Secrets, Adaptations, and Joy

Monday Morning Musings:

Once upon a time, when women were birds, there was the simple understanding that to sing at dawn and to sing at dusk was to heal the world through joy. The birds still remember what we have forgotten, that the world is meant to be celebrated.

–Terry Tempest Williams, When Women Were Birds: Fifty-Four Variations on Voice*

 

“History is that certainty produced at the point where the imperfections of memory meet the inadequacies of documentation.”

–Julian Barnes, The Sense of an Ending

 

 “Raise a glass to freedom

Something they can never take away

No matter what they tell you

Let’s have another round tonight”

–Linn Manuel Miranda, “The Story of Tonight,” Hamilton

 

Screen Shot 2017-03-25 at 7.16.50 AM

 

We wandered

wet spring stone,

an ancient bough,

poetry of lonely bird & squirrel

Listen

There

I know

(almost)

this secret garden

life

 

 

The dawn chorus sang

before the sun appeared

their secret language of chirps and trills

floated through the damp air,

early spring.

I began the day.

 

We wandered old city streets

stepped on bricks and cobblestones

IMG_5666

IMG_5676

 

the stories these stones and buildings could tell

the Founding Fathers wheeling and dealing,

letters and documents they wrote, still preserved,

our laws, our past, present, and future,

but what of the buried secrets

items tossed into privies,

and bodies,

uncovered in construction

thought to be moved long ago,

a lie from the past,

the new built over the old,

history in layers,

the way our life tales are constructed

with secrets and stories

hidden and revealed

 

private secrets and public secrets

the lies we tell ourselves,

the lies politicians tell us,

“Let sleeping dogs lie,”

bold-faced lies

little white lies

lies of omission

lies of commission

“What does the president know

and when did he know it?

 

We saw a movie about lies,

the lies a man has told himself,

stories he never told his wife

(omission)

buried in a secret room in his mind

rooms we see on the screen

his past played over and over

more revealed each time,

we all have secret rooms,

compartments,

where history is written and rewritten,

the personal,

the political,

and as we walked along these streets

we push past ghosts who linger there still

in rooms where they told their stories

and raised a glass to freedom

IMG_5663

City Tavern, Philadelphia

 

IMG_5682

We drink to our own freedom. Pondering the second round at Tria.

We saw a play,

IMG_5691

 

Prague and New York City, 1977

there is an immigrant,

a Czech woman in a surreal dream

wanting the freedom to express herself,

to be an artist,

we hear the folksongs of her friend, Marek,

he was arrested for singing them,

a bird-woman goddess,

she who existed before the Thunder God,

shows the immigrant woman,

what?

Her past?

Her possible future?

Men with pig faces,

followers of the Thunder God,

builders of walls,

conquerors of women,

they exist everywhere,

must we adapt,

live our secret lives within a police state,

a surreal dream

for the immigrant,

what will freedom bring,

What happens when the walls are torn down?

What is the American dream?

Is it a cautionary tale

that anyone can become the president—

cowboy, actor, failed businessman?

Perhaps their time is numbered.

 

We walked past a rally for the current president,

in the neighborhood where men gathered

over two hundred years ago

to give them that right to protest

 

 

in secret hearings

closed to the public,

they crafted a body of law,

then explicitly added others,

free speech,

freedom of the press,

I am thankful to live in a place where the president’s supporters have the right

to gather with signs and make speeches–

though I disagree with their views–

and will use my own voice to protest against hate and ignorance

to sing out

against oppression when I can,

but like a bird woman,

I will celebrate the world, too–

we all need a pop of color on a dreary day,

daffodils in the rain

and secret gardens.

IMG_5688

 

 

*Thanks to Robin of Breezes at Dawn for the reminder about this quotation.

The Oracle gave me the magnetic poem that was perfect for the day.

We saw the play, Adapt, a world premiere by Blanka Zizka at the Wilma Theater. We saw the movie The Sense of an Ending.

 

 

 

Women: Past, Present, Future

 

He never saw her / A hidden figure

though there she was / in plain sight

his property, to do his bidding /  a body, with a brain though

she smiled meekly, got his coffee before he asked / she could outthink him any day

he glared when she dared to speak or dream / she wanted to learn all she could

he told her to sit down and be quiet /  so she persisted

he put his hands up her skirt and laughed /  and she tried to resist

he beat her / she fought back when she could

he told her he was in charge / she tried to change the system

men were always at the top / she educated her daughters and her sons

the world depended on it /  they had to be bold for change

iwd2012

 

A cleave poem for International Women’s Day 2017. The theme for 2017 is “be bold for change.” A cleave poem is three poems in one–left side, right side, and the full lines.

Today’s Google Doodle was a slide show featuring women of diverse backgrounds.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Painting and Poetry Folded in Time

Monday Morning Musings:

“Painting is poetry that is seen rather than felt, and poetry is painting that is felt rather than seen.”

–Leonardo da Vinci
 

“I dream my painting and I paint my dream.”

–Vincent Van Gogh

 

My sisters and I call each other

“No one’s dead,” we quickly chirp,

a macabre affirmation of life,

a precaution for my perpetually panicked sister-niece,

(she answers the phone expecting disaster)

we laugh—because what can you do?

but then comes news of two deaths over the weekend,

my husband’s former colleague and a college friend,

we’re of a certain age now,

most of our friends have lost at least one parent,

some both,

middle-aged orphans,

I think about links to the past,

disappearing the way beads slide off string one by one

 

and I watch a miniseries about the Gay Rights Movement

see again the AIDS quilt,

memories squared and love-knotted,

blanketing the National Mall,

a memorial, a declaration

we protest with poetry and art,

against wars, against injustice,

fighting for the right to live

and to die in dignity,

(love is love is love is love)

in the epic story of our lives,

we are the heroes,

and its tragic victims

 

We dream and we create,

our lives, like intricately folded origami

unfolded in a split second,

a discovery that the crane

is now simply a wrinkled bit of paper

 

We take my mother to our daughter’s house for brunch,

my mother, once a child, now the matriarch,

a ninety-four-year-old orphan

her parents, her brother, and many of her friends are gone,

she can barely see, but still she paints

the vision must be in her mind and hands

felt, rather than seen,

poetry in paint,

tactile sensibility,

she has her first mimosa

17039359_10212451149817401_5431920901621469400_o

and we talk of this and that

old hairstyles, Dallas nightclubs,

stories my daughter has never heard before

of a world and people that no longer exist,

I imagine a mirror with endless reflections

and the world through the looking glass

img_5549.jpg

We’re through the looking glass in a mirrored room, transported to an 18th century French palace. Philadelphia Museum of Art

 

we laugh over misunderstood words

the kind of laughter that brings tears,

and we are entertained by pets,

sitting in the kitchen,

a domestic scene,

that could come from the past,

generations sitting around a table

img_5535

 

My husband and I go to an exhibition of watercolors

an amazing show, 175 paintings on display,

the show traces the history–

how watercolor became an American medium

from what was essentially work done in the home,

by women, decorative artists, as well as illustrators

becomes much more after the Civil War

and Philadelphia,

with publications and art schools

becomes a center

img_5542

 

The exhibition describes the painters’ techniques

the importance of the paper in the watercolors,

various textures and colors

watercolors are luminous, but fragile

reflecting light,

but also, fading in light,

the picture dies

the image no longer exists,

and I think of the building, landscapes, and people in the paintings

that no longer exist

except in these depictions

fullsizerender-91

where the sun still shines and wind still blows

and alligators huddle together in the mud,

lethargic beasts with deadly grins

 

at night, I dream of light and art,

I paint my dream into a poem,

a dream of misty luminosity with opaque spots

brushed by the artist

(look there closely at the strokes)

on an unusual type of paper, with texture both rough and smooth

folded over and over,

to form different creases,

like wrinkles on faces in time

endless, like reflections in a mirror

 

Information:

We watched the miniseries, When We Rise

We saw the exhibition, “American Watercolor in the Age of Homer and Sargent”

You can see a trailer on the Philadelphia Museum of Art Website.

It is a stunning exhibition, but because watercolors are fragile, it will only be seen in Philadelphia. No photography is permitted.

 

 

January 20, 2017: A Quadrille

In 1799, George Washington died,

the nation cried,

with solemn faces,

tears leaving traces,

salt licks of grief.

No relief,

we look at the past,

and fear the future casts

black shadows—so we mourn,

torn

between hope’s whispers, freedom’s shout,

resist, watch out.

 

Another quadrille for Dverse.

 

The Journey: Microfiction

 

 

996px-john_bauer-hacc88sten_ledde_han_vid_betslet

 

Ailise hugged and kissed her children goodnight, knowing she might never perform this bedtime ritual again. She sat watching them through the night and thinking of their dire situation. Her husband had vanished, one of the many who had disappeared. She had no idea if he was still alive. Since The Leader had taken control of their country, life had become ever more difficult for them and other Jantos. They were disparaged as tree worshipers. The Leader had made them scapegoats, arguing that they were the cause of all the nation’s problems, real and imagined. His pronouncements made those who were disenchanted with their current way of life feel better. The Tree Worshippers were taking their jobs, the Leader said, and polluting their pure Mountain Worshipping country with foreign ideas and dissolute practices.

Now, all Jantos were being forced to register. There were rumors of work camps where they would be sent. When news came—carried secretly, told in hushed whispers—that the famous flutist, Raoul Sendler, was saving Janot children, Ailise felt both fear and joy. Could her babies be saved? Could she let them go?

Raoul Sendler, known for multi-colored costumes, as well as his musical ability, was so popular that his concerts were usually sold-out months in advance. His skill was legendary; his playing mesmerizing. It was said that people would follow the sound of his flute anywhere. Even The Leader had attended his performances.

Through a network, Sendler had obtained fake papers for Janot children showing they were citizens of his country, Bragnaw. Some children, he would claim, were his students or performers in his show. Other children would appear to be the offspring of those who worked with him. After he performed his final concert at the Grand Academy, Sendler would take the children to Bragnaw, where they would be away from danger. They’d be placed in foster homes until they could return home safely.

In the morning, Ailes gathered the papers that had been given to her. She hugged and kissed her daughter and son one last time—and then she let them go.

 

This story is for Jane Dougherty’s Microfiction Challenge. The prompt was the painting above. I’ve copied it from Jane’s post, so I’m not sure where it came from.  When I saw it, I thought, the Pied Piper and the Kindertransport.  Yeah, that’s the way my mind works.  My pied piper is named for Raoul Wallenberg And Irene Sendler , but I think of all the heroes who have fought against injustice.

I may have to write a second tale that does justice to this lovely illustration.

 

Thoughts in the Moonlight: Microfiction

 

repin_iliya_moon_night

Ilya Repin, “Moonlight Night,” [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

 

 

The river shimmered in the moonlight, but for the moment, Jo was immune to its charms. She was pondering the telegram she had received:

“J.  Mission on. Pack your bags.  Love, T.”

Her brother Tommy was an excellent surgeon, but not such a great communicator. As she bent down to rub her setter Dottie’s spotted back, Jo thought about this “mission” and wondered how long she would be gone.

Tommy had told Jo that Mr. Roentgen’s discovery could change medicine and medical care. The new apparatus that the commission planned to ship abroad used these invisible rays–X rays– to photograph bones right through the skin. The X ray devices could also be used to see bullets or shrapnel within a body.

We keep improving ways to kill one another, Jo thought, I suppose it’s only natural that we find new ways to treat those that survive.

She pictured all the politicians she had seen shouting slogans, ignoring facts. She admired scientists who checked and re-checked and shared their knowledge. A German scientist discovered X rays, and now English doctors were using the discovery to help Greek soldiers.

Perhaps, she thought, with these new-fangled X ray machines, the young men, pawns in squabbles between nations, might have a better chance of surviving the carnage of the battlefield. Tommy and the other surgeons, and she and the other nurses would do their best, however inadequate it might be.

Calling to Dottie, Jo turned to take one last look at the river. Then she squared her shoulders and strode back to the house to pack her bags for Greece.

 

This story is for Jane Dougherty’s Microfiction Challenge. The prompt is the painting above, “Moonlight Night” by Ilya Repin. Even though the painter was Russian, I thought the woman was English, and she seemed to be pondering something. I found out that X rays were discovered the same year the painting was completed, 1896. Soon after, X rays were used in field hospitals, and a group in England financed the transportation of a X ray machines with surgeons and nurses and sent them to Greece during the Greco-Turkish War of 1897.

You can read more about the early use of X rays here.

 

The Light Shines, Over and Over

sunlight_throug_palisades

By LacZ (Own work), “Sunlight through Pallisades,” [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

“Ring the bells that still can ring

Forget your perfect offering

There is a crack in everything

That’s how the light gets in.”

–Leonard Cohen, “Anthem”

 

We pause now to gather strength

to fight for justice

over and over

to strive for courage, hope

lost and then regained

over and over

change happens for good, for bad

thoughts and actions

over and over

two steps forward, one step back

over and over

through the ages

we find the crack

to let the light shine in.

 

 

I wrote this poem yesterday afternoon before I heard of Leonard Cohen’s death. I guess it was of those strange coincidences in life that I had been thinking about him.

This poem is for Secret Keeper’s Writing Challenge.

The prompt words were: Pause/Over/Strength/Age/Change

 

Be a Helper and Rise

fred_rogers_late_1960s

By KUHT [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons

So the election has taken place, and the orange creature has been elected. HRC and President Obama reminded us of the rule of law in their gracious speeches. They reminded us to go high when DT has run a campaign based on lies and hatred, a campaign that has consistently gone low. They have been gracious in defeat, even though DT threatened not to accept the election results, if the vote had gone the other way. We’ve had eight years of class, intelligence, and caring, and it will take time to accept that many of my fellow Americans have chosen the opposite. It does not help when I see a ranting post by a Trump supporter (filled with factual and grammatical errors) saying everyone who voted for HRC should be put in jail. It only makes me think that I was correct in my statement that ignorance has triumphed, and we are in for four long years.

I am hoping I am wrong. Of course, I am hoping I am wrong!  I am hoping that rights will not be trampled on, that laws will not be overturned, and that our earth will not be destroyed by people who do not “believe in” science.  I am hoping that DT will say that his hate-filled speeches were jokes. I am hoping that ignorance will not rule.  Yes, I can hope. Perhaps someone will also give the president-elect a copy of the Constitution–or better yet read it to him, over and over again, since he has admitted to not reading very much, and it is evident that he does not understand how our government works. Yes, I have to accept that the reality TV star and failed businessman has been elected; I have to accept that so many voted for hate, but I do not have to like it.

Meanwhile, as Maya Angelou wrote:

“You may write me down in history

With your bitter, twisted lies,

You may trod me in the very dirt

But still, like dust, I’ll rise.”

Full text of the poem here. 

And as Mister Rogers said: “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.'”

I plan to look for the helpers–and I plan to be one. Join me.

 

Thanks to historian Ann M. Little for reminding me of the quote by Mr. Rogers.

And to Jane Dougherty, here’s to snarly women!  I can smile and snarl.

“I am woman, hear me roar.”

–Helen Reddy

 

 

 

 

 

Words and Deeds

Monday Morning Musings:

“but looking through their eyes, we can see

what our long gift to them may come to be.

If we can truly remember, they will not forget.”

–Miller Williams, “Of History and Hope”

“Manliness consists not in bluff, bravado or loneliness. It consists in daring to do the right thing and facing consequences whether it is in matters social, political or other. It consists in deeds not words.”

–Mahatma Gandhi

 

On Halloween,

a holiday based on Celtic and Christian traditions,

Americanized by collecting and eating as much candy as possible,

we see a Swedish movie

followed by dinner at an Indian restaurant

where the Diwali candles

from the celebration the night before are still on display.

(Multi-culturalism at its best.)

In the near-empty theater,

two women choose the seats directly behind us to talk—

throughout the movie,

fortunately, not too loudly.

The plot of the movie is familiar,

the curmudgeonly old man turns out to be not-so-curmudgeonly,

but the way the story is unveiled, and the acting itself

make it fresh.

We care about this man

who does not know how to show his emotions,

except through anger, scorn, and impatience,

His father did not cry or show much emotion either,

though he loved his son,

love shown by teaching him how to repair Volvos

and how to behave decently while cleaning train cars.

Ove, the old man, learns to love again, even while planning suicide,

helped by a pregnant Iranian refugee,

he learns again the bonds of friendship.

Both words and deeds are important.

 

We go to another movie about a man.

This time without a father, poor, black, gay

living with his drug-addicted mother.

It could full of clichés, but instead,

it is a bleak, but perhaps hopeful movie,

a poem of a movie, lyrical, with magical cinematography,

a great score, and wonderful performances.

The camera lingers on faces and places in this

coming-of-age story,

focused completely on its characters,

though it deals with universal themes,

and moonlight and the healing power of water.

Three different actors portray the main character in three episodes,

as the boy, known as “Little,” the teen, Chiron, and the man, “Black.”

The film never preaches or moralizes,

but the theme of what it means to be a man is central.

He is bullied because other kids sense he is gay, different,

not one of the pack.

A local drug dealer becomes his father figure,

a strong man, who does evil, but also acts with kindness.

a mixed, flawed being.

Little/Chiron/Black’s friend admits to “wanting to cry” but not actually crying,

because boys don’t cry, but he is also tough and tender.

My husband says to me, “I didn’t want the film to end.

I want to know what happened after the end.”

I agreed.

 

We walk around Old City,

I see this sign

img_4682

Sign written on a trash can in Old City, Philadelphia

I wonder about it

This message to the world.

 

I think about a candidate who uses his position of power

to spread hate, to bully and denigrate people.

It seems obscene here, walking past these historic buildings,

where men and women have fought

for freedom and liberty.

The “Founding Fathers,” not perfect men,

some held others in bondage,

but still, they gave us a foundation

that it troubles me to see trampled

by ignorance and hate.

It took courage for them to sign the document, declaring independence.

img_4684

 

I think of my own father,

not a perfect man either,

a man who enjoyed his power as a man,

he was the prince of his family,

his mother and sisters doted on him,

and he enjoyed having women wait on him,

yet he thought his daughters—and granddaughters—

could do anything,

be anything they wanted.

And yes, I saw him cry.

IMG_2808

My dad and I when I received my Ph.D.

Women are not better than men

and men are not better than women

white is not better than black

black is not better than white.

Love is love is love is love is love is love is love.

Girls and boys,

need to know

need to learn from history,

the good and the bad

to remember, so that they will not forget,

so none of us will forget

to strive

to dare

to fight

to show with words and deeds

to do the right thing.

 

We saw A Man Called Ove.  And we saw Moonlight.

Don’t forget to vote. #LoveTrumpsHate

 

Selma

the_obamas_and_the_bushes_continue_across_the_bridge

By Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

 

To the bridge they marched, making the decision

though they knew it was risky, in Selma they marched.

They wanted their rights, after years of derision,

struck with clubs and tear gas, they were bloodied and parched.

 

Though they knew it was risky, in Selma they marched

the judge ruled, in court, saying they could march on

struck with clubs and tear gas, they were bloodied and parched,

soon they walked on to Montgomery from evening to dawn.

 

The judge ruled, in court, saying they could march on,

they’d been delayed in Selma, but they were not broken,

soon they walked on to Montgomery from evening to dawn

their stories now heard, their stories now spoken.

 

There have been lakes of sorrows, and lakes of tears,

they wanted their rights, after years of derision,

but a stand must be taken, despite many fears,

to the bridge they marched, making the decision.

 

This is a Pantoum for Secret Keeper’s Writing Challenge.

In a pantoum, the second and fourth lines become the first and third lines of the next stanza, and the poem ends with the first line.

The prompt words were: Broke/Judge/Story/Bridge/Lake

 

The protesters in Selma were marching for civil rights, including the right to vote, as black voters were disenfranchised by various “tests,” poll taxes, and intimidation. State Troopers beat nonviolent protesters as they attempted to cross Edmund Pettus Bridge on March 7, 1965. The day became known as Bloody Sunday. Edmund Pettus, for whom the bridge was named in 1940, was a Confederate general, a U.S. Senator—and a Grand Dragon of the Alabama Ku Klux Klan. The Selma to Montgomery march began on Sunday, March 21. The marchers reached Montgomery on Thursday, March 25. I took some poetic license with “evening to dawn.”  President Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act of 1965 on August 6, 1965.

See “The Racist History Behind the Iconic Selma Bridge”

And “Selma-to-Montgomery March