Salem, 1692

Salem_witch2

By Baker, Joseph E., ca. 1837-1914, artist. “The Witch, No.1” Lithograph, [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Salem, 1692

I

wait, crushed

by despair,

disturbances

in the air. Demons,

or human frailty, now

exposed? Light and darkness bound

together we must fight evil–

the duty of magistrates is clear

and so, we sentence the witches to death

 

the affliction has spread through the region,

so many blackened with devils’ marks

though they bleed red as anyone

(their master teaches them tricks).

They will suffer justice

crushed by rocks and rope–

but at night I

wonder, what

if we’re

wrong?

 

A double Etheree (syllable count: 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10 and then 10,9,8,7,6,5,4,3,2,1) for Colleen’s Tanka Tuesday. I think she was looking for Halloween themed, but I went to history.  We were asked to use synonyms for color and creepy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Before and Now

Monday Morning Musings:

“It may be the luckiest and purest thing of all to see time sharpen to a single point. To feel the world rise up and shake you hard, insisting that you rise up, too somehow. Some way.”

–Paula McClain, Love and Ruin

“We can never go back to before”

Lynn Ahrens and Steve Flaherty, “Back to Before,” Ragtime

 Once we had two maple trees in front of our house. They provided shade for our house and shelter for wildlife. But they were diseased and had to be cut down. The birds and squirrels have moved on. We will plant daffodils around the stumps, and life will continue, though we can never go back to before.

green leaves turn golden,

sun sings grey skies blue again,

flowers smile hello

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Once people saw tyranny and began to rebel with acts of resistance against their government and king. Time sharpened to a single point for some then. They felt the need to rise up. They launched a revolution that was bloody and horrible, as all wars are, that divided families and friends.

sweethearts say goodbye

leaves sigh and fall from the trees–

red blood on white snow

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Old Pine Street Church Graveyard, Philadelphia

 

But it was also a revolution of words and actions that created a new nation, the first written constitutions, and gave some hope for freedom and equality to all—though that did not come about till after another war and new laws. We harken back to before, but we can never go back.

And why would we want to?

demagogue appeals

blames “The Other” for problems–

false hopes and false words

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Wishing on the wood of the last Liberty Tree.  Museum of the American Revolution, Philadelphia

Azure skies send us

outdoors to eat–a plus

seated where we gaze

at history and listen

to the foreign phrase

of people who pass by

and wonder why

they’re here, but know

they come and go–

in this city of hope and despair

filled with travelers

and immigrants,

rising like the nation and the sun

on the famous chair.

 

 

We watch a movie,

the wife behind the great man,

though she’s really greater than

he is,

she says she is “a kingmaker,”

but more than that—

this is

a nuanced performance

that show the complexity

of relationships—

which is

the basis of government, too,

and I think of the before

when we had a king

and bid him adieu

and now the one

who longs to be king

daily sings

(so unbirdlike he tweets

never soft and never sweet)

Will we let the kingmakers

let it happen?

Well, as the foot-tapping

musical notes, “history has its

eyes on you.”

It is complex,

and perhaps what we need

is a nuanced performance.

Though the choice seems simple—

do what you need to do.

Do not believe the lies.

Do not support the liars.

Let’s not go back to before

when I did not have a voice,

when women did not have a choice,

when people I love could not love,

when people I admire could not vote—

keep this sinking ship afloat.

I feel time sharpening and shadows gather.

 

 

But ask the star

how it dazzles and

kisses air with joy—

We are prisoners of time,

embrace its rhythm

and smile.

 

Once there were two maple trees, but now they are gone. . .

yet life goes on.

 

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We visited the Museum of the American Revolution. Saw the movie, The Wife. Trailer here.

Here is Marin Mazzie, who died last week, singing, “Back to Before.”

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hope Rises and Falls, Like Us All: NaPoWriMo, Day 2

Monday Morning Musings:

“Remember only that I was innocent
and, just like you, mortal on that day,
I, too, had a face marked by rage, by pity and joy,
quite simply, a human face!”

From “Exodus,” by Benjamin Fondane, murdered at Auschwitz in 1944

“But where there’s hope, there’s life. It fills us with fresh courage and makes us strong again.”

Anne Frank, The Diary of a Young Girl, June 6, 1944, written after Anne hears the news about D Day.

“I see the world being slowly transformed into a wilderness, I hear the approaching thunder that, one day, will destroy us too, I feel the suffering of millions. And yet, when I look up at the sky, I somehow feel that everything will change for the better, that this cruelty will end, that peace and tranquility will return once more.”

Anne Frank, The Diary of a Young Girl, July 15, 1944

 

This Passover—at least at the start,

my husband and I dine alone–

we’re on our own

for this Seder

(apart from the cats,

who join us later).

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It’s been a strange week of that and this

things not quite right, a bit amiss–

the whole afternoon at the doctor for my mother’s hand

in a city office

(the building still grand)

 

I look at my hands

starting to look like my mom’s

when did this change begin of fingers and palms–

these strange hands turned from mine to others

how did they become so much like my mother’s?

 

The weather turns from cool to warm

but still I feel the coming thunder, the storm—

I read about a French woman who survived hate and the camps,

stabbed by her neighbor to whom she showed only kindness–

but he was caught up in blindness

(of the soul)

if that is how we can characterize it all—

this hatred or fear,

we should remember her

not him,

Mireille Knoll,

for whom the bell finally tolled.

 

This climate of fear

seems to grow daily

the president goes on another Twitter rant

and I just can’t–

listen to him (sniff sniff) speak or chant

transplant

fiction in his supporters’ brains

(enough of them still remain)–

where and when does it end,

will it ever stop,

the firing of the latest shot,

the hate, the finding of scapegoats to label

the fear of the intelligent and able?

There’s fear in the air,

but does fear rise above hope?

Which is denser, which one floats?

 

We see a performance, a play

people forced together, every day

having to live in close quarters

annoying each other, parents, strangers, daughters,

dependent upon friends for food—

for everything

never permitted to go out

or glance through a window—or shout–

forced to be silent all day—

even chatterbox Anne must sit still and stay,

but she finds a way,

observing and recording

in her diary she writes,

somehow hope rising above despair

as if she’s gathered it from the air

“Think of beauty,” she writes,

and

“I still believe that people are really good at heart.”

Her writing, an art,

though she’s doing her own part

for the war effort, for after, for when life re-starts,

revising her words for the novel she hopes will one day be—

when the war is over—when they’re all free—

We know watching, that it is not to be,

and yet, still, I hope for a different ending,

one that ends without sending

them off in cattle cars to the East

to be treated worse than beasts

to die hungry, filthy, covered with lice,

wonder why she and others had to pay such a price—

would she then have written what she did–

as she slid

as if down a well

from hiding into Hell?

 

We celebrate miracles, the Exodus,

I’m not religious, but the history of us

of pogroms and hate at this time—

the crimes—

make me honor those who came before me

and who were not free

to celebrate or see—

here now–

a day of sun and clouds,

voices talking out loud,

the daffodils in bloom,

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I hope they don’t disappear too soon.

Then a rainbow appears way up high

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It seems magical, and though I’m cynical,

perhaps it is a Passover miracle,

whatever, it’s beautiful, I think,

and so, we eat matzah and drink

(more wine)

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Passover Walnut Cake

and before desert, the full moon appears to hum in the sky–

filling me with wonder and whys

 

The human face,

if we could only see it

instead of looking at a space

feel—seek out!– the pity and the joy

but instead, we destroy.

Fifty years ago, this week, a man was killed

perhaps from him, some hope was spilled

“I have a dream,” he said,

but before long, he was dead.

He urged others onward in the fight

for justice, for light.

Anne Frank, a young girl, also died

her family, too, only her father survived.

she wanted to be remembered, a famous writer

and so, she is, with life gone and so much missed.

I don’t know that our future looks any brighter,

(Do you hear it? The wind carries their cries.)

and yet. . .when I look up at the sky

I still see the stars and moon, and then I sigh,

hoping their dreams will never die.

 

We saw, The Diary of Anne Frank at People’s Light in Malvern, PA. 

This is Na/GloPoWriMo, Day 2.  The prompt was to play with voice, but well, these are my musings.  🙂

 

 

Journey in Place: Beginning and End

Monday Morning Musings:

“It is good to have an end to journey towards; but it is the journey that matters, in the end.”
—Ursula K. LeGuin, The Left Hand of Darkness, 1969. Often misattributed to Hemingway.

 “To light a candle is to cast a shadow.”

–Ursula K. LeGuin, A Wizard of Earthsea

 “What we call the beginning is often the end
And to make an end is to make a beginning.
The end is where we start from. . .

Every phrase and every sentence is an end and a beginning,
Every poem an epitaph.”

–T.S. Eliot, “Little Gidding”

 

It’s a stressful week, we burrow in—

hunker down

in restful verbs and tasty nouns,

lighting candles in the night,

casting shadows against the bright

light and darkness

co-exist,

without one, is the other missed?

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I journey in place

keeping pace

(I hope with grace)

flowing, risking with rhyme and meter,

thinking of a double feature–

perhaps tonight–

traveling without moving

wondering if I’m improving

no matter,

if it’s soothing. . .

 

to stay in my pajamas

listening to public radio,

interviews with Nathan Lane and Laura Marling,

unsnarling the day’s news with Michel Martin–

mostly disheartening–

I make dough and bake pizzas

enough for us and the shadow figures, too—

of course, wouldn’t you?

I mean, if they should they care to join us,

we’d have enough

and so, we dine,

drink some wine

watch a movie of two families, white and black

see, there’s no going back,

when time moves forward

we go onward,

even while people are wandering

out of place

lost in space–

well, you can take the boy from Mississippi,

but what happens when he returns a man?

People don’t understand

the legacy of poverty and hate,

and racists don’t want to debate

truth seen in a black and white–

it’s easier to fight.

 

So much to consider,

and some of it makes me bitter,

I think about the six million dead,

those who never got a chance, never fled

wonder if my family’s genes were among them—

hemmed in

forced to live in shadows, in nightmares

or rather, left in there

suffering and forced to die

their cries reverberate

(never abate)

we light a candle in their memory

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(never forget)

the sorrow of their journeys,

(remember me)

their souls shout out

but what do my words create–

 

and what good is an epitaph for them or us—

is what time was forever thus?

Perhaps to foist a new beginning,

or to change the end

when life circles round,

we can start again.

 

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Not watching the movie.

 

Holocaust Remembrance Day was on Saturday, January 27. We watched the movie, Mudbound, on Netflix.

 

 

 

 

 

Indifference

Today is International Holocaust Remembrance Day, as designated by the UN General Assembly to commemorate the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau.

“The opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference.”

Elie Wiesel

 

Did the moon still hum

behind the clouds in leaden skies

where ashy tears fell amid the cries,

a nightmare world, devised

to centralize

the horrors

we now criticize–

(though some continue to idolize)

but then—

did we fully work to neutralize–

were we energized,

or did we fail to empathize,

because they were not us–

we were not the demonized—

and so, we did not see what would await,

did not mobilize against the hate,

for six million dead, it was too late

 

 

Writing on a Page: Haibun

This is a Haibun for dVerse. Kim asked us to write about handwriting.

 

In the time before laptops, I sit in archives making notes in pencil on index cards—sometimes printing neatly, sometimes writing in a scrawl, which I will later regret when I can’t read an important word or date. In the old Philadelphia City Archives, I unwrap the brown paper from books tossed haphazardly on the table in front of me. In other archives, documents are treated with more care, even if we do occasionally pass some of the more ribald ones around. I read the flowing copperplate of professional clerks, as well as less legible handwriting. I learn to decipher superscripts and abbreviations no longer used. I read the words, ponder—ideas flow, and I write.

 

geese rise heading north

chaos becomes organized

writing on a page

 

 

My published work on history, gender, and sexuality can be found here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Old Masters and Time

Monday Morning Musings:

“To wrestle with the angel—Art.

–Herman Melville, “Art”

 

“So come the storms of winter and then

The birds in spring again

I have no fear of time

For who knows how my love grows?

And who know where the time goes?”

Sandy Denny, from “Who Knows Where the Time Goes”

 

I wonder how I’d explain a museum to someone from another world

the whys of collecting, the how, and the who

and what they thought they knew

about this technique or about this blue

(see, the artist mixed it here with red instead)

how tastes and trends change over time.

The Old Masters painted their world as they saw it

mastering techniques, adding some wit,

(perhaps even a bit of spit)

brushstrokes broad or fine, celebrating less the ordinary,

and more the sublime

wondering about fate and time

and posing a patron though it’d cost him dear

as wise and good, a god among men

(though insincere)

with bright façade and a gilded veneer.

 

Curating and restoration reveal meanings

what the artist really meant or thought

(perhaps different from when the painting was bought)

Here we see a painting thought to be about frivolity

but skilled work shows it true intention–

a work about consequences and mortality

and the artist herself overlooked

when past her time

the same old story again and again–

her paintings are attributed to well-known men.

 

We wander through the museum’s Great Hall

Diana is illuminated for the season, and all

the world,

(at least this part)

seems festive,

see here, she’s positively glowing

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and the Calder mobile across from her is blowing,

or perhaps I imagine it so,

as Diana breathes a winter sigh

and sends the mobile flying high.

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We leave the museum,

walk down the steps, now immortalized by a fictional boxer

though I prefer to simply admire them as they are

(a part of the whole, and not the star)

walk down the Parkway, heading toward the river

the air is fine for winter, Mother Nature delivers

a perfect day to walk and talk

on so, on to the Rodin Museum

we stand before the Gates of Hell

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and the Burghers of Calais, and a shade

was he afraid

of ghosts and spirits,

the sculptor wrestling with demons, wrestling with art

depicting emotion with single body parts.

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Rodin, “The Cathedral”

 

We walk on, the day still warm

the storms of winter, not yet come,

pass buildings and monuments-

people, places, and events—

and books and art, the contents

of our history and culture

still standing, still valued, sometimes revered

though the purveyors of ignorance and hate, have feared

the spread of truth and beauty,

and are more willing to incarcerate

than educate–

roads well-travelled through time and space

yet still I hope we can erase

the fear and hate

to wrestle with the angel art

because our time is brief

and who know where it goes?

We close our eyes,

and on it flows

carrying the monuments and the art

like Oyzymandias, nothing will remain

but while we can,

we carry it in our minds and heart

in the sound of the birds and laughter,

and museum art–

we take these moments

to watch the people and drink some wine

to glory in this, yes, unexpected sunshine.

As past, present, and future conflate

for a moment, here in this urban landscape,

this Christmas fete

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from behind us the music, and skaters skate

round and round and figures eight

and I remember and contemplate

a memory of my sister and me

from a hotel window high above, we

watch skaters there from long ago–

I wonder, where did they go?

 

Later that night, I watch the moon, bright and full

and hear the geese honk to friends and mates

it’s time to go

I wonder, do they ponder about their fates

or simply accept what is, not what might be

do they see how time flows and goes?

And as for me, I circle round through time, through art,

through dreams and memories held closely in my heart

I’ll wait for the storms of winter

and for the birds in spring again

I’ll wonder where time goes

why it’s sometimes fast, but sometimes slows

but know only that on it flows

and like light and hope, drifts through the cracks,

and somehow, circles back.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Value of Art and Dancing in the Rain

Monday Morning Musings:

“Great art evokes a response. . .emotion.”

Bruce Graham, The Craftsman

“We have a story we want to tell you about a play — a play that changed my life. Every night, we tell this story. But somehow I can never remember the end.”

–Lemml, at the beginning of Indecent by Paula Vogel

“Dance me to your beauty with a burning violin. . .dance me to the end of love.”

–Leonard Cohen, “Dance Me to the End of Love”

 

The day began with a stunning sunrise

a prize or disguise

for what would come later?

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Pitman golf coures, Pitman, NJ

We walk through city streets

listen to the beats

the syncopation of traffic and conversations

the announcements from underground stations,

look at the buildings and public art

take heart that the rain has not yet started.

I notice a clock, a reminder to go inside,

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the theater,

another world unfurls.

 

At the back of stage

projections of artwork by Vermeer

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Johannes Vermeer, “Girl Reading a Letter by an Open Window,” [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

over them we suddenly hear

guns or bombs and the paintings disappear

overlaid with black

then from the back

a man appears to give a speech

he is the head of the provisional government,

the Nazis are gone

the dawn of a new time

but justice must be done.

 

The play is about a forger, a con man

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who longs to be an artist, and when he can—

he also gets revenge upon the man, the critic

the con man’s a cynic

his wife, perhaps anti-Semitic

later she says she should have spoken out

without a doubt

a line that is relevant today

as is much of the play

which explores art, creativity, ability

and should an “expert’s” opinion hold dominion

over art

What is it worth, what is fake and what is real?

what will you pay to seal a deal?

I’m reminded of a man, an emperor with no clothes,

(as everyone knows)

who insists that his paintings (and news) are real

because he could never admit that he was taken

for a fool

(He is mistaken.)

The play is partly a courtroom drama

set in a particular time and place

the space converted

with a clever set and lighting

inviting us to see the different scenes—

office, jail cell, and courtroom.

there are flashbacks to the past,

and an excellent cast.

The setting is important–

the Netherlands had been occupied

those in the Resistance tried to defy

with some success, but also retaliation

leading to the Hunger Winter

and more lives splintered.

What should happen to those collaborate?

The play explores how we express hate

“revenge has become a spectator sport,”

do we resort then to the level of the oppressors?

We walk and talk

See a house with sunflowers

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Walking now a bit in showers

discuss the play over wine, beer, and cheese

then out into the night

see rain reflecting off city lights

prance and dance

tap a beat onto the street.

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Over homemade pizza and wine again

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Cozy inside from wind and rain

we watch a play on TV,

we see

another story based on events that were real,

and we feel,

we definitely feel—

this play within a play

to Klezmer music, the actors dance

and ashes fall from their coats and pants

they dance to the end of love

and perhaps they dance then back again,

there is a scene in the original play,

written in 1907, God of Vengeance

by Sholem Asch

the scene, referred to as “the rain dance”

involves two women, lovers—

the play is about the history of that play

performed successfully in Yiddish in Europe,

then the cast was arrested on obscenity charges

when it was translated into English and performed in the U.S.

(not a success),

the play is performed in the Lodz ghetto, in an attic room,

though all there know, they are probably doomed.

The play is about a culture lost

to time, to the Holocaust,

but it is about past and present

and how art matters

even when people are battered, shattered

their life in tatters,

and though some only value art for its monetary worth

the true value is in what it brings forth

in emotion and feeling

art sends those who value it reeling–

makes us think and want to dance in the rain

again and again

makes us laugh, or cry

makes us sigh and want to defy

Does it change our lives?

Yes, this I know,

art does, and helps us grow.

 

We saw the Lantern Theater Company.’s  production of The Craftsman.

We saw Indecent on PBS’ Great Performances. You may still be able to see in online.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.