River Walk

I walk the water path

then climb the concrete stairs

 

to stroll past statues and monuments,

where apple trees once grew,

 

the sturdy plantation house stands on the bluff,

but it’s the river that calls

 

the battle-dead whisper

unseen, but fitful, sighing,

 

the flying hawk shadows me

while geese bask

 

at high-tide

the waves crash

 

and they fly

circling the water,

 

the river,

home.

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Delaware River, Red Bank Battlefield

For dVerse, Amaya has asked us to include a secret ingredient. I’m not sure if this works for the prompt, but this is what the muse gave me in between dreams last night, so I’m going with it.

 

 

 

Ghosts of Guilt, NaPoWriMo, Day 30

Monday Morning Musings:

“Not only are selves conditional but they die. Each day, we wake slightly altered, and the person we were yesterday is dead.”

–John Updike, quoted here.

“Monsters are real. Ghosts are too. They live inside of us, and sometimes, they win.”

–Stephen King, The Shining

 

There are ghosts we see—or don’t

invoke, as though if left uncalled for

we’ll not provoke

those of the past,

who vanish–or won’t

go gentle into that good night,

the ghosts of guilt,

may waft or wilt

drift silently,

(seen just from the corner of your eye,

fly by)

but whether unexplainable

or declaimed

they are us

and soon, we’ll be them.

 

We see two movies,

walk in between,

to see the vibrant glow of spring.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The first film set in Hungary in 1945,

a small town that seems not war-torn,

some have even thrived.

The town clerk owns a well-stocked drugstore,

more–he lives with his family in a large town house.

Others have also gained homes and wealth

obtained by stealth,

though it’s all legal, they explain

(show the papers,

for goods and property

no one left to claim).

But they are haunted by their complicity

no joy at an upcoming wedding,

where there should be felicity

secrets begin to seep—

they’re all around–

Look! Two Jews in town.

What do they want, these nearly silent men?

As they walk behind the cart,

like mourners to a grave site.

Dark, somber,

(the film shot in black and white)

Here, it’s always “God Bless,”

and the brandy seems ever handy.

There’s a Hungarian saying about this brandy–

“Palinka in small amounts is a medicine,

in large amounts a remedy.”

But there’s no remedy for what they’ve done.

What have they lost, and what have they won?

The Germans are out, the Russians are in–

A new dawn

when the Jews are gone?

But these two, why are they here,

and what is it the town folk fear?

Dark smoke billows from the train,

sun-filled day fills with thunder and rain.

The monsters are real. The ghosts are too.

They are us, and we are them.

 

We walk and chat

about the movie, this and that–

the susurration of sparrows,

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

the murmurings of spring

though the ghost of winter, touches

with icy fingers clings

as we turn from sun to shadow

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

whispers–

you can’t flee me forever,

I’ll return in November or December,

when seeds then huddle underground,

sharing the cold comfort of the dead.

But now is for the living instead,

in blooms of green and pink and yellow and white

glowing, vibrant in the light.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We walk, seeing weddings and brides in white

smiling groups, life in color and in light.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We see a second film,

this one with ghosts up front

that an investigator will confront.

He’s a skeptic, he doesn’t believe,

but perhaps there are events he also grieves

There are scenes that makes us jump–

doors that rattle, and things that bump,

demons that are locked away,

but are released,

perhaps, to stay.

Three cases become woven together–

Will there be a happily ever after?

(Cue the nervous laughter).

 

We walk some more,

The Signer stands tall

The Signer,
Philadelphia

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

through many seasons–

he’s seen them all—

and thus,

though he represents freedom

he’s surrounded by ghosts

who flit over cobblestones,

manning their posts,

due diligence, remember the past—

remember us.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My cat wakes me from a dream—

a ghost tells a character in a play

(stories within stories within my dream, it seems)

“we mourn the dead, but we move on.”

They are us,

and we are them.

Life moves on–

we begin again.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The final NaPoWriMo prompt asks us to “write a poem that engages with a strange and fascinating fact.” Well, I included some facts. They may or may not be strange or fascinating. For more on “odd facts” about Hungary, see here. And here is more on the Holocaust in Hungary  The Signer statue is in Philadelphia’s Old City.

We saw the movies 1945 and Ghost Stories.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Haunted, NaPoWriMo, Day 7

Ghost–a breeze dances,

always born away,

like ocean rhythm

remembered,

haunted, I listen,

she said, “Give joy—laugh,”

and her smile lingers. . .

there, broken window sash flies in, out,

come

go,

it is but life, some magic velvet thing.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Some words from the Poetry Oracle for Day 7.  I revised just a tiny bit, so I hope she doesn’t get upset, but she clearly understands portals.

Stories Beneath the Surface

Monday Morning Musings:

“I could be

In someone else’s story

In someone else’s life

And he could be in mine. . .”

–Benny Andersson, Björn Ulvaeus, Tim Rice, “Someone Else’s Story,” from the musical Chess

“People’s personalities, like buildings, have various facades, some pleasant to view, some not.”

-François, Duc De La Rochefoucauld (1613-1680) Moral Maxims and Reflections, no. 292

 

On a sunny day–

spring in February thinking of May–

we stroll through sun and shadows

façades that hint of love inside

I wonder if it is—

and who they are–

wonder about their stories

(someone else’s story)

 

All of the stories that have been lived

as the centuries turn

eighteenth to nineteenth and on

through changing façades–

those that remain–

past and present merge

modernized, expanded, reformed–

like this church–

where beneath the surface

lie the remains of those

who once lived and breathed here

Old Pine Church looking toward St. Peter’s Philadelphia

 

their breaths becoming part of the ecosystem

their steps leaving footprints,

sometimes larger in death than they were in life.

Other people’s lives,

Someone else’s story

 

When they lived,

did they wear their hearts openly—

like the cutouts on the door,

or did they keep their feelings buried

deep inside

behind a façade of smiling respectability?

I wonder how many had secret lives

yearnings that they could never admit?

Complex creatures

we divide ourselves

closing doors—saying this is not allowed

we must not live that story,

but times change

and churches, too,

and love is love is love

 

In the quiet here, there is not silence.

Do their ghosts walk by my side here?

that sound

the wind,

or their sighs

telling me their stories?

In the unquietness of this place,

filled with hundreds of stories

of birth, love, sorrow, and death

a living child with his mother screams in delight

and runs over the graves. . .

what happens at night behind the gates?

 

We wander back to the movie theater to see

someone else’s story—

there up on the screen

A Fantastic Woman

and she is

what does it matter that she was born a man

(we all have our façades)

but she was loved

and still is by her sister and friends

and a dog–

who doesn’t care about societal labels–

some do not treat this woman well

they threaten and humiliate her

but life and her story go on

because she is a fantastic woman

 

And after –

we talk and walk

to where fire recently destroyed part of a block

nineteenth-century buildings

one will have to be demolished

all but it’s first floor cast iron façade–

 

Third and Chestnut, Philadelphia February 2018

 

the stories of these places–

the people who lived there now displaced–

and while we stand there

gazing at the devastation,

I get a text from a friend,

find out about her son’s illness—

the dangers of the invisible world

within our bodies

beneath the surface,

we don’t always see or know what is there–

(thankfully, it seems he will be okay)

and though this is someone else’s story

they are my friends,

so it becomes part of my story, too.

 

The next day, it turns cold again–

February’s story–

we turn the heat back on

eat homemade pizza, drink some wine,

huddle under blankets,

watch Netflix–and our cats—

we text our daughters,

sending virtual hugs–

behind the walls of our house

this is our story,

and I don’t want someone else’s life.

 

A Fantastic Woman stars the fantastic Daniela Vega,  a trans woman (who also sings in the movie). The movie was made in Chile, and it is nominated for best foreign film. I keep thinking about it. See the trailer here.

The architecture of the fire-damaged buildings is described here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Under the Druid Moon: Yeats Challenge, Day Eleven

This poem is for Jane Dougherty’s A Month with Yeats Challenge, Day Eleven.

Here is today’s quotation:

“Where time is drowned in odour-laden winds
And Druid moons, and murmuring of boughs”

I was dreaming of the ghost in the movie A Ghost Story that my husband and I saw earlier this year. I wrote about it here.

 

I dreamt last night of a ghostly figure

hovering in the air, floating, lost in time,

his silent presence, growing ever bigger

echoing, echoing, like a chime.

What mysterious moments has he seen

while drifting through star-glimmered winds

worlds, ancient, or untouched and pristine?

Or is he here only, stuck, to one spot pinned,

waiting, watching  for something new to begin?

A quiet sentry, under a Druid moon–

was he born too late, or did he die too soon?

 

 

 

 

From the Ashes: A Month with Yeats, Day Nine

 This is for Jane Dougherty’s November Month with Yeats, Day Nine. The quotation is: 

“Troy passed away in one high funeral gleam,

And Usna’s children died.”

—W.B. Yeats

I was also inspired, or perhaps haunted, by this article that I saw last night about a girl’s pendant found at Sobihor.

 

Once she played and laughed upon a hill,

once there were families, hope, delight

before darkness came and all was still

in a nightmare world of constant night

monster-filled with hate and fear

and all that once was cherished and held dear

lost forever, or perhaps entombed

within the ruins, amidst the gloom.

 

Years passed in revolutions round the sun,

and grass sprouted in ashes cooled of fired hate

buried there, searchers found that she was one

in rubble raked beyond the gate

found there, a victim of the slaughter,

someone’s child, once a daughter,

found her broach, inscribed, a sign, a trace

that she existed once, now not entirely erased.

 

But does this finding some closure bring

to those who are left or suffering?

The ashes of the dead once rained like sordid snow

fertilizing now the ground where flowers grow

light’s restored, but mutable

and darkness still falls, indisputable,

hope the feather that softly flies

from wings of knowledge and wistful sighs.

 

 

 

 

 

The Dancers: Quadrille

The house was softly lit

the couple danced and flit

in waltzing rhythm, with delight

till late at night

(as in the past)

up the creaking stairs, they went

content–

no matter that long ago, they’d died,

love is here, the house still sighed

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This is a quadrille for dVerse. The prompt word was creak. I wrote this last night, but at 4 A.M. or so I was awakened by the house creaking from the wind storm we’re having now in anticipation of the rain that’s coming soon. It was creepy walking out in the dark this morning to get the newspaper. This creepy creaking might inspire a less gentle poem.

 

Dream a Dream

Dream a little dream of me

as starlight blooms, high in the sky

the tears, I see,

are now wiped dry,

the night birds call from sycamore trees

sleep now, my love, sweet lullaby,

dream of me, body free,

but spirit hovering, still nearby

john_everett_millais_the_somnambulist

 

So, this actually fits two dVerse prompts. De Jackson, aka WhimsyGizmo, asked us to write a quadrille using the prompt dream. 

Mish asked for a poem using a verse from a song.  For some reason, the dream prompt made me think of this song. I’m wondering if I’ve heard it recently on a soundtrack.

Here’s Ella Fitzgerald singing “Dream a Little Dream of Me” (with Louis Armstrong).

 

I often use song lines as prompts in my Monday Morning Musings, and I know I’ll be writing more about dreams, but this is what I have for now.

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!