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!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ephemeral Beauty in the Book of My Memory

Monday Morning Musings:

In the book of my memory—the part of it before which not much is legible—there is the heading Incipit vita nova [here begins a new life].

–Dante Alihieri, Vita Nuova

“There are lovely things in the world, lovely that don’t endure, and the lovelier for that.”

–Chris Guthrie in Sunset Song

“People like films because stories are a structure, and when things turn bad it’s still part of a plan. There’s a point to it.”

–Tom Buckley in Their Finest

 

Dawn opens the book

write or draw upon the page

ephemeral life

transitory beauty, grasped,

chronicled by poet’s hand

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Every morning, I wake and turn another page,

what will be written there that day?

Not a book, a story, a movie, a play,

our lives

we plan, we think there is a structure, a plot

reasons for our rhyme

we study the past

but put our trust in hope and beauty

 

My husband and I eat Chinese food

sitting in our living room we watch a movie,

about a woman who lived a hundred years ago in Scotland,

using technology that did not exist in that era,

and that will become outdated all too soon,

it’s a rural life of hardship and beauty,

of fighting and song,

an abusive father, a depressed mother, a brother who leaves,

she puts away her books,

but there is the land to sustain her

she falls in love and marries

but the land is still there,

glowing through the director’s vision,

though the work is hard,

her husband goes to war

(the war that was to end all wars)

it changes him

it changes the nation

and all the nations that lose so many of their young men

the poets write, the tyrants sing

dulce et decomum est pro patri mori

the old lie,

that vicious lie,

life is ephemeral,

but love,

that is true and lasting

 

In the morning, I wake and turn another page,

we see another movie

this one about the next big war

about keeping the spirits up and boosting morale,

the movie is funny and charming and sad,

I enjoy it very much,

my husband does, too,

though he says, “It’s a Merril movie.”

And I guess it is,

though I’m not sure what that means,

the movie is mainly about a woman

who gets a job writing “slops,”

the women’s dialog for war movies,

this one is about unlikely women heroes at Dunkirk

the war ministry wants it to have everything though—

even an American and a dog–

and we see the writing (the clicking of typewriters)

and the construction of the movie

location and studio

while the world around them shatters,

and we know that the world will get worse,

and women will take “men’s work,”

then be forced back into their boxes,

but there is romance and Bill Nighy

and really what else do you need in a movie?

 

After the movie,

the spring day turned fine,

we walk around the old city,

where traces of the past remain,

though much has vanished,

structures, people,

and before that

giant creatures who once walked the earth

 

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American Philosophical Society

 

we drink coffee,

enjoy the view,

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laugh at the booming voice of a tour guide

helpfully informing a group that

“Carpenter’s Hall was built for carpenters.”

(though the term carpenters is misleading)

 

Nearby stood the house of a bodice-maker

now house and man, long gone—along with the fashion

all fleeting moments in time

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Carpenter’s Hall, Philadelphia

 

In a garden, we see tulips

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but many of the early spring flowers are already gone,

the petals of the flowering trees float to the ground

joining piles of catkins

(leaving pollen to blow everywhere)

the fleeting life of a butterfly,

helping to create beauty in the world,

ephemeral beauty

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the beauty of spring, fading into summer

lovely things that don’t endure

and are they lovelier for that,

and is that the point?

What will I remember,

what will be retained in the book of my memory?

These moments of beauty, I hope.

We go home

feed our cats and ourselves,

the mundane tasks of life

that have their own beauty and joy,

we sleep,

and in the morning

I wake and turn another page,

hoping for beauty, though it may not endure,

wondering if there’s a plan

wondering and hoping

holding love close

 

We watched the movie, Sunset Song, on Netflix. Here’s a review. I haven’t read the book, which I know is a classic in Scotland. We saw Their Finest in a theater. Here’s a trailer.

 

 

 

 

 

The Beauty Is: NaPoWriMo

 

Monday Morning Musings:

“Did my heart love till now? Forswear it, sight! For I ne’er saw true beauty till this night –William Shakespeare, Romeo, Romeo and Juliet, Act 1, Scene 5

“And the beauty is, when you realize, when you realize, Someone could be looking for a someone like you.” –Adam Guettel, “The Beauty Is” from the musical, The Light in the Piazza  Song here.

“At such moments I don’t think about all the misery, but about the beauty that still remains. This is where Mother and I differ greatly. Her advice in the face of melancholy is “Think about all the suffering in the world and be thankful you’re not part of it.” My advice is: “Go outside, to the country, enjoy the sun and all nature has to offer. Go outside and try to recapture the happiness within yourself; think of all the beauty in yourself and in everything around you and be happy. –Anne Frank, The Diary of a Young Girl, March 7, 1944

It’s a rainy Earth day,

the grey skies swaddle pink and white blossoms

Spring, verdant, full of life, thirsty, greedily drinks like a baby,

unselfconscious and we the admiring parents watch her,

she is beautiful, even when she’s a dirty mess.

 

A mother-daughter outing to see Beauty and the Beast,

the theater has reserved seats that we recline in ready for the magic to begin

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My daughter is comfortable in the theater.

 

— the Disney version of the story,

though we’re both impressed by Gaston, more nuanced than his cartoon version,

possibly charming at first in an oafish way

until the true darkness of his soul is revealed,

the mob scenes remind me a bit too much of history and recent events,

mobs inflamed by ignorant narcissists,

it’s happened throughout the ages

it happens now,

but how can I not enjoy a story where the heroine loves books,

a movie that is a shout out to literacy,

and where lovers bond over reading,

Belle reads poetry to the Beast,

he knows a quotation from her favorite play, Romeo and Juliet,

there’s singing and dancing, people and objects,

I had forgotten Audra McDonald was in this movie–

until she sang,

and I didn’t know Dan Stevens had such a fine voice,

(remember that time he was in a little series called Downton Abbey?)

we get a backstory for the Beast (which we both like)

Belle’s backstory is inserted more awkwardly,

Still it is an enjoyable couple of hours of mother and daughter time

And there is more beauty in the day

the beauty is. ..

a bowl of lemons

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not exactly life giving them to us

as going to the store and buying six bags of them

and rather than lemonade, we mix them with vodka to make limoncello

aren’t grownup daughters fun!

(And beautiful?)

So, we grate lemon peel,

the kitchen becomes gloriously lemon-scented,

a Chopin polonaise plays softly in the background,

(her husband’s study music),

we talk, of her girlfriends, of work, of this and that,

my husband has been doing yard work

(it’s not raining that hard, he says),

he sits at the table with us,

their dog chews on his toy,

their cat ventures out to see if it’s dinner time

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Not pleased by the citrus scent

 

When we’re finished, we eat takeout Pakistani food,

my husband and my son-in-law learn

the kind and talkative restaurant owner was educated at Oxford

(perhaps he is a book lover, too?)

And what do I do the next day with leftover lemons?

Make lemon cake, of course!

 

 

It’s beautiful and delicious.

And though there are beasts all around, the beauty is. . .

spending time with people you love,

enjoying good food and wine,

beauty simple and sudden,

striking you, when you look up from your morning coffee

to see the sun dawning over the neighbor’s white dogwood tree

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The photo does not capture how beautiful it was

 

the profound beauty of birth, mixed with blood and pain,

the simple beauty of a smile,

the beauty that is there within the beast,

the beauty is

it surrounds us

the beauty is. . .

in yourself and in everything around you

 

Today is Day 24, NaPoWriMo. We’re asked to write a poem of ekphasis, a poem inspired by a work of art. We’re challenged to base a poem on marginalia of medieval manuscripts. I suppose you could very loosely say I’ve done this, as they are beautiful and filled with beasts. (Such as this one )

Huffington Post summarizes some previous versions of Beauty and the Beast here.

Today is Yom HaShoah ( This year, it’s Sunset, April 23- Sunset April 24), Holocaust Remembrance Day. I wonder what Anne Frank would be writing about now, and if she would still see beauty in the world.

I’m Not Yet Ready to Write an Elegy for the World: NaPoWriMo

Monday Morning Musings:

“See what you lost when you left this world, this sweet old world”

—Lucinda Williams, from the song, “Sweet Old World” (Listen here.)

“I am of certain convinced that the greatest heroes are those who do their duty in the daily grind of domestic affairs whilst the world whirls as a maddening dreidel.”

–Florence Nightingale (I could not find a source for this.)

 

When the fool becomes king

it’s difficult to celebrate

to know what is real and what is fake

(news)

a radio host said

it didn’t seem right

to slip in an April Fool’s story

because this year

 

it’s a crazy, mixed-up world

our, sweet old world

 

I dream about Mary Todd Lincoln,

grieving over her dead son and husband,

ghosts that walk the White House,

does the current resident see them,

feel the presence of the great and not so great?

Will he destroy our world?

(the news spins and whirls maddeningly)

I wonder if Mrs. Lincoln crazy,

or was it simply the world about her,

the nation torn apart,

brother fighting brother,

her husband a martyr,

and did she long then to leave this sweet old world?

 

We watch movies about strong women,

twentieth- century women,

one raising her son alone,

we eat pizza and drink some wine

because it’s a sweet old world, isn’t it?

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the woman is confused

but she does her best,

most people do

(as I hope, as I believe)

and I guess she does a good job,

because her son wants to be a good guy

who cares about women,

she does something right,

because, after all, many years later her son will make this movie,

and Annette Benning will play her,

crazy and sweet, this world.

 

The other woman hid people,

(in a zoo)

she truly lived in a crazy world

where the monsters ruled,

living in plain sight,

real human monsters

scarier than fictional demons,

the zoo became a pig farm

because the animals had been killed,

people, animals,

to monsters there is little difference,

the woman’s husband fights bravely with guns,

the woman fights with her soul,

she understands that she needs to woo the monster,

as she does an animal,

though she is terrified,

they are heroes, this couple,

in a world spinning crazily like a dreidel,

will it fall on nun, their “guests” must wonder

or will a great miracle happen there?

They saved 300 people,

perhaps a great miracle did happen there.

they raised pigs on garbage from the ghetto

(the Nazi’s love the irony)

though those in the ghetto can scarcely spare their garbage,

because they are starving

 

And I’m reading a book about a young girl who is starving

in a small, Irish village

starving for Jesus, I suppose,

subsisting on manna from heaven, she says

her nurse, her watcher,

has been trained by Florence Nightingale,

(a nineteenth-century strong woman)

I don’t know what happens,

I haven’t finished the book,

though I hope the girl eats, hope she lives,

hope she gets to grown up in this sweet and crazy world

 

And we go out to lunch,

Indian food,

discuss movies and books,

and this and that,

(not starving),

we come home,

I bake a cake–

because we need sweetness

in this crazy, mixed up world,

and I’m not ready to write its elegy

 

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Sour Cream Coffee Cake

 

It’s Day Three of NaPoWriMo. The prompt was elegy. I hope we do not yet need one for our sweet old world.

We saw the movies, 20th Century Women and The Zookeeper’s Wife.

I’m reading The Wonder, by Emma Donoghue

Driving the Poetry

Monday Morning Musings:

“A ‘strange coincidence,’ to use a phrase

By which such things are settled now-a-days.”

–George Gordon, Lord Byron, Don Juan, Canto Vi, Stanza 78

 

We see the movie, Paterson,

a quiet, lovely film about poetry and the beauty of everyday life,

of things like matchboxes and waking up beside the person you love,

coincidences abound,

the bus driver/poet named Paterson who lives in Paterson,

his love’s whispered dream about twins,

and the multiple sightings of twins–

things like this always seem to happen to me,

is it coincidence, synchronicity, or a poet’s awareness?

I eavesdrop on strangers’ conversations,

put them in a poem,

then wonder if the universe does the same,

or perhaps there are other worlds,

parallel,

but with an occasional intersection

the hole in a Swiss cheese cosmos that breaks,

the slice of bread “in a giant cosmic loaf”*

perhaps still connected to another slice,

or are we sandwiched between two slices,

which are nibbled by time?

 

So, I watch this movie with its coincidences,

its references to dimensions and time,

then laugh,

when after seeing the many pairs of twins onscreen,

I discover that same day Beyoncé announced she’s having twins,

and smile at the universe’s joke

when after I had been thinking I should buy a small notebook

to carry with me

to jot down my thoughts

like the poet/bus driver does,

I clean out a shelf,

discover little notebooks,

notebooks given to me years ago,

before I wrote poetry,

as if it wasn’t the right time for them then,

but it is now,

and they’ve been waiting.

 

Am I a historian/poet,

or a writer who writes in many forms?

William Carlos Williams,

the doctor/poet

is a presence in the film–

I didn’t know he was born in Paterson,–

But I know that poem,

you know the one—about the plums?

I remember looking it up once in summer,

I think of plums, warm and fragrant, not cold,

imagine the juice running down my chin,

my skin, summer-brown,

it’s another me I imagine

from a time in the past,

perhaps it still exists in a parallel universe,

when my body was thin and lithe,

unwrinkled,

and firm as a plum.

 

a few days later,

we’ve been pet-sitting,

and now we’re driving home

just the two of us in the car,

sitting in silence,

my mind wrapped in thoughts,

a package that I will unwrap

arranging the contents carefully,

hoping I remember on which shelf I’ve left each one.

 

I say to my husband,

“You know how the character in Paterson drove his bus

listening to passengers and looking around him

while he was writing poetry in his head?

That’s what I was doing–

thinking about coincidences and writing poems,

but while you drove.”

“That’s OK,” he says.

“I thought that’s what you were doing. “

I smile

And we’re home.

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Notebooks

 

“’Stranger Things’: How Realistic are Parallel Worlds?”

 

The poem about the plum, William Carlos Williams, “This is Just to Say.”

Paterson, official trailer.

Connections

Monday Morning Musings:

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“Isn’t it nice to think that tomorrow is a new day with no mistakes in it yet?”

–L.M. Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables

“For last year’s words belong to last year’s language
And next year’s words await another voice.”

–T.S. Eliot, “Little Gidding”

“Not knowing when the dawn will come
I open every door.”

–Emily Dickinson

“Some people build fences to keep people out, and other people build fences to keep people in.”

August Wilson, Fences

Snap!

Thumb and finger strike,

connection made.

Snap!

Synapses fire,

memories triggered.

Snap!

Fingers, feet

feel the beat

New York streets

When you’re a Jet

You’re a Jet all the way

My sister and I listen to the album,

vinyl disk spins,

we watch the movie,

only later do I learn it is

Romeo and Juliet, updated,

and that famous play,

with its star-crossed lovers,

is based on older stories,

tales as old as time,

that connect us with the past.

 

So many movies, so little time before the old year ends,

we see Fences,

(powerful performances),

the sins of the father visited on the son

generation after generation,

connections through pain and history.

I dislike Troy more and more as the movie goes on,

while recognizing the source of his suffering,

and feeling sorry for him

and Rose and the children.

 

I ask my husband afterward

if he thinks he would have been a different father

if we had had sons instead of daughters.

He says yes, he thinks so,

that he would have been harder and stricter

like his father

who was a good man, but stern,

I was scared of him when I first knew him,

and amazed the first time I saw him laughing with his brother.

My father-in-law was so different with his grandchildren,

softer, gentler, singing Sesame Street songs.

I think of how he connected differently with his children

and his grandchildren,

the special bond he and my young nephew had.

 

On New Year’s Eve,

I think of people all over the world,

celebrating the new year.

I see photographs of fireworks,

Sydney and Hong Kong,

long before nightfall here.

We celebrate more quietly with a group of friends,

Chinese food dinner,

a tradition going back decades,

before and after children,

the where and how changing over time,

food and friendship

amidst the Christmas decorations and lights,

we discuss our families,

see photos of grandchildren,

and worry about what the election will bring.

Our friends talk of selling their houses and moving,

not because of the election,

but because we’re getting older

(but better, of course

with years of wisdom now)

we’re still us, though greyer and heavier

about our middles,

and we still connect

in the way of old friends,

with jokes, hugs, and glances that can reveal more than words.

 

One friend gives each of us—her sister-friends—

a bracelet,

matching bracelets,

I think of how bracelets

have been worn since ancient times,

good luck charms,

amulets for long life and happiness,

tokens of friendship.

charms linked to one another

connecting them

as we are connected through our bonds of friendship,

as words connect thoughts in a sentence,

expressing ideas and actions,

taking us into the new year and new worlds

describing our past, describing our future,

connecting them in clauses,

independent and dependent

as we are,

free to make choices,

to keep people out or keep them in,

but also, dependent on those around us

not to destroy our lives, our souls, our planet.

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

 

We can build fences,

or walls,

but are we protecting or defending?

It’s a myth that the Great Wall of China can be seen from space,

but the lights of cities do glow like beacons,

lights connecting us in the dark,

connected like the water flowing from river to the sea,

the message in a bottle circling the globe,

Help! Find me. I’m lost.

The connection is made.

But, snap!

Who sent the message?

Is it too late to help?

 

The holidays are over, the clock strikes, we turn the page.

It’s a new dawn, with new words,

but still linked to the past like a bracelet.

Open the door,

peek over the fence,

Snap!

feel the beat,

move your feet,

dream of tales as old as time

and of now.

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I wish everyone a happy and peaceful new year. We may be in for quite a bit of turbulence on this journey through 2017. So buckle up! Have that wine and chocolate handy.  I appreciate all of you who read my posts, and I love the friendships and connections I’ve made here. Welcome to my new readers, too! I hope you’ll stick around to see what the new year brings here on Yesterday and Today.

 

 

 

 

 

A Final Bloom Before the Cold

Monday Morning Musings:

“It was a happy thought to bring 
To the dark season’s frost and rime 
This painted memory of spring, 
This dream of summertime. “

–John Greenleaf Whittier, “Flowers in Winter”

 

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A surprising last bloom of the geranium in November.

 

A final bloom,

flowers that were vibrant red

fragrant in the summer heat,

now scentless,

a different hue against autumn’s rusts and gold,

in the cold,

a final bloom,

tired, but heroic,

a reminder,

a last hurrah,

as the nights grow longer

and we must grow stronger,

winter is coming.

 

The skies darken and the winds howl,

we huddle under blankets,

fill the house with the scents of cinnamon, apples, pumpkin,

and freshly baked bread,

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Apples cooking for Thanksgiving applesauce

 

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Artisan-style bread to eat with our soup

 

I think of tea and oranges that come all the way from China,

we eat, sustaining ourselves with hearty soup, a hunk of cheese,

a glass of wine and Netflix,

we smile and dance with the opening credits,

wondering where life is headed,

winter is coming.

 

We go to see Loving

a quiet, unassuming film

about the landmark decision,

Loving v. Virginia,

we watch and listen

two ordinary people,

black and white,

they want to marry, not fight,

but their marriage a crime under Virginia law.

I want to scream at the hypocrisy

the result of the slavocracy

of the state of Virginia, how

centuries of miscegenation,

and the degradation

the rape of black women,

and the suffering of families,

and the telling of lies.

But the heart is not silenced

And love still sings.

I cry at the end,

happy with the result that justice brings,

that our system worked then,

(and I think, too, more money to the ACLU.)

 

We discuss the movie over vegetable pakoras,

vegetable soup, naan

yellow dal tarka

and other delights,

a buffet,

and we eat too much,

but they’re all so delicious,

these Indian dishes,

warm and comforting on this cold day

when we sense that winter is coming.

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Autumn leaves against the wind-swept clouds

 

Winter is coming

will we see another bloom?

The bloodred blossoms of civil rights

fading, turning to dust

causes forgotten, results of long fights,

gone with civility,

(utter imbecility)

social contracts, death of the Great Experiment,

But still we know,

that love is love,

and we must shout what’s in our hearts,

Ask not what you can do for your country

Ask not for whom the bell tolls

It tolls for you and me,

good or evil

we are stronger together,

winter is coming.

 

We laugh and talk

Denial?

Well, life must go on

even when the bloom is gone

even in winter.

From within the darkness

we light the candles

to illuminate the room

to cast the shadows to the corners,

amidst the cold,

amidst the gloom,

we seek warmth

and offer shelter

when the winter comes.

 

We prepare for the long winter,

not to be seduced by the stark beauty of the snow

but noticing the cracks in the ice.

The last bloom, as autumn turns to winter,

and we remember spring

a distant, buried memory,

we remember and hope

for new blooms

after the winter comes—

and goes

and spring returns.

 

We saw the movie, Loving.

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Time for blankets–it’s going to be a long winter.

When They Played A Charade

The Henry Mancini score

And the Givenchy costumes

The Parisian vistas

An identity–or four

 

Line: “Oh, you should see your face.”

“It’s lovely,” he says to her.

Audrey Hepburn, Cary Grant

Romance, chases, glamour, place

 

Comedy-thriller, a game,

Phone calls, bodies, fake IDs

Witty banter, the charade

Hitchcock film without his name.

 

I thought I’d do something different. This is in response to the Secret Keeper’s Writing Prompt. This week’s words:

Charade/Face/Call/Fake/Game

I couldn’t resist.

Here’s the trailer for the movie. 

 

Dancing with Food and Juggling the Myths

Monday Morning Musings:

 

“It has been said that the myth is a public dream, dreams are private myths. Unfortunately we give our mythic side scant attention these days. As a result, a great deal escapes us and we no longer understand our own actions. So it remains important and salutary to speak not only of the rational and easily understood, but also of enigmatic things: the irrational and the ambiguous. To speak both privately and publicly.”

–Mary Zimmermann, Metamorphoses

In October, my husband and I saw Metamorphoses, Mary Zimmermann’s play, based on Ovid’s Metamorphoses. We were immersed in ancient Greek myths, which still have such relevance today. It seems we tell and retell stories, hoping that somehow we will learn. Sometimes there are happy endings, but often there are not.

Over the weekend, we watched the final Hunger Games movie, Mockingjay, Part 2, which we missed when it was in theaters. Suzanne Collins, who wrote The Hunger Games trilogy, originally came up with the idea of her book from the story of the Minotaur. In the legend, King Minos of Crete required Athens to send as tribute seven young men and seven young women to Crete to be devoured by the ferocious Minotaur, a half man, half bull, who lived in a maze called the Labyrinth. This maze was designed by that champion-designer, Daedalus. (Daedulus was locked up in tower so that he could not share his knowledge of the labyrinth’s layout. To escape, he fashioned wings coated in wax so that he and his son Icarus could fly and escape. Icarus flew too high, and the hot sun melted his wings, causing him to fall into the sea and drown.) When the third sacrifice time approached, Theseus volunteered to go to slay the beast. Mino’s daughter, Ariadne, fell in love with Theseus, and in most versions of the story, she gave him a ball of thread. With that thread he was able to retrace his steps and find the way out of the labyrinth. (Play away with all the symbolism here, all the threads, so to speak. Also, apparently, the Minotaur was the child of Mino’s wife and a bull, so he was Ariadne’s half brother. Lots of subtext here.)

Collins also took aspects of the Roman coliseums and games, present day reality TV shows, and the war in Iraq to come up with her YA novels that involve a society sometime in the future in which every year young men and women from each of twelve poor districts of Panem (roughly what is now the US) are chosen by lottery to compete in the Hunger Games. They compete in lavish, televised games for the amusement of the wealthy, capital until only one tribute remains alive. My younger daughter and I have read the three books, and had seen all the movies, except for this final one. My husband has seen the movies, and my son-in-law has seen some of the movies. In truth, Mockingjay, Part 2, was not a great movie, but it was enjoyable, and it was a perfect excuse to get together. Jennifer Lawrence embodies Katniss Everdeen, brave, fierce, and stubborn. Donald Sutherland is perfect as evil President Snow. (Here is the New York Times’s review of the movie.)

So if my daughter and her husband were going to come over to watch the movie, then we have to have food, right?  So it went something like this.

What a wonderful idea, we thought,

a Hunger Games party to view the final movie.

We’ll cook together, and sip wine.

E-mails flew back and forth–

“I think I need to make pita bread,” I said,

(One of the characters is named Peeta.)

“And should we have something flaming?”

“Oh yesss!!!” she said.

“I’m excited now—and ready for this week to be over.”

“I’m excited, too!” I replied.

She decided to make hot wings “for the men.”

We discussed timing, and who should make what.

“I have two ovens, we should be able to work things, out.

Besides, we’re both good at improvising.”

And so we did.

Dancing in the kitchen to Zumba music,

while cooking and sipping wine,

our husbands worked on math in the dining room. We are nerds. Truth.

One cat oversaw the kitchen work, while the other one slept upstairs.

We decided on one large goat cheese-apple tart because I have a tart pan that needed to be used.

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Baked brie with blackberries marinated in wine.

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Prepared while the men’s wings cooked in one oven.

I made the pita bread and the roasted red pepper dip in advance.

So mother-daughter team made enough food for forty rather than four—

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you’ll understand if you know us.

But we enjoyed every bite.

After the movie, we made a flambé, a tribute to “the girl who was on fire”: bananas cooked in brown sugar, butter, and flamed with rum. Soundtrack: “Fireball.”

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We served it over homemade pineapple curd and vanilla ice cream, and sat at the kitchen table and talked of the past, present, and future. Mother and daughter danced in our seats to “Fireball.” This is how family myths are created—epic stories to retell of love and food shared. We love each other. Real or not real? Real.

Recipes:

Roasted Red Pepper/Walnut Dip

Goat Cheese and Apple Tarts

Pita Bread

Caribbean Bananas Flambé with Pineapple Curd

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Son of Saul

Monday Morning Musings:

“Art is the lie that helps us see the truth.”

–Pablo Picasso

“For the survivor who chooses to testify, it is clear: his duty is to bear witness for the dead and for the living. He has no right to deprive future generations of a past that belongs to our collective memory. To forget would be not only dangerous but offensive; to forget the dead would be akin to killing them a second time.”

–Elie Wiesel, Night

We went to see Son of Saul

It was International Holocaust Remembrance Day,

January 27.

On this date in 1945, Soviet troops liberated Auschwitz-Birkenau,

The Nazi death camp.

“Work will set you free.”

Free from living

That is,

Cessation

Extermination

Six million or more

The theater was not full,

But there were small groups of people

And one or two by themselves

More people than we usually see at “foreign” movies.

Many of them were elderly–

Meaning older than us–

And I wondered if any were survivors.

Would this trigger memories

Of past horors?

Some seemed surprised the film was subtitled,

And I hoped they knew what it was about.

Saul was a sonderkommando

One who ushered in new victims

Lead them to the “showers,”

Listened to their cries

Carted away their bodies

Sorted the objects they left behind

Shoes here

Gold there

Hair in the bags

A boy still breathes

The Nazi doctor kills him.

No one is to survive.

But how did it happen

That he escaped death?

The doctor wants to know.

I wonder how a doctor

Pledged to help others

Could be an executioner.

I watch the movie.

My eyes do not leave the screen

Though my body

Curls up protectively

Arms hugging chest–

Yet I know this is only a movie,

A depiction of the evil that was

But nothing like the reality,

Hell on earth

And if there is a devil

He surely was there

Watching humans destroy

The bodies and souls of others.

I wondered if my husband would say,

“What did you make me watch?”

But after, he agrees it was a powerful movie.

I keep thinking of the actor’s face,

Even now a month later.

Blank, stoic, yet haunted

How did he convey so much

While saying so little?

The sonderkommandos could not display emotion

Could not

Would not

Crack–

Till they did.

The movie focuses on his face,

Much of the action is blurred behind him.

We hear speech and yells,

German, Yiddish, Hungarian

The barking of dogs

The camera does not show or embrace the violence.

Master directors know it’s not necessary.

Remember the shower scene in Psycho?

It is enough to hear the cries and banging on the door

To see the blood scrubbed from the floor.

We know what has happened.

 

The sonderkommandos really did plan

And execute an uprising.

Executed some Nazis.

Were executed themselves.

Some by other inmates upon liberation.

They were considered collaborators.

But I can’t judge them.

Who knows what we would do in their situation?

They left papers, recently found.

The Scrolls of Auschwitz,

Buried in a crematorium

Mostly from Crematorium III

There were several, you know

More than one necessary

Because

The death factory ran full time,

Day and night.

Some pages faded with moisture and time

But others still legible

Record transports and mass killings

Record

How people were duped

Record the planned uprising

Record the horror

And show that some hoped others

Would learn what happened there

So that it would not happen again.

 

I think of people here

Now

In the present

“We like his plain talk,”

They say

Embracing the hate-filled speech

Of demagogues.

Build walls

Keep out the foreigners

Us, not them

Whoever they and them are.

I read the words of supporters

Tweeting out hateful messages against

People of color

Women

Jews

Muslims

Kill them

Rape them

Question the abolition of slavery

I shudder at the ignorance.

People who have no knowledge of history.

People who do not understand the Constitution

Or the role of the president

Do not understand

Separation of powers

Civil rights or

The hard fight for freedom

That they would destroy

In the name of what they call

“Liberty.”

Liberty to hate others

Is what it seems to me.

Crazy world

Crazy times.

 

Mass killings

Mass rapes

Nanking

Cambodia

Rwanda

Kosovo

Guatemala

And more,

Killing fields

Endless numbers

Men, women, children

Destroyed.

 

My husband and I do not go to eat

After this movie

It seems wrong

Disrespectful somehow

Our stomachs clenched

Our minds jumbled

Trying to comprehend

Mass atrocities

But we stop for coffee to talk

To discuss the movie

To decompress

To see the truth in art

To discuss life

To bear witness in some small way

To the survivors

And

To those who were killed

For no reason

Other than their religion,

Their sexual orientation,

Their ethnic origins.

It is still happening

And I don’t have an answer

Except to say

I stand against hate

Will you stand with me?

 “Indifference, after all, is more dangerous than anger and hatred.”

–Elie Wiesel, Millennium Lecture, April 12, 1999.  Read the speech here.

Son of Saul won an Academy Award for Best Foreign Language film last night.

Further Reading:

Fresh Air Episode discussing Son of Saul

Holocaust Art.

Auschwitz Scrolls