull,

difficult times from them all

immigrants from another land

speaking a language I don’t understand,

I learned there was a baby brother born

after her mother and her aunts

he died young, seldom spoken of.

In the conversation here

ghosts of ancestors now appear–

shadow cast, of time long past

 

Then to home

the weekend ended,

secrets shared

journeys taken,

sunshine and shadows, blended,

cast in a circle

 

through time and

space our souls wander

sharing love

fearing death

casting shadows of time past

long ago and now

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We saw TouchTones at the Arden Theatre. We went to Auburn Road Vineyard.

I’ve begun and ended my musing with Shadorma for my somewhat sporadic participation in Eliot of Along the Interstice’s November Shadorma Challenge.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Something in the Light

Monday Morning Musings:

“I want to move on

I want to explore the light

I want to know how to get through,

Through to something new,

Something of my own—

Move on. . .

Something in the light,

Something in the sky,

In the grass,

Up behind the trees. . .

Things I hadn’t looked at

Till now. . .”

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

 

There’s something in the light of autumn

the way the sunlight streams low between the changing leaves

leaving summer behind, but somehow looking forward, too,

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

and something in the light changes again

producing grey and violet skies

till the earth wakens again in the spring,

moving on.

 

***

A vineyard hayride

to a field of pumpkins and apple trees

I listen to snippets of conversation

The mother talking about the Noah’s Ark movie

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

So much crazy wrong there, but I restrain myself,

move on to explore the light

look up at the trees

and there below

things I hadn’t looked at till now

things I hadn’t seen before–

the way the sun makes the apples glow

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and the shadows dancing in the breeze

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

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We drink our wine

darker than the apples

or garnets glowing in the light

tasting of sun and earth and promises,

we listen to a musician play classic rock and blues

watch the children and the dogs enjoying the warmth

on this summer-like day in October

but there’s something in the light,

different now in the fall from our summertime visits

we move on through the seasons

and I make applesauce when we get home.

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

stopping first to pick up my mom

who was confused about the day

and was not ready for us

her vision nearly gone,

her world is shrinking

the light in her eyes dimmer

as she moves on, five years short of a century

I think of all she’s seen–

the memories of people and places that play in her mind

now a bit confused–

I wonder if how we see the world changes it?

Did the Island of La Grande Jatte change because of Seurat

and how he saw the light?

If we could see more colors, more light

would it change anything?

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

Do we ever see these things the same way again?

Painting by Sylvia Schreiber

Enter a caption

 

We meet my sister and her wife’s new dog

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

they keep  returning them, she says

not true, of course,

but she sees things differently now sometimes,

and I look up to see something in the trees

something in the sky

the light—

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We eat and then take her shopping

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

(something in the department store light?)

somehow, we maneuver and decode

before we explode

purchase two pairs of shoes

black and navy

(slightly different in the light)

and move on to bras.

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Imagine now,

five women in a dressing room,

two manipulating my mother,

making jokes as they handle her breasts

inserting them into cups

all of us finally laughing–

and then a fart,

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

finally, we stop, breathe–

there’s work to be done,

and a timetable–

we get my mother her bras

then back to the house for dessert,

Mandelbrot and brownies,

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because why bother with anything that’s not chocolate?

We sit outside in my sister’s garden

enjoying the sun, enjoying the light

until it’s time to move on.

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From the stars

and to the dawn

in light that reaches us

from billions of years away

we see something there

and something here,

something in the light

moving on